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.  ([CLICK HERE] to see the YouTube video done of this presentation.

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?

Monday, January 6, 2020

WQ6X Dual-OPs ARRL 2020 RTTY RU Contest

LooKing back to 2019, the 109 radiosport events ending the decade are now safely in the LoG BooKs.  If you are a RTTY enthusiast like I am, the contest season for each new year begins with
the ARRL RTTY RU contest.  I recently wrote a "Blast from the Past" BLOG about previous RTTY
RU GiGs I have been a part of ([CLICK HERE] to read that.)

For this year's RTTY RU, I began things @18:00z running NX6T remotely.  Due to heat considerations, until we had actual B-i-C operation, I kept the power dialed back to around 775
watts.  When the B-i-C crew arrived and opened the windows the power was upped to over 1200 watts.

On the intentional QRM front, for this contest there was NO intentional 40 meter QRM - Hurray!  Unfortunately, this years intentional QRM came in the form of a VE6 on 20-meters while I ran a frequency - after a 1/2 hour it became clear that this was not accidental.  I wrote him an e-mail
about it and received an apology as the QRM was evidently inadvertent altho to me it certainly sounded intentional.

Shortly after 00:00z Rick (N6CY) achieved B-i-C, followed later by N6ERD.  I'm used to running the evening "dinner shift".  Thanks to B-I-C operators I was freed up to run WQ6X on 80 & 40 meters. 
I guess different operators have a different experience of Fallbrook WX conditions - N6CY was all bundled up while N6ERD was wearing shorts and a t-shirt.

The evening crew put in an outstanding run session for over 6 hours before shutting it down for the obligatory 6 hour off period after 1am.  By 7am NX6T was back to B-IC action until around 10:30 when I put a couple of hours in the remote chair before turning it over for daytime R-i-C (Remote
in Chair) operations allowing me to get back to running WQ6X from EB section.

The Saturday night shift crew became the Sunday shift crew with me filling in remotely after N6ERD left at 10:30am and N6CY took over remotely, allowing me to run the final 2 hours of RTTY RU as WQ6X, surpassing my goal of 100+ QSOs.

After the contest I filed the required 3830 Score reports for WQ6X & NX6T and submitted the logs.  It's a relief to get
the after-contest admin out of the way as soon as possible.

Rick (N6CY) and Dan (N6ERD) are outstanding operators.  When running as WQ6X, seeing spots for NX6T, listening
to them run a frequency brought me a smile, so I gave them plenty of room to continue their RU contest barrage.

As you can see, while we worked all 48 states somehow we missed North Dakota (for RTTY RU, AK & HI are considered DX countries not states).

The BiG disappointment was the lack of Canadian stations; especially the more arcane Canadian provinces.  I guess it was too cold for the Canadians.  One of the reasons to run
a large tube amplifier for high power operations is the HEAT produced, which can somewhat warm the shack.

With the Solar Flux "struggling" to remain above 70 throughout the weekend, we were fortunate to have virtually no atmospheric noise, in Fallbrook as well as the East Bay.  If we could've scored a
10 meter opening or encountered better 15 meter conditions breaking the 1,000 QSO mark could've been a real possibility; maybe 2021 will allow us to make that happen.

In retrospect, it would seem that WQ6X took a 1st place for EB section (SOULP) and NX6T took a
1st for SDG section.  While I didn't stand a chance to win for PAC, NX6T was trounced by the Arizona Outlaws for Southwest Division honors.  Nevertheless, both stations made an incredible showing to start off the new year.

Did YOU work the 2020 RTTY RU Contest?

Is NX6T or WQ6X in YOUR LoG?

Friday, January 3, 2020

Blog #300: WQ6X Blast from the Past: ARRL RTTY RU

In the overall scheme of things I am a relative newbie to RTTY contest involvement; only 9 years
of actually doing it.  In preparation for this weekend's upcoming RTTY Roundup (RU), I took a look
down the memory track, revisiting the many RTTY RU events that have happened to include me.
Here is what I discovered:

My initial RTTY exposure happened thanks to N6GEO involving me in various RTTY
events during the 2011, 2012 & 2013 contest season.
  • [x] - 2014 Our EPIC 1st-place worldwide win as WP2/WQ6X (see above OP pic)
  • [x] - 2015 - N6GEO & WQ6X dual-OP another RTTY RU operation
  • [x] - 2016 - WQ6X Ron runs RTTY RU Remotely and Robustly
  • [x] - 2017 - WQ6X runs RTTY RU Remotely to open 2017 contest season
  • [x] - 2018 - WQ6X runs RTTY RU Routinely but Remotely
  • [x] - 2019 - WQ6X Rips another Remote RTTY RU 1st place from San Diego

As you can see - I have participated in a wide variety of RTTY RU activities over 9 years.  RTTY GiGs are a favorite with me because there is no wear/tear on my voice and I don't have to copy code in my head.  When running remotely, even if there is an internet "hiccup", the data is still on the computer screen in Fallbrook waiting for a reconnect to pick up where we left off.

For the 2020 contest year, I will be working with a handful of operators (some remote, some B-i-C)
to put NX6T on as a Multi-Single operation from Fallbrook (SDG Section); in between, I will be running WQ6X from East Bay (EB) Section, testing the recently updated WQ6X Lazy 8JK
Inverted Vee.

Do you play around in the ARRL's RTTY RU Contest?
Is WQ6X, N6GEO or NX6T in YOUR LoG?

C U in RTTY RU for 2020.

    de WQ6X