Sunday, March 29, 2020

WQ6X Works the Whackiest, Weirdiest WPX Contest Ever

Riding on an all-but-empty BART train to North Concord (Contra Costa County - EB Section),
I look at the almost-rain clouds.  As a Biofeedback therapist, I have seen clients everyday for the
last 3 weeks, assisting them thru the anxiety they've encountered due to the world-wide panic.

For the rest of the weekend, my goal is to play radiosport as NX6T w/an ad-HOC team of operators ranging from 14 to around 72 (I'm somewhere in the middle).  The goal is to revamp the Elecraft K3/0 connection to run NX6T's Station-2 (instead of the usual STN-1).  And additionally, thanks to a wide-selection of operators in Fallbrook, I'm going to look for opportunities to put the WQ6X callsign on the air, in this weekend's 48-hour CQ WPX Ssb contest melee; NX6 & WQ6 are desirable contest prefixes (I.e. Multipliers).

After last weekend's BARTG HF RTTY Contest, the Rockville audio mixing box was hastily cabled into the FT-1000mp @W7AYT's QTH.  For Cw and RTTY purposes, this implementation is quite effective, altho the interaction between the devices/channels takes some getting used to. 
The REAL test will be in this weekend's Ssb contest.

Additionally, an MFJ-1020 Active Antenna [Pre-selector] has been rescued from the "mothballs" to
be inserted into the 1000mp's RX Antenna path.  The ICOM 7000 (currently being used for SWL'ing
at W7AYT) has a SUPER pre-amp built-in; as such, it would benefit very little from any additional outside-amplification devices.


Fast-forward to NoW [03:35z after the contest] and looking back, most things did not happen the way I had considered that they would go; not a bad thing necessarily, just a different set of circumstances and equipment configurations to troubleshoot.

At left is a close-up of the audio mixing being given it's contest debut at the W7AYT QTH.  The most egregious problems come from ground-loops between the disparate kinds of equipment all coalescing into one audio-control unit.
The 4 stereo channels give audio access to:
    - ICOM 7000 (Direct)
    - FT-1000mp (Direct)
    - Elecraft K3/0 (Direct)
    - FT-1000mp (Filtered Audio)

The audio switch (below mixed) directs audio to:
    - Amplified Stereo Speakers (w/ sub-Woofer)
    - Wireless (non-amplified) headsets.

While the isolation filters isolate units, it's often
at a cost of impedance mis-matching which can significantly lower the volume; the main reason for adding an internal amplifier to the Rockville mixer.

Overall, the Rockville mixer is destined to play a continuing role in the audio processing for WQ6X. 
The Com8 mini-plug stereo switch box will be re-assigned to my Alameda location, allowing further testing of another Autek QF-1A filter pair being experimented with there.

As it turns out, I never managed to resolve the IP-address conflict that has prevented me from running the Elecraft K3/0 into Fallbrook.  The RCForb backup plan also failed as microphone audio was not strong enough to key the radio on the other end - Go Figure.


With extra time to focus on WQ6X operations in Concord, I was dismayed to experience the usual signal-vortex at this East Bay location.  Even the strongest signals seemed quite weak.

Another anomaly at this location is the fact that the CH-250 vertical is often LESS-noisy than the sloppy WQ6X 8JK somewhat-inverted Vee. 

With the MFJ Versa Tuner II it is easy to select either the 8JK Vee, the CH-250 vertical or the WQ6X JA Sloper (that rarely hears JA) - with or with out the tuning section.  I am continuously amazed which antenna actually gives the best reception.

On a whim, I made CQ calls both days on 28414.14 with the antenna pointed towards South America.  On Saturday afternoon the one-and-only 10-meter contact was made with K6JAT on Skyline Blvd. in Oakland - essentially a ground-wave QSO.  15 meters produced a couple of more QSOs, with CE2LR & KX7M ; while I could hear many stations on 15, they were mostly below the RX noise-floor - Bummer Dewd.

The last hour of the contest found WQ6X scouring 20 meters and then ending the WPX GiG with
a handful of QSOs finagled on 40 meters.  While this was indeed a WEIRD WPX contest, like every contest event I always get something useful out of the time spent; and, it keeps my attention off the panic being experienced by non-amateurs around the world wide. 
 
As it turns out, VHF (2-meter) amateur radio operators have the greatest chance for survival.
 
Did YOU work this year's WPX Ssb Weird Prefix Contest?
 
Is WQ6X or NX6T in YOUR Log?
 

Friday, March 27, 2020

WQ6X Survives COVID w/BARTG

As you probably know, planet dirtball Earth is in the middle of WAY overreacting to the COVID situation; people all over have decided to stay indoors, but dunno what it is they wanna do during
this time.  For those of us who play radiosport, at least on the weekends, there is nearly always some sort of radiosport competition that can be engaged in. 

For this last weekend, the main event was the British BARTG RTTY contest and in the background, the VA (Virginia) QSO party, which I chose to run remotely from W7AYT's QTH in Concord.  I also took the opportunity to integrate a Rockville 4-channel stereo audio mixer into the station operation; but after the radiosport events were over.

While I have participated in the BARTG Springtime HF RTTY GiGs before, 2020 was my first real effort at making a presence in this contest.  Fortunately, the above 4 events have been written up in this Contest Blog,
  • [x] 2016 BARTG Contest Weekend
  • [x] 2017 BARTG Contest Weekend
  • [x] 2018 BARTG Contest Weekend
  • [x] 2019 BARTG Contest Weekend
As you can see, depending on the year, more attention was given to the Russian DX contest,
versus the BARTG RTTY GiG and vice-versa.  In the VAQP WQ6X won a number of 1st/2nd place wins for California.  While there was also participation in the LAQP QSO party, no certificates have ever been received.  Looking at the 2020 WA7BNM Contest Calendar, I see that the LAQP has
been moved to the 1st weekend in April; I guess not to be in contention with VAQP QSO party.


The BARTG RTTY Contest
is strikingly similar to the CQ WPX RTTY GiG just weeks before. 

The difference is that in the BARTG contest we also exchange the Time-of-Day (T-o-D) in addition to sending 5xx and a Serial #; the time is normally obtained from the transmitting station computer.

During this year's events,
I was more focused on RTTY operations than anything else; as such, Russian DX Contest signals never made it to the headphones.  Having never won a certificate in this GiG
I wasn't too disappointed.


Being a 48 hour contest, the BARTG RTTY GiG gives many opportunities to explore each band more than once.  Using the NCDXF beacons for predicting band openings only work on 15 & 10 meters as stations RUDLY congregate on the 14,100 beacon frequency.  It's one thing to "accidently" be in the vicinity of the beacon frequency; it's quite another to be EXACTLY on 14.100. In my opinion, stations operating exactly on 14.100 should have their log entry DQ'd; or at least, those 20 meter QSOs should not count towards the score.

On 40 meters, officially, we have no official beacon system; unless of course you consider the
not-well-known Russian Single Letter Beacons (SLB's).  I have written about these beacons before.  ([CLICK HERE] to read about that.)
During this contest weekend, only the "F" & "K" beacons were heard.  In fact, the "M" beacon has not been heard in several weeks, leading me to believe that the transmitter in Magadan is not currently operational.

A couple of times during the weekend, it seems that NX6T ran out of new stations to work. 
This gave an opportunity to put WQ6X on the air from W7AYT's QTH in Concord.  Not many
WQ6X QSOs were made, altho it was a nice diversion; however, the time prolly shoulda been
spent sleeping.

The world around us may be in considerable turmoil, however thanks to radiosport we can do what we've ALWAYS done (operate) and contribute to the safety of everyone on the planet.

Did YOU play in the BARTG RTTY GiGs?

Is NX6T or WQ6X in YOUR Log?

Monday, March 23, 2020

WQ6X Fakes another 7-Contest Weekend

Client commitments kept me in Alameda for this last weekend.  LooKing at the WA7BNM Contest calendar discovered 7 contests that could be casually operated throughout the 48-hour weekend. 
An 8th contest - The RSGB Commonwealth GiG - was not available to us as we declared our independence from the Commonwealth back in 1776.


This weekend offered up the opportunity to test run a Rockville 4-device stereo audio mixer enabling the combination of unfiltered and filtered audio to drive headphones or powered speakers.  Because the headphones have no power amplifier to power them, I built a Rainbow stereo amplifier kit that is small enough to fit inside the Rockville mixer, paralleling it's output with the mixer's output. 
The Rockville mixer is destined for my setup at W7AYT's QTH.

The contest list for the week chronologically included:
  • [x] The YB RTTY Contest
  • [x] Oklahoma QSO Party (OQP)
  • [x] Stew Perry Top Band Challenge
  • [x] Tesla Memorial Cw Contest
  • [x] Idaho QSO Party (IDQP)
  • [x] NA Sprint RTTY
  • [x] Wisconsin QSO PARTY (WIQP)
Axel, KI6RRN also wanted to play around in the various QSO parties & SP-160 contest this weekend; we worked out a compromise overlapping-schedule allowing him to remote-in to STN-2 and use the C-31 antenna for the high bands while I remoted-in to STN-1 using the 3-el Stepp-IR.  On 160, 80 & 40 meters, at any given moment WQ6X was on one band and KI6RRN was on another.

Internet connection problems kept me off the air until around 07:15z.  Pointing the 2-el Shorty-40 towards Asia immediately put 3-point QSOs in the log, along with a few 10-point YB stations.  Working off and on (with naps in between) 40 remained open to Asia/YB amazingly until 16:30z;
even then, I could still hear them, altho they could not hear me answer their CQ YBRTTY Test calls. 

Around that time, calling CQ YB Test on 7053.53 was met with a  Cw station send log strings of dits.  Moving to 7052.52, the "ditter" of course followed me.  Immediately a YB station began calling CQ with PERFECT RTTY copy; meaning choosing the frequency was NO accident.  Then the Cw station showed up sending "V V V" repeatedly.  I'm used to intentional QRM on 40 meters; but at 2am, NoT 9:15.  Before leaving 40-meters I noticed the Russian Military "F" beacon was still being heard in Fallbrook - Amazing.

Switching to 20 meters, I ran frequencies and looked around for OK stations, until 19:30z, when after putting W7ZRC in
the IDQP LoG I called it Quits for the afternoon.

Client commitments kept me
off the air most of Saturday afternoon until 23:10z when I wrapped up the YB RTTY GiG running a 1/2 hour and then switched operating focus to
the NAQP RTTY. 

Altho the Stew Perry (SP-160) GiG began at 15:00z, the band was just fading out at that time; 160 would have to wait until later Saturday evening.  European and East Coast stations clearly have a Time-of-Day advantage in this contest.

For the NA Sprint RTTY GiG, NE6I's attempt to put together a SCCC RTTY team didn't materialize leaving WQ6X to run it alone.  Continuing to run RTTY using an Elecraft K3 into an Expert-2k amp running at around 888 watts, the bandplan was to milk what's left of 20, then spend
a couple of hours on 40 before moving down to include 80 meters.

NA Sprint contests are unique in that the events are only 4 hours long and there are no run frequencies
:
While technically we are not restricted from using spotting assistance, because stations are required to QSY after each QSO, bandmap spots are all but worthless.

A secret to excelling in the NA Sprint GiGs is none other than the main tuning knob.  I often make use of VFO-A & VFO-B by using one to move up in frequency and one to move down.  Using full-blown SO2-V takes dual-VFO usage to the next level.








At 08:00z NX6T went dark, paving the way
for a run in the Stew Perry contest.  To make things easier I ran frequencies most of the time.  Because the exchange sent is a Grid Square ID there are no multipliers, each QSO is awarded points based on the Km distance between the two stations.

The remaining event (the WQP) happened
on Sunday.  For WQ6X, time was found at 19:00z on 20-meters (49 mins).  At 22:30 40-meters opened, providing 90 minutes of WQP operation.  As usual, in-state participation in their own QSO Party was noticeably lacking.




Overall, the 7-contest weekend was an interesting challenge and provided an opportunity to test run the Rockville stereo mixer before integrating it into the WQ6X portable operation @W7AYT's QTH.

DiD YOU operate in any of the 7 contests during the weekend?

Is WQ6X in YOUR LoG?

Monday, March 9, 2020

WQ6X Joins NX6T Dual-OP'ing another ad-HOC ARRL Dx Ssb GiG

This first full weekend in March finds me winding down after an intense month of Toastmasters Speech Contests during the week and radiosport GiGs every weekend in between.  I recently compared the two different-but-similar forms of competition.  ([CLICK HERE] to read that.)

This weekend's ARRL Dx Ssb contest finds me in Concord to play around as WQ6X in between remote operating shifts @NX6T.  Lacking operators for a full-blown Multi-2 operation, this weekend's GiG @NX6T is a Multi-Single affair, giving me an opportunity to test-run recent antenna tweaks at the W7AYT QTH.  In preparation for this weekend I wrote another Blast from the Past BLOG highlighting the five SW-Division plaques NX6T has earned for this contest alone.  ([CLICK HERE] to read that.) 
Despite our limited roster of operators, there's no reason NX6T can't DoiT again for 2020.

Other commitments brought me to W7AYT later than what I had hoped.  Then for openers, the K3/0's internet connection was rather flaky.  After router resets and network "tweaks" on our end, the internet eventually settled in and WQ6X was off and running for the ARRL Dx Ssb GiG.

Unfortunately, true to 40-meter form, once I got settled in, the Intentional QRM immediately made
the scene.  At 08:56z QRM started in the form of a motorboat and/or leaf-blower sound.  Then at 09:14z we were surrounded with commercial RTTY, followed by some idiot continuously repeating "OK! OK!", and then more RTTY (which was determined to be coming from 300-Degrees relative to NX6T.)  It stopped for awhile immediately after discussing it w/KH6TU.  Later it "followed me around"; first on 7127.27 ==> 7126.26 ==> 7127.27.  HuH?  WTF was THAT all about? 
I guess nighttime non-contest OP's really DO get Bored rather easily - Bummer DewD!
On the other hand, the intrusive Russian military beacons have actually become useful in recent years for Asian propagation prediction.  After midnight Friday, the "F" and "K" beacons (on ~7.039) floated through, suggesting that China and V86 (Brunei) could make it to the log (and they DiD).  Saturday evening the "F" and "K" beacons were heard @ W7AYT, but I was unable to raise
BI4SSB; unfortunately, V86 was nowhere to be found.

N6CY ran the early morning shift (allowing me to "sleep in"), followed by W2PWS keeping the morning shift alive.  Then @ Saturday noon, KN6DLG (Brett) achieved B-i-C (Butt in Chair) with his mom providing transportation and encouragement.  (Now, if we can only put HER in the OP chair for the upcoming CQ WPX Ssb contest - Hint Hint.)  Brett is quickly gaining experience to become a top notch operator - each operating stint provides new challenges to work through.

At 00:00z Brett shutdown Station #2 and I took over Station #1.  After nearly an hour of productive S&P operation, it was time to settle into some BI-Directional operation on 14179.79, working both
JA / SA - alternately interspersing QSOs from both directions.  Then @02:20 it was on to 40-m to
run frequencies (7129.29, 7131.31 & 7162.62).

At 04:00z N6ERD took over to run the Evening AND Night shifts; a nice change for me.

Sunday morning I took the opportunity to put a few QSOs in the WQ6X log; in the end, I managed only 8 QSOs - JA, KH6/WH7 & KL7.  While other locations reported LoTs of QSOs, there seemed
to be a signal vortex in Concord; confirmed by W0WXL, only a block away.

The last 5 hours of the DX contest found me running STN-1 to wrap things up.  Seeing that we had plenty of 20 meter contacts in the NX6T log, 15 meters was given initial priority, with a brief stint on 28.414.14 to work a pair of KH6 stations; calling CQ while beaming South America surprisingly yielded nothing.

Eventually 15 meters died out prematurely, necessitating a final move to 20, just in time for another dual-opening to JA/SA; again, taking advantage of the Stepp-IR's BI-Directional capability. 
When it was all over, NX6T achieved 950 QSOs in 242 country-multipliers.

Aside from the aforementioned intentional QRM problem my next BiGGest BEEF were the stateside IDIOTS who kept calling, oblivious to the fact that this was a DX contest.  This happened in the Cw contest as well.  If they had read the contest rules they would know that I am only working DX stations, not stateside.  You may recall I wrote about this twice last year:
  • [x] August 2019 - 7 Reasons You [probably] Should Not Call Me - Part 1
  • [x] September 2019 - 7 Reasons You [probably] Should Not Call Me - Part 2
 
Sunday evening, after the contest was over, while troubleshooting audio connections to the K3/0,
I heard a Cw beacon-type station on 1.829 - 4OMD.  Every 5 minutes it would send its ID, then
a long DAHHHHHH, then pause and do it again (twice).  I've heard this beacon before and have no clue what its all about.  Tuning the ICOM 7000 (in Concord) to 1.829, nothing was heard - DeaD Air.
Do YOU have any ideas what this is all about?

DiD YOU work the ARRL DX Ssb contest?
If you are a DX station, is NX6T in YOUR LoG?

Thursday, March 5, 2020

WQ6X Blast from the Past: ARRL Dx Phone Contest

In preparation for this weekend's ARRL Dx Contest - as I often do - I took a look back along the contest timeline, revisiting the Dx Phone contests I've engaged in since this Contest BLOG series began in 2013 (as well as winning events in 2011 & 2012).  While the actual number of entries were limited, each unique event had something very unique about it.  Consider the following:
  • (-) 2011 - NX6T Wins Southwest Division for ARRL Dx Phone
  • (-) 2012 - NX6T Wins Southwest Division for ARRL Dx Phone
  • (x) 2013 - ARRL Dx Phone - DiD it REALLY Happen?
  • (x) 2017 - OPs at NX6T come together for 2017 DX SSB Contest
  • (x) 2018 - WQ6X Teams up with NX6T for 2018 ARRL Dx Contests
  • (x) 2019 - ARRL Dx Ssb GiG: the contest RTTY Ruined
By contrast, this weekend will yield a completely different operation, based on only a handful of scheduled operators coupled with a struggling Solar Flux Index (SFI=69); altho the A/K Indexes
are pleasantly low.

What I find MOST amazing is that with the exception of the WQ6X 2013 solo event from the SF
bay area, I've been involved with 5 Southwest Division winning operations with NX6T; evidently,
the Arizona Outlaws don't do SSB - they should.

Back in the early days we operated a single transmitter @ NX6T into a TenTec Centurion
amp - a way underrated amplifier.  In those daze, we didn't even have access to an [EASY] BUTTON, altho we DiD have "Mr. Bill" to help us out - for better or worse.
 
By 2012 we ran a near-identical setup except that the Centurion amplifier was replaced with
our first ACOM-2000a amplifier, offering up full auto-tune capabilities.  This was also our first
use of "Tower #2", with a 3-el Stepp-IR, a 2-el Shorty-40 and a hoist point for the 160 & 80
meter coaxial inverted Vee's..
By the time I was running remotely from Alameda in 2017, NX6T had expanded to a 3-station operation with a pair of ACOM 2000a amplifiers.  Eventually the ACOM's were replaced with
the current lineup of Expert 2K amplifiers.
 
The above PIC is NX6T quietly languishing before the fervor of this weekend's ARRL Dx Ssb contest.  Are YOU going to play in the DX contest this weekend?  If you are a DX station, be on the lookout for NX6T - we have a number of upcoming surprises in store for the weekend operation.
 

Monday, March 2, 2020

WQ6X RiGs another Remote NAQP RTTY GiG

It always seems like the NAQP RTTY GiGs slip into the schedule when I'm not looking. 
Then again, according to the BLAST from the PAST BloG Entry, they always happen on the
last weekend of February; which THIS year was on the 29th.  No one seemed to be up for a
Multi-2 operation, leaving open my running SOP remotely from NX6T as WQ6X.  Then, after
the 10-hour max single-OP operating period, I made a new log for NX6T and started over.

[Bracketing] the NAQP event were two state QSO Parties; one for South Carolina (before)
and one for North Carolina (on Sunday).  My bitch with QSO Parties like the SCQP & NCQP
is that they are over by the time W6 stations even get a shot at them.  15:00z (7am PST) is too
early for ANY kind of QSO party; by the 02:00z time of its ending, 40 & 80 are JUST warming up.
Because NAQP RTTY is purposely a low power event, amongst other problems, running the K3 @100 watts full duty would likely produce enough heat to FRY the PA unit.  The solution was to dial the K3 down to around 4 - 5 watts into an Expert-2K amplifier, producing 88 - 99 watts output; low enough to produce full-duty RTTY.  Frequently the reports were that the signal was QUITE LOUD. 
A 3-el Stepp-IR yagi, a 2-el Shorty-40 and 80-meter coaxial inverted Vee (all at 39') made all the difference from the 900' above sea-level Fallbrook location, proving that running LoTs of power
is unnecessary to produce a penetrating signal.

Upper band conditions were quite frustrating.  In between slow frequency runs on 15-meters and finally moving down to 20-m, I made what seemed to be a futile "CQ NA Test" call on 28.088.88.  Returning to 21089.89, a call was received from KH6CJJ.  After the QSO he informed me that he
had heard the 10-meter CQ call, loud and clear in Maui, but evidently he couldn't be heard in Fallbrook; not surprising since he was off the back of the Stepp-IR yagi.
 I told Kent to QSX on 28088.88 and switched the antenna to its 180-degree setting.  A single CQ
call resulted in what turned out to be the ONLY 10-meter QSO.  Usually when I make a single 10-meter QSO, it is via ground wave with someone local.  Redirecting the antenna eastward, I wasted another 15 minutes futilely calling "CQ NA Test" - NOBODY!  As I've often said about 10-meters:
"If everyone is listening and no one is transmitting, the band can certainly APPEAR to be DeaD", when in fact it is WIDE-Open.
My BiGGest BEEF in this NAQP RTTY contest was written up in the original Role of Respect in Radiosport BLOG series - a composite of BEEF #2 & BEEF #4 - Stations who work me (get them QSO points FIRST), then IMMEDIATELY start calling CQ on my run frequency.  HuH?  WTF is
THAT all about?!  The BiGGest violators of this were KK6P and AA2MF, altho this occurred nearly a dozen times throughout Saturday.

On Sunday while taking screen shots, submitting 3830 Scores and writing up material for this Blog,
I remembered the NCQP was scheduled for today.  After a 1/2 hour of S&P, a whopping 4 stations made it to the WQ6X log.  My points about NCQP are exactly the same as SCQP: not enough in-state stations playing in their own QSO party and the operating time is WAY too short.  The QSO party sponsors for these GiGs should learn a lesson or two from the California QSO Party (CQP).
Being lazy this weekend I chose to run frequencies most of the time.  While I would occasionally
go mult hunting, it was so much nicer to let the stations come to me.  For this contest, judicious use
of the F-10 "NOW" key really sped things up.  Unfortunately, when stations heard me work someone else, they often would not stick around for the NOW-key, wasting everyone's time.  If you can't wait
15 seconds, I dunno whut to tell ya'.  Do you REALLY have "someplace to be" 15 seconds from now?  REALLY?
When my 10 hours of OP-time were used up, I made a new log and ran as NX6T. 
Instead of "RON CA" (as WQ6X) I was "PAT CA" as NX6T.  Because we sometimes have
a multi-gender operator mix @NX6T, the use of "PAT" covers anyone sitting in the OP chair.

For this NAQP GiG I was persuaded to join the SCCC#1 Team consisting of: WN6K, W6ZL, N6GP, KI6VC & WQ6X.  While we turned in some nice scores, the OPs in the NCCC teams trounced us royally.  Nevertheless, for me, it was a lot of fun and a good test-evaluation of a Rockville Line 8 audio mixer being test-driven first in Alameda.  Who nose, with a few adaptations it may be adaptable for use with my FT-1000mp setup adapted to W7AYT's QTH.

DiD YOU work the NAQP RTTY Contest?

Is WQ6X or NX6T in YOUR LoG?

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Creative Competition in Radiosport and Toastmasters

Outside of amateur radio and radiosport I am a member of the Alameda Tongue Twisters Toastmasters club.  In April 2017 I wrote a BLOG comparing Toastmasters tenets to those encountered in relation to radiosport contesting.  ([CLICK HERE] to read that.  During the 1st four months of every year Toastmasters clubs, divisions and districts hold speech and evaluation contests all over the world.

Now, it's no secret that I love competition; as long as it's Honest, Fair and Friendly competition.  Awhile back you may remember that I advocated "cheating", but within the rules. 
([CLICK HERE] to read that.) 

In this context, what I mean by "cheating" is to think of things the other contestants never considered before.  In Toastmasters Speech Contests, winning contestants have often utilized "props", such as the gentleman who pulled white underwear over his 3-piece suit (w/tie) to tell us a story about being bullied in school; or, my clever use of a poker chip and a chair to tell the story of Jack ("Treetop") Strauss, a poker player who never gave up and won the World Series of Poker in 1982.

In the 2011 ARRL 10-meter contest, I had my friend Kathy call CQ and make a QSO, qualifying
K6T as a multi-OP operation.  Loading up the ICOM 7000's voice keyer memories with her voice
gave the added advantage of having a "YL" voice to attract callers, long after she made the drive
back to Monterey.  Was this cheating?  According to the "letter of the rules", everything done was completely legitimate.  The Multi-OP 1st-place for East Bay (EB) section was well-earned. 
We could say that using Kathy's voice was like "Alice Brannigan" all over again.

In radiosport, over the last 50+ years the ending scores keep inching higher and higher.  While the sunspot cycle may figure into this somewhat, what has REALLY made the difference is improved station layout/design and operator ingenuity.

In recent DX-type contest events I've run from NX6T in Fallbrook, I have chosen to use the 3-el Stepp-IR (@ 70') rather than the multi-element C-31 yagi (@ 39').  With the Stepp-IR, the antenna can be pointed to 130-degrees to work South America.  Then, when the band ALSO opens to Asia, the antenna can be set to BI-Directional, to work BOTH continents simultaneously.  When a weak Asian station is encountered, the antenna can be quickly switched to 180-degrees reversed; or, for
a weak SA station it can be quickly set to just 130-degrees.

When contests involve running on 40-meters, I often make use of the Russian military beacons
(on ~7.039) to determine propagation paths to Asia.  I've written extensively about using beacons.  ([CLICK HERE] to read that write-up.)  I've also written specifically about the Russian beacons.  ([CLICK HERE] to read that write-up.)

Another advantage I have taken advantage of is the use of what is known as "Stereo Cw.  This is another subject I have written extensively about.  You may remember the following BLOG entries:
  • [x] - Stereo-CW - it's EASIER than You Think
  • [x] - Some Further Thoughts regarding Stereo CW
  • [x] - LEARNING the ART of LEVERAGING DUAL RECEIVE
The CooL thing about Stereo-CW is the ability to "position" signals at different "locations" in the Listening Experience.  Stations properly tuned in "appear" at approximately 10 O'clock in my listening experience, while lower-pitched signals appear next to my left ear.  Higher-pitched signals appear to the right side of my listening experience and very high frequencies appear over the right ear.  Tuning thru a signal shifts it from one ear to the other.  This spatial-separation allows running a pileup faster and yet more effectively.

 In BOTH Speech Contests and Radiosport Events, what often sets the winners above the rest of the competition is what I will "performance ingenuity" - taking advantage of advantages that may occur only momentarily.  It isn't JUST being in the "right place" at the "right time", it is in fact CREATING
that right place/time and stepping thru the created opening towards successful delivery.
This winter while running NX6T, during periods of working Asian stations, all of a sudden Europeans will start calling-in.  Turning the yagi about 25-degrees clockwise increases their signal-levels; then when I've worked the LoT of them, the antenna is turned back towards ~300-degrees to continue working Asia.  I've not  (to my knowledge) ever experienced this kind of occurrence, from anywhere
in California, much less @NX6T.  Drawing a compass on the whiteboard helped me to sort it all out.

Another advantage to be taken advantage of is writing software that helps me with things I need to pay attention to.  Space-WX, Time-of-Day and NCDXF Beacons are certainly a part of that.

Two classic examples are : a Beacon Track
utility and a Dual Time Clock.  Notice the Beacon Tracker also reports the Space-WX information, which I monitor daily.

In truth, these Windoze APPs are little more than "wrappers" around existing functionality, but with a more attractive interface.

If YOU possess software design talent, consider the kinds of things you would like to accomplish software-wise and produce an APP to embody that functionality.  Possibly we can collaborate our designs.

For speech contest practice I devised a GREEN - YELLOW - RED Toastmasters timer. 
Because I advocate PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE... this utility makes it easier for
me to get speech timing down to the last second.
 
In speech contests as well as radiosport, to be amongst the BEST of the BEST requires
Planning, Preparation, Practice, Persistence, Presentation and Proper Protocol.
 
Are YOU amongst the Best of the Best?
What steps do YOU take to make that happen?
 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

WQ6X Slips into a Slippery CQ-160 SSB Contest GiG

It has become characteristic for me to write a "Blast from the Past" BLOG entry before a major contest operation;  however I've participated in only 2 CQ-160 SSB GiGs before this year (altho NUMEROUS Cw GiGs).  Nevertheless, it was useful to review what happened and collect a pair
of [just released] certificates from the 2019 CQ-160 contests.

For CQ-160 SSB, the two GiGs I participated in were both written up here in the Contest BLOG. 
You may remember:
  • [x] 2019 - NX6T's Fab-Four Fly Forward for CQ-160 Ssb GiG
  • [x] 2018 - N6KI & WQ6X run another miraculous CQ 160 contest

N X 6 T  @  S u n r i s e  on  S u n d a y





 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A message to N6KI about this weekend resulted in "It's All Yours".
The decision was to run NX6T remotely from W7AYT's QTH using an Elecraft K3/0 and in between running out of stations to work, run as WQ6X with the FT-1000mp in Concord.  Band condx were so POOR in Concord, that outside of two 160 QSOs, I used the equipment there to monitor signal quality from Fallbrook - essentially a MON circuit from 450 miles away.

On both evenings, I began putting QSOs into the log around 02:00z.  Also on both evenings,
the band didn't really open up until after 06:00z; in direct contrast with the 02:00z opening of 160
in last weekend's ARRL Dx Contest.  How are we supposed to work a radiosport contest if the
Space-WX doesn't cooperate?!

Over the years, I have come to get used
to intentional QRM on 40 meters.  In recent months, the 40-meter problem has largely disappeared, making a debut in 20-meter RTTY operations.  For this weekend I found a NEW source of local QRM on 160. 

While it was frustrating to have the N-T-F (National Tuneup Frequency) following me around, thanks to the K3's excellent Auto-Notch facility, I was able to eliminate nearly 90% of it; on my end anyway. 

Whether the Tuneup-IDIOTS were effective at obliterating my signal on the other end,
I guess it will never be known.  Additionally, auto-notch filters all but eliminate the FT8 IDIOTS who don't listen before transmitting.


Another occasional but recurring problem comes from the IDIOTs who work me on my run frequency and then immediately call CQ 0.5-khz from the run frequency; KX4X 0.5-khz below me and K0IDX 0.5-khz above me - HuH?  Wassup with THAT?  Notice they get the 2-point QSO with me FIRST, before calling CQ on their own.

Another QRM problem occurred while running 1842.42 khz for 25 minutes only to have an FT8 signal move RIGHT ON TOP of my OBVIOUSLY LOUD CQ call.  I believe the "rule" is, whoever is FIRST on a given frequency has right to it QRM-free (traffic net frequencies excepted). 

Even WORSE is the IDIOT who came on 1860
(I was running 1860.60 for 30 minutes) complaining to his buddies about the QRM from contesters. 

If he had LISTENED before he transmitted he would've realized that HE was the QRM, not the contesters.

While the QRM'ers were INDEED a pain in the B-i-C, poor Space-WX was really THE problem throughout the weekend. 

When it was all over (at sunrise on Sunday),
a whopping 285 QSOs made it to the log in
14 hours - essentially only 20 QSOs per hour. 
wOw! - Deplorable!

All of this adds up to a rather slippery 160-Ssb contest GiG for this weekend.

Did YOU work the CQ-160 Ssb contest?

Is NX6T in YOUR LoG?

Thursday, February 20, 2020

WQ6X Wanders Thru another ARRL Dx Contest


In preparation for this contest weekend I made a quick review of past ARRL Dx Cw GiGs
that I have [literally] "fallen" into, one way or another; some of them even winning operations.


[x] - BLAST's from the PAST: WQ6X in ARRL
DX Contests
  • [x] - WQ6X Teams up with NX6T for 2018 ARRL Dx Contests
  • [x] - NX6T Nixes ARRL Dx Left Coast competition (in 2019)
For this year, a number of operators were cobbled together; some of them even achieving B-i-C (Butt In Chair) status, altho most operations were run remotely.

An advantage of my running NX6T remotely is that the local (Alameda) external audio filters can be brought into enhancing receive signal quality; an Autek QF-1A (L. Ear) + MFJ-751 (R. Ear).


Frequently while running a frequency the individual filters created a listening experience where certain signals appeared in the middle-left of my listening experience, or in one case the "lower right" in my listening experience; this creates a listening separation that actually aids in untangling the individual signals.

Remember, this is Analog Audio Enhancement, nearly 25 years before the concept of DSP ever became a possibility in radio amateur equipment.  The filter combination helped BOOST specific signals while at the same time attenuating those nearby; while the QRN-levels were low, the QRM-Jumble levels were immense.


Morning operators are often presented with the dilemma of leaving a running-20 in the hopes
of an emerging-15.  Because the stations share a common log file, it is possible to do a form
of SO-2R as WM6Y demonstrates (above).

As the contest proceeded, either out of boredom or chronic I-Don't-have-a-Clueness, stateside and even VA7 stations were calling me.  HuH? Dewd, this is a DX contest, go LooK for DX.  Lemme address the reasons they call me, explaining this to my mythical friend DEWD - WD6EWD
  • Hey Dewd, if you don't know this is a contest, then YOU should NoT call me.
  • Dewd, if you DO know this is a contest, then you know that you can't work me in this event; therefore YOU should NoT call me.
  • Dewd, do you know this is a DX contest? If so, then YOU should NoT call me.
  • Dewd, just because you're BORED doesn't make a QSO valid; therefore YOU
    should NoT call me.
Are amateurs really as Clueless as WD6EWD?  WoW!  I thought EVERYBODY knew this was
a contest weekend; they're either busy participating in it or openly BITCHING about it in their
mindless Ragchews.  Or, am I missing something?....
To refresh your memory, here are links to what I wrote about this "Problem":
  • [x] August 2019 - 7 Reasons You [probably] Should Not Call Me - Part 1
  • [x] September 2019 - 7 Reasons You [probably] Should Not Call Me - Part 2
Now that We got this all straight....
Remembering that this is a DX contest, everyone in North America should be LooKing for DX,
not domestic contacts.  At NX6T we managed to EASILY accomplish DXCC during the weekend;
101 countries on 20-m and 93 countries on 40-m - AmaZing!

N X 6 T  @  G r e y l i n e  - S u n s e t

While 15 & 10 meter band conditions were all but deplorable, we were rewarded with AMAZING band conditions on 160 - 20 meters.

I am used to thinking of 40 meters as
a band which opens to the East coast well after 01:00z (5pm).  For this ARRL DX contest, I was putting EU contacts into the NX6T log at 23:35z.  HuH?

That never happens.
 
What made our 39 hours of operation so effective had a LoT to do with leveraging techniques, equipment and operators into a relatively cohesive whole.  Because I have been pushing myself heavily in the days leading up to this GiG, I found a need for more sleep and was not able to contribute as much to the after midnight activity as I usually do.
 
Nevertheless, our 5-operator crew did an outstanding job of handing out NX6T QSOs.  It will be interesting to see how the Ssb GiG of the ARRL contest will turnout.  With the slowly improving
Solar Flux (SFI), if there are no solar-belches, we should experience an even more outstanding
event.
 
What about YOU? 
 
DiD YOU work the ARRL Dx Cw Contest?
 
Is NX6T in YOUR LoG?