Tuesday, August 11, 2020

WQ6X Weirdly but Wisely Works another Wicked WAE Contest

Based on this weekend's events I can truly attest the WAE contest is certainly the most minutely-complex radiosport GiG happening in the 21st century (with the ARRL November Sweepstakes coming in a close 2nd).  For those OPs who are bored with JUST 5-9-9 + Serial-#, Sweepstakes
and the Worked All Europe (WAE) events take radiosport skill to a more competitive level. 
Last weekend's WAE event turned out to be a perfect demonstration of that fact.

 While WAE exchange begins with 5-9-9 + Serial-#, it doesn't end there.  Making basic contacts is just HALF
of the goal for a successful WAE operation.  Sending QTC messages back to European stations is where
the other half of the ending score comes from. 

During November Sweepstakes GiGs,
the exchange we send is actually a radiogram Message Header.  During the WAE contest, QTC messages document QSOs made earlier in the event.  (Can we send a QTC message about sending QTC messages?)

Back in the Olden Daze after sending/receiving radiograms, operators would send a message summary to their traffic manager.  The QTC message was devised for that purpose.  Essentially,
a QTC message is a radiogram summarizing a radiogram message sent/received.

While putting this BLOG together I got to looking back to previous WAE-Cw GiGs
I've played around in.  There seems to be FOUR attempts at this contest:
  • [x] - (2019) - WQ6X runs a Quicky Yet Quirkey WAE Contest
  • [x] - (2018) - WQ6X Stumbles Thru WAE Cw Contest
  • [x] - (2017) - WQ6X survives 12 computer crashes to work WAE
  • [x] - (2016) - WQ6X dabbles in WAE-CW 2016
 Operationally, this was my best WAE-Cw operation ever; I guess I've learned a few things over
the last 4 years.  Nevertheless, I still considered operating in this event to be a "training exercise";
as such, I was not concerned with my actual score result in comparison to other stations.

Due to shack heat considerations, the Expert-2k amplifier was dialed back to 550 - 670 watts.  Repetitive CQs (with no takers) and sending books of 10-QTCs would take the heat index up, requiring every excuse to not transmit for a minute or two w/o actually giving up the run frequency.

To make band switching easier, I used a fixed-pointed C-31 yagi for the high bands.  Unfortunately,
15-meters hardly delivered much in the way of EU activity during this contest.  On 40-meters, the
2-el Shorty-40 yagi produced an amazing result, considering that from the Southwest, WQ6X signals had to pierce the N/E wall of U.S./Canada stations.  The biggest problem on 40 was an annoying noise level, that the K3 noise blankers could not remove.  The local QF-1A filters helped, however much of the time it was not enough.

Running NX6T in Fallbrook remotely from Alameda offers nearly the same audio
filter complement available from my operations @W7AYT in Concord.  Both locations
rely extensively on a pair of Autek QF-1A analog audio filters; one for each ear.  Adjusting
the filters directing lower-pitch signals to the left ear and higher pitches to the right ear makes
it easier to sort out multiple stations calling simultaneously when running a frequency to Europe. 
I wrote up how to do this in a previous Blog entry ([CLICK HERE] to read this).
Not knowing what to expect for the weekend, I decided to engage in a combination of frequency running and Search & Pounce.  The biggest hassle came NoT from running European stations but from the "Billy Bob" operators (mainly from the Southeast USA) who would call-in after my "CQ EU Test" call.  If they had read the WAE rules, they would already know NoT to call me. 
Sending "EU Only" usually sent them "packing".
Late Saturday evening, running out Europeans to work a switch was made to a still-open 20 meter band allowing 11 QSOs and 9 QTC messages to be added to the log.  When the band finally folded an hour later, it was time for 7 hours of sleep.  By 14:30z WQ6X was back, running 14008.08 for nearly 90 minutes.  This run resulted in 60 QSOs and 54 QTCs delivered during that period.
On Sunday afternoon while attempting to work a new multiplier some IDIOT began a 5 minute continuous tune-up process.  When he would pause for 5 seconds I would send "QRL QSY";
he would ignore me as if he couldn't hear me.  When he was finally done I sent "QRL QSY LID",
to which he immediately replied with 3 F-Bombs in a row - HuH? 
So much for NoT being able to hear me.
When it was all over it would seem that WAE-2020 was my best operation in this GiG thus far.
DiD YOU work the 2020 WAE Cw contest?
How many QTC messages did YOU Send/Receive?
Is WQ6X in YOUR log?

Monday, August 3, 2020

Leveraging the Art of Dual-Receive: Yet Another LooK

Over the last (approx.) 5 years, I have been playing around with nearly a dozen different combinations of switches and filters in conjunction with the (20 yr. old) Yaesu FT-1000mp. 
After a recent station revamp of the WQ6X setup in Concord, I was prompted to take yet another
look at the ideas being tried out @W7AYT; some of them have worked admirably, while others have Bombed HORRIBLY.

While it all began with the original article, a dozen different Blogs were eventually added
showcasing the Dual-Receive capabilities being exploited to improve WQ6X operations from
the SF East Bay.  A bibliography of the related Blog entries appears at the end of this Blog entry.  Those Blog entries represent the various combinations of external audio filters I have been combining in various combinations over the last 8 years.

Although the Yaesu FT-1000mp is over 20 years old, it has been my choice for leveraging the most efficient radiosport operations from the San Francisco East Bay; however NoT without the addition
of an array of switch boxes and external audio filters.  Because I love to knob-twiddle, external filters offer up plenty of adjustments for tailoring reception during the different radiosport
events I play around in nearly every weekend.

While I could produce a hand-drawn block diagram to document the different
hookups, sometimes a picture conglomerate can accomplish the same thing.
Currently, the Main-RX runs through an Autek QF-1A into an MFJ-784 DSP Unit. 
Additionally, the Sub-RX runs through an Autek QF-1A into a JPS NIR-12 DSP unit.
The output of BOTH units is run through an inexpensive Rockville Line Mixer.
The Rockville mixer can accommodate four "stereo" devices, allowing
the operator to "blend" any combination of the following devices:
  1. CH-1 - Audio from the ICOM-7000
  2. CH-2 - Audio from the Elecraft K3/0 (for NX6T remote)
  3. CH-3 - Audio from the FT-1000mp without any filtering.
  4. CH-4 - Audio from the FT-1000mp via the DSP filters.
Output from the Rockville mixer box is routed thru a 4-device stereo audio switch,
sending the audio to either Wireless headphones or powered stereo speakers.
Having a pair of unused outputs on the switch box enables the possibility of
routing audio thru a pair of wired headphones or a different speaker system.

Prior to the introduction of the Autek QF-1A audio filters, I utilized a pair of MFJ-752B & MFJ-752C filters.  While operationally the Autek & MFJ units are similar, the efficacy of the QF-1A completely surpasses the MFJ units.  Then again, MFJ-784 DSP unit outperforms the NIR-12 in most cases.

The WQ6X Contest Blog contains a number of BLOGs on the subject of external audio processing, including:
  • [x] - The DR. Validates Cascading Filters
  • [x] - WQ6X SOUND PROCESSING: Stereo-CW - it's EASIER than You Think
  • [x] - Some Further Thoughts regarding Stereo CW
  • [x] - WQ6X SOUND PROCESSING: Maximizing the Art of Experimentation
  • [x] - Analog or Digital Audio - Which should we choose?
  • [x] - Q-Filtering for Fun and Profit
  • [x] - Q-Filtering for Fun and Profit - Part 2: What I've Learned So Far
  • [x] - Q-Filtering for Fun and Profit - Part 3: The Journey Continues
  • [x] - Learning to PLAY in 2020

Do YOU make use of external filters and switches?

Tell me about YOUR results.

WQ6X Reprises another NAQP Cw Dual-Operation

NAQP is a unique contest as domestic-style contests go.  Being a 12 hour contest (10 hours for Single-OPs), it often seems over shortly after it begins.  NAQP GiGs have a 100-watt limit and
single-OPs are not allowed to run assisted.  Altho NAQP is largely a North American contest,
we can work any DX stations who happen to call in; altho we get no multiplier credit for working
For this NAQP event, I chose to run another Dual-OP operation from Concord.  Having 6 operators
for NX6T allowed me to run a pair of 2-hours sessions remotely and put in nearly 8 hours as WQ6X from W7AYT.  Before/during/after the event, time was made to revamp wiring/cabling behind the scenes in Concord.  While things more-or-less look the same from the front, rerouting the equipment cabling and antenna/coax runs helped resolve many of the audio RFI problems I've been dealing with during the last couple of years.
Overall, operations in Concord ran nearly flawless, with the exception of 160 meters.  No matter how the antennas were tuned, on 160 near-vicinity RFI would BOMB the internet router barely 10 feet away from the operating table; an estimated dozen potential QSOs were lost due to this problem.  After the contest, rerouting the cables seemed to resolve the 160 problem; unfortunately by then,
it was too late. 
This situation brings back unpleasant memories from NX6T (about 4 years ago) when our 160-meter operation would take Fallbrook's internet router offline.  Back then, our solution was to enclose the router unit inside a pair of aluminum baking pans that were electrically sealed shut - the ultimate Faraday cage.  My question is whether or not something akin to an MFJ Artificial Ground unit (essentially a ground tuner) can eliminate any stray RF floating around the Concord hamshack.
Lately, NX6T has been experiencing "little" hardware failures, here and there.  During the last 2 GiGs the problem was an intermittent connection with the Expert-2k amplifier.  For the NAQP RTTY GiG
I had hoped to run the amp at EXACTLY 99.99 watts (full duty).  Instead I ran the K3 (full duty)
at a (significantly cooler) 50 watts.
This weekend the problem was an aging WX0B antenna switch box.  Inside, the relays were either sticking or not engaging at all; the solution being frantic band switching leaving us on an ailing 15 meters.  When 40 meters became "worthy" we got only one (i.e. a coin-flip) chance at switching
there - for good during the NAQP; no going back.  Luckily the 2-el "Shorty-40" made up for any hassles we may have gone thru.
When it was ALL Over, NX6T put 1279 QSOs into the log while WQ6X made a WHOPPING
69 QSOs - Dewd!  All that matters to me really is that another Dual-OP operation was accomplished from my portable location in Concord.
DiD YOU work last weekend's NAQP Cw contest?
Is NX6T and/or WQ6X in YOUR Log?

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

WQ6X JoTs a Few ThoTs about Juggling BoTs in IOTA

The RSGB IOTA (Islands on the Air) contest is a unique radiosport GiG in
that we are looking for RSGB Island-designators, not countries; altho some countries are also made up of islands.

Last year, I ran my BEST EVER IOTA GiG.  ([Click Here] to read about it.)  While this year was actually a LoT more fun, it turns out I didn't do nearly as well as 2019.  Go Figure.

Running Fallbrook's STN-1 remotely
(via RCForb), I chose to run Cw only
and not mixed-mode.  In looking at the after-scores on the 3830Scores website, it seems to have been the correct choice.

Running from Alameda allows me to process the RCForb audio thru a pair
of Autek QF-1a filters, one coupled with
an old MFJ-751 Signal Enhancer.

Being an RSGB contest, the IOTA GiG of course starts at 12:00z (NooN) in the U.K., which of course is 5am on the Left Coast - oh the sacrifices we make in order to play radiosport.  From the beginning,
I noticed not enough Island stations calling CQ; I took it upon myself to remedy the dearth of CQ's by spending much of my operating time running frequencies.

Lack of Island participation is always a problem, however I had hoped this year would be different.  Unfortunately, an e-mail from K9NW explained it like this:
"Given that RSGB nixed multis and island expeditions this year, it's little wonder there were less islands active.  There was no incentive to go out. "
Bummer dewd.  I would've thot that as long as the activities were conducted indoors on those
islands there would be no problem.  I guess knot.  For us Left-coasters, fortunately, Japan represents 5 different islands.  Qsos with Island stations are worth 15 point (not to mention the multiplier value) instead of just 2-points per land-lubber station. 

The distinction between Island-designators and CQ or ITU zones is best explained as follows:
Searching the Internet I came across the above picture that allows us to look at Islands around the globe.  [CLICK HERE] to look at that website.

For the IOTA weekend I found the band conditions to be quite interesting. 
While 15-meters produced very little QSO content, it turns out there  a couple of openings
on 10-meters.  Later after 20-meters seemed to have closed, after running out of 40/80
meter stations to work, another look on 20-meters put another couple of QSOs into the log.
Normally, when I am working JA stations, adding "Billy-Bob" from the Southeast U.S. is worth nothing.  For the IOTA GiG Billy-Bob (off the back of the Shorty-40 yagi) is at least worth 2-points; Cuba (just beyond that) was worth a full 15 points.
Noticeably missing from this IOTA GiG (as well as 2019 & 2017) was South America.  Except for stations in Brazil, no S/A stations were worked; much less any Southern Hemisphere Islands from that area.
While I ran in the high power category, for shack heat considerations I kept the power down to about 660 watts throughout the contest.  Because 160 meters is not allowed in this contest, I did not have
to be concerned with BOMBING the internet connection on 160 (as we have done in years past).
When it was all over, the 3830 Stats indicate that WQ6X took 10th-place worldwide,
2nd-place for North America and 1st-place for USA - who woulda figured THAT?
DiD YOU work the RSGB IOTA contest?
Is WQ6X in YOUR LoG?

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Creative Competition in Radiosport and Toastmasters - Part 3: The Value of Elmering and Mentoring

This 3rd installment is an outgrowth from the previous Blogs I have written on the
subject of Creative Competition.  In case you missed Parts 1 & 2, here they are:
  • [x] - Creative Competition in Radiosport and Toastmasters
  • [x] - Creative Competition in Radiosport and Toastmasters - Part 2: The 6 P's
In Radiosport (in particular) and Amateur Radio (in general) we have Elmering; in Toastmasters we call it mentoring.  Elmers and Mentors have enabled me to discover innate abilities in radiosport and speech competitions, I never thought attainable.  When I didn't think I could take it to the next level, they encouraged me forward and then stepped out of the way, giving me the space to make it all happen.

As I said in Part 2, in order to deliver our best performance we should consider the 6 P's; namely: PLANNING, PREPARATION, PRACTICE, PERSISTENCE, PRESENTATION & PROTOCOL. 
In all these areas, mentoring can allow me to perfect each of the P's, taking things to the next level.

However, in order for mentoring to work, I must be worthy of being mentored; meaning, I must demonstrate a commitment to performance-betterment, being willing to invest the time/effort to
be the best I can be.  I repay my Elmers and Mentors by not giving up and getting with the program. 
As I said in Part 2, would-be winners often give up too easily, too early in the game.

Another way to repay is to "Giveback to the Community" by mentoring/Elmering the next generation
of upcoming competitors.  During recent years @NX6T in Fallbrook, a number of under-18 operators have learned and perfected the art of radiosport; included in that list are: Axel KI6RRN and Levi KK6NON (now W6JO) who have ascended to contest greatness.  While they learned from elder operators (21+) - often by watching and listening - they have individually taken it to the next level.

In the future , should I be brave enough to brave the world of SO2R, I like to know they will be available to answer all MY Questions when I am in one of those confused states.

In radiosport another way to discover how to take things to the next level is by being a part of station setup and maintenance, not JUST an operator.  In Toastmasters the equivalent is to volunteer in the production of a speech contest; become a ballot counter, a judge, or a contest organizer.  Doing so will give you a deeper appreciation for what it takes to become the Best of the best in the actual competition.

Additionally, as you mentor others you will discover what is lacking in your understanding of each aspect of the Art.  When I know that I don't know then I know there is more that I need to know in order to continue being the best of the best.  Mentors/Elmers should form their own association, allowing us to help each other as we help others.

Now, in order to set an ethical example for those you are mentoring, don't be a hypocrite - practice what you are proclaiming to be the correct operating behavior.  You've heard me say "When in doubt, CHEAT (but within the Rules)".  Don't enforce rules on those you mentor and then turn right around and violate those very rules you just proclaimed are at the heart of the competition.

Winning by breaking the rules is no win at all.  In radiosport once in awhile it is announced that WL6LID ran as unassisted when in fact they used internet spotting, or filed as a Single-OP station when in fact there were 4 operators behind the key, keyboard or microphone.  In Toastmasters once-in-awhile a speech contestant will claim to meet the entrant requirements when in fact they do not;
or their speech/evaluation goes overtime and they are not correctly time-disqualified. 

These are not actual wins; they are atrocities that CHEAT the REAL Winners from being accorded
the win they rightfully deserve to win.  They invest weeks, months and years only to have the rug pulled out by rule violations that are allowed to go unchecked.  Speech contests and radiosport competitions are all about improving our capabilities and skills.  At best, cheating encourages mediocrity, not excellence.

Speech contests and radiosport competitions allow us to take our skills to the next level; especially when we give-back to the competition process itself.  From time-to-time it may be determined that the rules are lacking or in some way inadequate.  This does not give us permission to break the rules just because we don't like them; instead, it encourages those of us in the know to petition the contest organizers to have the rules upgraded to reflect the changing world we live in.  Until that happens,
we play within the rules the way they are published.

While individual contestants will in the end be competing alone on the playing field, remember:
"It's takes a village" to assist that individual to the place of Excellence that in-the-end can only
come from individual effort.

Do you like engaging in contests and competition?

How does Mentoring and Elmering figure into YOUR plans?

Sunday, July 19, 2020

WQ6X Works a slippery-slope NAQP RTTY Contest

This has to be one of the strangest (if not THE strangest) NAQP RTTY contest in July EVER.
It came out of nowhere and almost didn't happen TWICE.  At the very least, this weekend was
an embodiment of how important sticking to your original plan REALLY is.  The world around us
is of course still loaded with chaos; the reason I used Dilbert to headline this Blog entry.

Yesterday it seemed like I rolled out of bed - on the wall side.  A radio club bored meeting and a Toastmaster's training, for disconnected reasons did not materialize.  That seemed to pave the way for beginning the NAQP RTTY promptly at 18:00z (11am) and work the 1st ten hours of the GiG.  Amplifier problems with STN-1 (in Fallbrook) and no easy access to STN-2 from my Elecraft K3/0 setup in Concord seemed to be an off-the-air proclamation.

At 21:00z N6KI called to say that STN-1's amp problem had mysteriously been resolved. 
AWEsome.  Except unfortunately IP internet access in/out-of Fallbrook was not responsive - at
BOTH stations.  After nearly an hour of troubleshooting we resolved all this by restarting BOTH computers and I did the same on my end - Hurrah!  problem solved: 92 watts output - except,
not quite.  After making 4 QSOs on 15-meters and switching to 20, the Expert 2KL amplifier
was again non-responsive - Zero output. 

Bypassing the amplifier, the K3 was dialed back to 55 watts for the rest of the contest. 
As it turns out, there was a pipeline from Fallbrook to the E. Coast - being heard was
not a problem; however hearing back was a REAL problem.  I probably clicked the
"UR CALL AGN?" button 500 times in the 6-hour operating period.

Once on 20-meters (@00:05z) WQ6X settled in on 14114.14 for nearly an hour until some
joker moved in on top of me relegating a move down to 14113.93 for another hour.  At 01:36z the move was made down to 7087.87 until the Ssb crowd moved in, relegating a shift further down to 7083,83.  At 03:53z it was time for 80 - 3582.82 and then 3597.97.  I was hoping to work many of
the same stations from 40 & 20 again on 80.  Unfortunately, only a handful of stations actually followed me there - Bummer Dewd. 

At 05:10z it was back to 40 (7095.95) just in time for an FT-8 heckler (at 05:26) who made FT8-Squeals every time he heard a station call me.  This clown was followed up by K5LY working me (after several repeats) and then IMMEDIATELY calling CQ on my run frequency, attempting to steal QSOs with MY calling stations.  HuH?  WTF is THAT all about?  By 05:30z as quick as it
all started, they both got bored and disappeared (presumably to hassle someone else).

When it was all over 246 QSOs (w/87 Multipliers) actually made it to the log - amazing when
you consider it was originally suggested that WQ6X was to be off the air all weekend.

How about YOU?  Did YOUR callsign materialize during the NAQP RTTY GiG?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?

Thursday, July 16, 2020

How Long Do We Hafta DO 5-9 & 5-9-9?

While I Love Computer Assisted Transceiving (C.A.T.) for radiosporting, if we are to rescue it from
possible degeneration into a Repetitive Colossal Bore, the exchange delivery needs to be updated
to reflect the world of Radiosport 2000 and beyond.  Back in the day (50 - 60+ years ago) as radio sport contests came into the mainstream, a received signal report ACTUALLY meant something. 
During the DX contest for example, if the DX station was (to me) RST 5-2-9, I sent him 5-2-9
(although he probably logged it 5-9-9).
The purpose of this Contest Blog entry is to pitch a case (several cases, actually) detailing why sending signal reports in radiosport contests is an utter and COMPLETE waste of time that should
be replaced with something more useful.
The way *I* understand the spirit of radiosport, the idea is to convey relevant information Quickly & Accurately.  Notice I said RELEVANT.  I don't consider the transmission of 5-9 or 5-9-9 to be relevant anymore, it never really was; in my mind sending it is a COMPLETE waste of time and in no way contributes towards demonstrating superior operating skill.
My FAVorite contest exchange is used in ARRL's November Sweepstakes - for example: 
WA6LKB NR 123 U WQ6X 69 EB. 
Notice there is no signal report; we already have enough to send as it is.
I propose the notion that certain contest exchanges can and should be transformed into something more relevant and therefore more enjoyable (or at least one that's less prone to boredom - BoreDumb as I sometimes call it).  Here are (to me) some of the more obvious ways to restructure a typical contest exchange: 
  • Instead of 5-9 or 5-9-9 + Zone - how about Name + Zone -or- Name + State/Section - similar to NAQP and State QSO parties  - no need for a signal report.
  • Contests like the RTTY RU send Serial # + Section - again no need for a signal report.
  • In RTTY contests, how about Serial # + Zone  - again no need for a signal report.
  • A composite exchange could be: Zone + State/Section.
  • Or even: NameZone + State/Section - alternating Alpha / Numeric/ Alpha.
While there are many other possibilities, the above 5 suggestions demonstrate how easy it is
to replace the signal report with something more usefully relevant.
The purpose of radiosport competitions is the demonstration of a superior ability to accurately communicate specific, relevant pieces of information in a timely manner over a limited amount
of time.

What do You think of eliminating 5-9 & 5-9-9 from radiosport contest exchanges?

I would like to hear YOUR views.

Monday, July 13, 2020

WQ6X Wanders Incredulously thru 2020 IARU

This was a weird weekend; not a BaD weekend, just different, a bit out of the ordinary; 'cept that
when it comes to "ordinary" in Radiosport, I don't Really know what that means.  In recent months people world-wide have found their lives discombobulated from being indoors for long stretches of time.  In the World of WQ6X, know 2 things:
  • I'm ALREADY staying indoors - problem already solved.
  • I'm wearing a Mask so I don't infect myself - what more Do I NeeD? 
You heard me claim that radiosport events actually qualify as emergency-preparedness exercises. 
In the midst of a disaster (hurricane, bombing, tornado) you may be forced ("coerced") to operate from an underground radio installation, being the ONLY means of communication with the rest
of the world for the next 48 hours.  Are you READY?  Can you deliver crisp, precise but BRIEF communications for the next 2 days? (Daze?)

For me, the "shutdown" has required little change to my schedule; at least on weekends. 
On weekends, I am either operating from Alameda or in Concord; in either case I am ALREADY indoors for most of the weekend anyway (A/C permitting of course).  This weekend was just one
more weekend of what I have already been doing with my weekends: staying indoors and playing radiosport.  The "shutdown" just gives me more justification (if I actually needed any) to play with my radio; not JUST during contest events, but afterwards when I find "excuses" to retrofit some cabling, or shift antenna wires for "more optimized" performance - Gotta keep the wheel turning.

This last weekend I kept the wheel turning by FORCING Myself to stay indoors playing in the
IARU contest - sheer torture!  I know sometimes when you hear me yelling at some IDIOT! on my
run frequency it may sound like torture, but is in fact, just one more annoyance to contend with in the world of the open-field we call the amateur frequency spectrum; altho sometimes, some bands just seem WORSE than others, probably I'm just overreacting and should just take a Chill-Pill
For this year's IARU GiG NX6T had quite an array of operators; each contributing their genius
(and wizardry) to the overall NX6T effort including (but not limited to):  K3PS, N6ERD, N6KI,

N6ERD (Dan) and WQ6X opened the contest running the 12:00z 2 hour shift (5am to 7am);
Ron running Cw and on the 1/2 hours Dan running Ssb.  After WB6NBU ran a DYN-o-MITE
2 hour session, I came back at 16:00z for 2 more hours.  At 18:00z I handed STN-2 over and
it was time to put WQ6X on the air in the 2020 IARU Contest.

Having resolved the keying-cable debacle from the Marconi GiG weekend, IARU via the Yaesu
FT-1000mp ran quite smoothly.  I didn't think to create a set of IARU-specific .Wav files for this contest and elected instead to run CW-only, not mixed-mode. 

While the QSO count was a mere 121contacts, there were some interesting calls in those 121; including a surprise 10-meter opening from 19:07z to 20:08z, netting stations in: VE7, WA, OR,
CA, CO & KS.  The RBN stats said WQ6X was CERTAINLY being heard throughout the Northwest. 
If a station is transmitting but no human-ears are hearing the signal, can we consider the band to be open?  Today's Answer is an emphatic: YES!!

K2GMY (just north of me in Benicia) must've been utilizing some sort of Spectrum Display,
because within 30 seconds of my 1st CQ on a new band, Richard's call would flood my speaker;
not necessarily the 1st QSO on the new band, but certainly worth the 1 point 5x - Thank You!

From all around the USA it is agreed that there were EXCELLENT openings to Europe on 20 & 40 meters, that were accompanied by LoTs of atmospheric noise.  Unfortunately, while I could hear many EU stations, only SN0HQ made it to the WQ6X log.  Otherwise, the longest distant stations were KL7, KH6, KH2, ZM1, JA & RT0 - the W7AYT location sure is a DX-vortex; or, am I doing
something wrong?

I heard stations say that Asian signals were lacking.  While that is true, there were a surprising number of Chinese and Thai stations worked @ NX6T, altho they were not heard in SF East Bay - Bummer Dewd!  Hoping to glean insight from Asian propagation information on 40 meters, turning to the Russian military beacons, it was evident the "K" beacon has been absent for over 10 days now.  Should we be jumping to conclusions as to its demise?  OR?.....

Playing around with the STAT screens gives us all kinds of information, IF we can understand what the different charts are referring to (individually and in conjunction).  Being a statistics JUNKIE, I am always looking for that last bit of insight that will shed more light on the causes behind this year's success and (possibly) what can be expected for next year (given similar circumstances).

During this contest event, I was surprised by the lack of intentional QRM; at least on 40-meters anyway.  Instead we were plagued with stations who didn't know what an ITU zone was.  I would ask them for their state (ex: OK) and let them know which ZONE they were in (I.e. Zone-7), altho I dunno if some of those stations even understood what I was trying to explain.  Remember my motto: When in Doubt, RTFR (Read the Rules).  I'm beginning to wonder if the internet has dumbed some people into thinking that rule-reading is a special (aka "Advanced") skill.

When it was all over, NX6T took 16th place worldwide, 12th place for USA/N.A. and 1st-place for San Diego and the Southwest Division.  WQ6X ended up near the bottom of the SOAB(A) list; at least the callsign is in 100+ logs.

What about You?
DiD YOU participate in the 2020 IARU Hf Championship?

Is NX6T or WQ6X in YOUR Log?

Sunday, July 12, 2020

WQ6X Reflects (here and there) on IARU: from Donuts to Dual-OP

I tend to think of the IARU Hf Championship GiGs as the mid-Summer Dx contest; sort of
a cross between the late-Winter ARRL Dx contest and the mid-Autumn CQ W.W. contest GiGs.

While I always bemoan this event's relatively short 24-hour OP-time (the ARRL & CQ GiGs are a FULL 48 hours) the IARU GiG is certainly am exciting challenge.  There are No 2nd-chances in the IARU GiG; if a band-opening is missed, we can't "pick it up tomorrow" - there IS No Tomorrow in this contest - 24 hours is all we get.

As I said in the IARU Blast-from-the-Past Blog, while I miss the stop at Randy's Donuts enroute
to Fallbrook, I DON'T miss the drive.  Running Dual-OP from Concord affords me more operating opportunities.  Now, if Randy's Donuts can deliver some of their delicacies via FEDEX or Amazon,
I will have the best of ALL THREE worlds.

While NX6T took a pair of 1st-places last year, because we are STILL in the bottom-dregs of the
solar sunspot cycle, it is expected that we will be relying on the lower amateur bands (160 - 80 - 40 & 20) as we did last year; any 15 & 10 meter QSOs will be BONUS points, relative to the overall GiG.
([CLICK HERE] to read the write up on last year's operation.)

The IARU contest is somewhat unique in that it is a multi-mode contest.  When running as a single-OP (aka WQ6X), I have the choice of running Cw only, Ssb only, or Mixed-mode (same as the ARRL 10-Meter contest).  Multi-OP setups are considered mixed-mode, no matter what modes are used.

Last year, altho the 8JK was different than it is now, amazingly, European QSOs made it to the WQ6X log; not an easy accomplishment from such a Dx-Vortex location.  In general, last years' IARU GiG was loaded with surprises.  Always a surprise is when odd-ball IARU zones are activated at the last moment, with virtual no advance-warning.  It is for this reason alone that operators should stick it out on each band. 

If your antenna(s) are rotatable, put on your listening-ears and LooK for those illusive Zones; and even (horror of horrors) call CQ once in awhile.  You might be pleasantly greeted with calls from some of those illusive zones; it has happened to me MANY times.  To make your job easier (and less voice-taxing), use a voice keyer, or even a digital / tape player.

For now, it's bedtime - I am due to join Dan (N6ERD) for the 12:00z (5am) starting shift. 
What about You?  Do YOU ever play in the IARU Hf Championship?  If NoT, WHY Knot?

Sunday, July 5, 2020

WQ6X Dual-OPs the DL-Dx RTTY & Marconi Cw Contests

What do you do on the 4th of July weekend when most celebrations have been sidelined?  If you're a radiosport contester like me, the answer is quite simple: play around in two European radio contests: The DL-Dx RTTY contest and the Marconi Memorial Cw GiG.

My original plan was to dual-OP both contests.  Cw keying problems sidelined running the Marconi GiG from Concord as WQ6X.  Of course, AFTER the weekend is over I resolved the keying problem in under five minutes - GO Figure.  Altho RTTY operation ran well for WQ6X, I was so preoccupied with running contests remotely as NX6T that only 2 RTTY QSOs made it into the WQ6X log in Concord; at LEAST I can say "I WuZ THERE!"
Since the Field Day sailboat operation is a week behind us, I brought back the ICOM 7000,
this time along with its 7" video monitor, making it even more useful in the shack; especially
when it comes to SWL'ing - it's main function right now.  Before this weekend I wrote up a BLAST from the Past Blog entry about the Marconi Memorial contest - [CLICK HERE] to read that.

Throughout the weekend, a number of different anomalies were noted - including:
  • Throughout the day (18:20z & 20:18z in particular), the 14111.11 run frequency
    seemed to bring out the multi-mode-digital boys with all manner of creative sounds to QRM "those pesky contesters" - as one Ssb critic once called us.  At one point, the digital interference sounded like a SICK Chicken; actually it was a Sick CHICKEN who chose to deliberately QRM a thriving run frequency.
  • 15 Meters was CLEARLY open, yet nearly 30 minutes of CQ time dispersed throughout the afternoon produced a WHOPPING 2 QSOs.  I've written about the importance of Calling CQ ([CLICK HERE] &[CLICK HERE]), yet CQ calls are worthless if my intended audience just ASSUMES that 15 meters is going to be DEAD and don't even look for REAL.  One thing I know about radio wave communication is that openings can occur
    at anytime, on any frequency, for any reason, OR, for no apparent reason at all.
  • Next up is the case of juicy ZL3P.  Not only would he be a GooD catch, but an
    incredible feat for that time of day.  The catch: he was ZERO-BEAT with the NCDXF beacon frequency - Tsk Tsk - HE should know better.  If I work him I sanction JAMMING Beacon transmissions just because I want 2-points and a multiplier.  <<S I G H!>>
    About 20 minutes later he called in on my 14089.89 run frequency; I got my 2-points
    and multiplier and retained my ethical stance that beacon frequencies should be given PLENTY of ROOM to operate.  There is 50-khz of RTTY-available spectrum ABOVE 14.100 - give the beacons some room!
  • The DUP QSO Boys were out in force during BOTH contests.  I JUST wrote about this problem and now it seems to be getting worse (or am I becoming more sensitive to it?).  Nothing worse than having a station repeat his call 5 times (he changes the letters on each sending) and then on the SIXTH repeat he sends it correctly: W6-DUP - and it
    shows up as a Dupe - DuH!  Mr. W6DUP just wasted 40 seconds of run time from his being out in la-la land and calling me for the FIFTH time that day (after working me in
    the morning).  By the time we sort it all out, all the other calling stations got impatient
    (or bored) and moved on to find stations they don't have to wait around for.
  • Here is a FACT that is HARDLY an anomaly: calling stations GIVE UP TOO EASILY. 
    In general, it seems that after the third call to me many stations just give up and move on.  If you don't mind my asking: WHERE ARE YOU GOING?  Do you have other QSOs more important than working MY station?  You invested 3 calls to me; you may as well keep going.  All too often I finally piece your call together send you an exchange, and you are LONG GONE.  I repeat the exchange 3 times - if no response from you then it's Ctrl-W to the rescue (WIPE) and I move on; only to have you call in again 5 minutes later and we get to try it all over again.
  • Probably the Dingle-Dork of the weekend award is the guy on Cw who jumped onto my 7062.62 run frequency telling me QRL (the frequency is in use); yes, it IS in use Dewd
    and I have been using it for nearly 1/2 hour.
    I guess 7062.62 was his Saturday morning RAGCHEW frequency and he didn't like sharing it.  He pointed his wimpy Rota-Dipole in my direction and realized I had been there all along.  Could he not move up/down 5kc and send his buddy a TEXT message that he is QSX on 7067.62?  Is it really all that difficult?
  • The 40-meter Russian military beacons were a bit of an anomaly this weekend. 
    The "F" and "M" beacons were easily heard both evenings.  The "K" beacon was nowhere to be found.  Sweeping the Shorty-40 yagi from 270-degs to 0-degs and parking it at 300. nothing was heard from the "K" beacon.  Awhile back, I wrote a couple of Blogs about these beacons ([CLICK HERE] and [CLICK HERE]), noting that the "K" beacon has been exhibiting what I will call "fickle" behavior in recent weeks.  If you ask me, being OFF the air is just more fickle behavior.
It is amazing the different kinds of experiences that can come out of a minor-contest weekend,
when it coincides with a USA holiday like July 4th on a weekend.

Did YOU work the DL-Dx RTTY and/or Marconi Memorial Cw GiGs?

Is NX6T in YOUR LoG?

Friday, July 3, 2020

BLAST from the Past: Memories of Marconi Memorial

As the July 4th weekend nears, I am gearing up for my 3rd entry into the Marconi Memorial Cw contest, along with the DL-Dx RTTY Contest GiG.  While these European-based radiosport GiGs are relatively new to me, what brings me back is the relative ease in making it all happen in 2018 & 2019, even taking a Single Band-40 1st-place in last year's Marconi event.

Here is what I originally wrote about the Marconi Memorial (MM) and DL-Dx Contests:
  • [x] - WQ6X Runs another DL-Dx RTTY & Marconi Memorial Contest Weekend
  • [x] - WQ6X Dabbles in Marconi Memorial & DL-DX RTTY Contest
In both events, the QSO totals were disappointingly low.  In fact, during the 2019 DL-Dx GiG,
no German stations ever made it to the log; not that the bands weren't open to Europe. 
What good is a European opening, when no one in Europe is participating in their own
contest?!  (I have the same complaint with State QSO Parties - except CQP of course).

Because more people are staying indoors worldwide, I am postulating that there will be an EXCESS of operators on the air during BOTH of these radiosport events.  Now is NoT the time to be staring at a powered-off radio.  Now is the opportunity to use these two radiosport GiGs as a way to check out your amateur station performance.

The above picture from my Alameda remote-operating location shows the latest audio filter combination being test-run: an Autek-QF-1A for the left ear and a QF-1A cascading into an old MFJ-751 (the single-filter predecessor to the MFJ-752 series).  While the 751 will probably never make it to the Concord portable operation, running cascade from the RCForb radio-control software is better than running wide-open.

At least we have quiet geomagnetosphere for
this weekend.  While the WHOPPING SFI of 70
isn't much, indications are 20/40 will be the bands to pay attention to.

While in Concord, I will
be putting the ICOM 7000 (used during FD) back in operation @W7AYT's QTH, allowing me to troubleshoot its COM2 radio keying problems.

Overall, the ICOM 7000
is an Excellent CW performing radio.

Do YOU anticipate operating in the Marconi Memorial and/or DL-Dx RTTY GiGs this weekend?

LooK for NX6T and/or WQ6X on BOTCH Cw and RTTY.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

WQ6X Floats another Field Day as K6QLF

Despite all the challenges, with a few compromises Field Day 2020 not only happened, the bands seemed more jammed than ever.  As part of the Amateur Radio Club of Alameda (ARCA), last year
I ran much of K6QLF's HF activity from a sailboat in Alameda's Aeolian yacht harbor, while other operators enjoyed the luxury of running 2 stations indoors at the yacht club. 
([CLICK HERE] to read that write up.)

The decision was made to run my ICOM-7000 from WB6RCU's 42' sailboat, moored out at the end
of Alameda's Aeolian Yacht Harbor.  A pair of antennas radiated the RF:  the on-board Sloper-wire (tuned by an SGC-257 feeding the wire directly) and a Butternut HF2-V vertical I bungee-corded to the boat's main mast (with 6 groundplane wires hanging over the boat into the water).  The vertical was tuned for all bands via the old vintage Dentron Jr. Monitor (It is an antenna tuner - I never DiD figure out what it is monitoring), 

Thinking we had an SGC-257 tuner problem we removed it and brought in a replacement. 
While waiting for the replacement, a kludge was improvised using bypass clip leads and red tape
so we could at least test-tune the sloper with the Dentron tuner.

Almost more than any single radiosport event, Field Day (FD) requires a considerable amount of advance setup, when the setup is portable; whether it be on land or aboard a sailboat.  I like to setup on Friday allowing me to test the radio(s) on all bands - 75-meters in particular - on Friday evening.

Throughout the Field Day weekend there were a number of WEIRD anomalies, including:
  • A large majority of stations were in some way operating indoors; probably 80% of the classifications were 1D/1E or 2D/2E.  It would seem that my 1A classification actually confused many operators; until of course they hear I am running from a sailboat.
  • The LOUD MOUTH on 7.164 (03:54z) loudly complaining about how WE are QRMing
    him, making him run 1500 watts in order to have a ragchew.  The fact is, his random complaint about QRM was in fact - QRM  He Didn't have to worry about whether or not
    His LOUD MOUTH was being heard.  He needs a BETTER RECEIVER not More Power.
  • While attempting to copy the Field Day bulletin on 7.0475 and 14.0475, both frequencies were BARRAGED with Field Day stations, making copy all but impossible.  Those Dingle Dorks should realize that a correctly copied message would be worth 100 points to them.  That is the equivalent of 100 Ssb QSOs or 50 QSOs on Cw.  What FOOLs!
  • There was the slow Cw station who [allegedly] didn't understand Field Day so I explained it to him and gave him his 1st QSO.  After working me he moves up ~150 Hz and starts calling CQ FD - HuH?  WTF?
  • While the QF-1A and MFJ-752 filters looked good in the photo, all they accomplished was in giving the laptop a place to sit (like last year).  I guess I've never run the ICOM 7000 into a QF-1A before; the ground-loop hum was intolerable.  The MFJ-752 was also sidelined when it was discovered there was no power cable to match the weird power jack on the back (one of my BEEFs with the MFJ-752b). 
  • Throughout the day and evening, I was hearing (very weak) BDCST stations in the middle of the 3.5 Mhz Cw band.  HuH?  The signals were heard with BOTH antennas, ruling out antenna-created false resonance.  When setup in Concord, the ICOM 7000 has never heard these kinds of signals.  I wonder what being in a boat harbor has to do with things?
  • When running Ssb, it was quite apparent that many OPs don't know how to tune in a Ssb station as they were frequently off frequency (usually too low), requiring the R-i-T to tune them in.  While I don't mind using RIT when I have it, when I run remote there IS NO RIT, so we have to FAKE it.  The REAL answer to always be on frequency before you call.
According to the 3830 Scores Website, my K6QLF operation from the sailboat took 1st-place
for California and 4th place for the USA and Canada.  As for how the ENTIRE K6QLF operation
fared in comparison to the rest of Field Day is yet to be determined.

This is it, in summary.  For me this Field Day was no different from any other in that it is guesswork
all the way as we turn all the pieces into some sort of coherent radio operation for 36 hours.

How about You?

Were YOU part of a coherent Field Day?


Tell me about it.