Tuesday, August 2, 2022

WQ6X gives an IOTA in the RSGB Island Contest

Operating the RSGB IOTA Islands on the Air) contest is always a confusedly-weird operation,
bringing up mixed feelings for me.    The IOTA GiG is loaded w/possibilities, yet often leaves
me disappointingly frustrated.  I have written about this GiG many times before:

  • [X] - RSGB IOTA - Blast from the past
  • [X] - 2021 RSGB IOTA Contest
  • [X] - 2020 RSGB IOTA Contest
  • [X] - 2017 RSGB IOTA Contest

Overall, I like the premise behind the IOTA event, which is to radio-activate islands around the world, 
which are differentiated by a unique numbering system.  All of this is explained on the RSGB Website ([CLICK HERE] to see the rules.)

The 2022 GiG was simply a repeat of the spirit of former IOTA GiGs.  Evidently, this weekend tied
in with some equipment cabling updates at the So. California (Anza) station, requiring us to keep
an eye on low-band SWR signatures.

With no notice that a remote operation was imminent, I began things in Concord as WQ6X. With barely 2 QSOs in the log, a text from N6KI informed me that NX6T could run a Multi-2 operation, beginning at 20:00z, giving us 16 hours to work the NX6T "magic".  During my dinner break, WQ6X managed a few more QSOs in the log - just to say that I was there.

Because the IOTA GiG runs well with WINTEST, I set up both stations at the WA6TQT site (in Anza) to run as a Multi-2 operation, with WQ6X running STN-1 and N6KI running on STN-2.  For the IOTA GiG, 160 meters is not allowed and 10-meters was a virtual no-show, leaving 80 thru 15 meters to make it all happen.  15-meters signals were rather sparse making 20-meters (and later 40-meters)
for most of the operation.

We experienced quite reasonable Southern California openings to Europe in this event.  With the Solar Flux Index  (SFI) down to 91+ for the weekend, I am left wondering what conditions to EU would have been like with an SFI of 170+ (as we had 10 days earlier).  Being mid-summer time, the usual high summer-time noise-levels made signal-copy quite difficult.  Attempting ssb communication amidst all that noise would've been a DISASTER - running Cw was the only way.

When I came on shift at 09:00z Sunday morning, the goal was to work everyone while focusing
on 40/80 meter Asian stations.  Because there are no NCDXF beacons on 40-meters, I rely on the Russian military beacons for signal-level checks.  The Vladivostok ("F") beacon has been off-air for several months.  The fickle "K" beacon has again changed its transmission to "K K" from last week's "K K K" identification.  Kamchatka was LOUD in BOTH Anza and Concord.  The "M" beacon (Magadan) was also present, altho comparatively, not nearly as loud.

JA stations are often plentiful in most DX-style contests.  Because they represent 3 "islands" (AS-007, AS-077, AS-078), 15-point QSOs just "across the pond" was an exciting prospect.  Unfortunately, the JA participation was poor this year, despite solid propagation paths to East Asia.  A couple of lengthy "CQ IOTA" calls on 3522.22 added a WHOPPING 2 QSOs to the log; at least both were island multipliers.

For me, this contest was mainly an exercise in testing antenna SWR in Anza.  It also afforded the opportunity for testing the recently-added AP-411 audio-delay unit along with remote radio operation.  Overall,the external JPS NIR filters on the receiving end seem more effective than the filters built-in to the remote K3 radios.  Stereo Cw with remote operations work just as well as with the local Yaesu FT-2000.

When it was all over, we learned that while the contest rules don't specifically state it, multi-OP operations are for Island Stations Only.  Attempting to submit a log, there was no multi-OP option
for "WORLD" stations.  In the end, all of our work will result in a CHECKLOG.

DiD YOU work the RSGB Islands on the Air contest?

How many islands did YOU Snag?

Is NX6T or WQ6X in YOUR LoG?


Sunday, July 31, 2022

WQ6X NiT PiCKs another NAQP RTTY Contest

While I increasingly enjoy RTTY radiosport events, since February, several [European-based] GiGs have been cancelled (for various reasons) largely due to the Russia ==> Ukraine conflict; at least
we enjoyed the ARRL RTTY RY and WPX RTTY GiGs before all the confusion set in.

The NAQP events are fun because we send Name and QTH, giving it a more personal feel. 
Some OPs choose to send a name memorializing a recent Silent Key (SK) amateur.  When I run
a frequency, pressing F3 sends "TU [Your Name] QRZ?", which serves as verification that I actually logged your name correctly.

While there were no real solar storms that I am aware of, signal levels at the Concord seemed incredibly weak, despite a 160+ Solar Flux Index (SFI).  10-meters produced one "local" QSO
and 15-meters was a struggle.  Moving down to 20m RTTY, the RFI in the shack problem (which shuts off the Windoze-7 laptop, requiring a restart) was back, but randomly so.  After 3 computer restarts, it was time to move down to 40-meters, which thankfully was already transitioning into nighttime conditions.

 

For this contest, the intentional QRM problem manifested in
swarms of FT-8 signals and tune-UP carriers specifically aligned
on the MARK-frequency tone.  For my run frequency, this occurred just above 14.100 (on 20-M) and 7.100 (on 40-M).  Hmmm.

Another annoying annoyance is operators (accidentally or on purpose) mis-posting the WQ6X callsign (in this case mis-posting WQ6Q) on the spotting list.  This would explain why I needed to make so many callsign (my callsign) corrections.


Because single-OP stations are allowed to operate 10 out of the
12 contest hours, I took 2 ~1-hour naps in the afternoon; who knows what band openings I missed during that time - that's the gamble.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other than a lackluster operator turnout, the  NAQP RTTY GiG was enjoyable,
allowing the opportunity to NiT Pick macro settings for the Feb 2023 NAQP RTTY
events.

Did YOU run the NAQP RTTY Contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR LoG?


Sunday, July 17, 2022

Another LooK at Radiosport: the 3 P's








You may remember a WQ6X BLOG comparing radiosport contesting to speech
contests in Toastmasters.  In that Blog I introduced the 6 P's: PLANNING, PREPARATIONPRACTICEPERSISTENCE, PRESENTATION & PROTOCOL.  
Now, as it turns out, there is another way of looking at it by way of 3-P's: PATIENCE,
PERSISTENCE & PERSEVERANCE.

 


Being PATIENT requires that we learn to dial-down our anxiety-level at
all times, often by moving down into the middle of the anxiety experience. 
I often remind my biofeedback clients to "transform their frustration-energy
into pro-active energy", to in effect, "Get out of your Head and into your Experience".
 

PERSISTENCE
(discussed as one of the 6 P's) is simply NoT GIVING UP.  Virtually every time
I run a frequency - stations will call in (often frantically).  I work one station in front of them (10-seconds max.) and afterwards, they are GONE.  Really?  A moment ago, you were DESPERATE
for a QSO.  10-seconds later and you are off doing something else?  That is neither Patient OR Persistent.  wOw!  Am I missing something?

PERSEVERANCE
is about having an overall operating schedule worked
out for a given radiosport event and then (more-or-less) sticking with it. 
In speech contests it means rehearsing/practicing our speaking week-after-week until the actual event is finally over with.  Obviously if changes need to be made, they are made; we then continue forward from that point.  
 
 
All too often, we use the need for changes as an excuse to go off and do something else entirely.  Maybe we DO need a brief break.  However don't let that distance become the reason for not continuing on.  Sometimes Space-WX phenomenon can produce some POOR radiosport band conditions for a short while.  These are periods when catching up on sleep or doing station maintenance can make the best use of downtime.  For speech contests, taking a practice-break allows us to come back and take it to the next level.

For me, speech contests and radiosport contesting are about creating the BEST performance possible with everything that is available to me in that period of time (5 to 7 minutes for speech contests vs. 24 - 48 hours with radiosport).

What about YOU?

What is YOUR secret thoughts about success in radio sport and speech contests?


Reminiscing Radio Retrospectively: LooKing back at LooKing-Back

Recently, I was looking back at looking back and ran into this post from 2016.
I'm amazed at how things have changed since 2016; then again, maybe not.

As you can see from the above PIC, in 2016 I made the drive to NX6T in Fallbrook many times that year, remembering of course to stop at Randy's Donuts in Westchester (where I used to live), near the LAX airport.

What I like about looking back is experiencing the re-connection to what was actually going on at that moment in time.  Thanks to digital-style cameras (and cellphones), we can take dozens of pictures during a short event frame, tossing most of them which do not truly capture the feeling/spirit of what was actually happening during those unique events.  Later, all manner of disparate PICs can be brought together in some sort of a collage, representing several events which altho different, carry some feeling-connection commonality.

In 2016, the SFI was headed downward.  "Today", the SFI is in a similar place, however it is currently rising, rather than on the decline.  Recently, taking a feeling-based journey, revisiting the depths of the last quarter century, I am astonished by the variety of different radiosport GiGs I've been involved in.  
 
The opening picture (above) illustrates what the world was like when I was "in the chair every other weekend" for NX6T.  We have since moved on from Fallbrook to a more expansive layout in Anza and all operations are currently done remotely.  The upside is I no longer make the 925-mile (round trip) to Oceanside; be it driving, or Amtrak.

While I have a mode preference (CW, RTTY, Ssb, Others) what matters most is the challenge and doing what it takes to meet (and sometimes surpass) those challenges.  There are a number of reasons behind people's desire to run radiosport; including (my FAVorite): the Resolution of Boredom (Bore-Dumb?).

However, most serious contest operators I know certainly do not lead boring lives.  I encounter many of these OP's again and again, weekend after weekend - even a Thursday/Friday GiG, like the recent Canada Day Contest ([CLICK HERE] to read about it).  Because we encounter each other so frequently, "callsign-recognition" occurs; I may not know anything about you personally,
however I may well "know" your operating style.  
 
(It was said that in the Civil War, a telegrapher's sending-style instantly identified
   the sender as being legitimate or someone ELSE behind the key).

Encountering recognizable callsigns routinely introduces a comfortable normalcy into My World
of radiosport operations at that moment.  When you consider that our world is currently undergoing
an immense amount of confusion, for me, radiosport brings some stability and order into that confused world.

I often pitch the case, that most radiosport events easily serve as energy-preparedness exercises.  Amateur Radio began over 120 years ago with "getting the message through" (I.e. Traffic Handling).  While I currently spend little time with the official National Traffic System (NTS), I frequently check into several 75-meter preparedness nets on different evenings throughout the week, if for no other reason than to create callsign recognition.  
 
Engaging in radiosport 3 out of 4 weekends a month (some long, some very SHORT, like the NAQP) perfects my operating skills every week, should that skill be needed one day.

LooKing back at LooKing-Back - the TRUTH is, the REAL reason I play radiosport, is because for ME, it is Just a LoT of FUN.

Why do YOU play radiosport?


Tuesday, July 12, 2022

WQ6X Reflects on a reduced-FAT IARU Contest

The 2022 IARU GiG was a reduced-expectation event.  Every 4 years, amidst the IARU contest GiG, is the WRTC championship - the [so-called] "Olympics" of radiosport contesting.  Unfortunately, for whatever the reasoning, the 2022 WRTC event WILL be held in Bologna Italy, but in 2023 instead, leaving only 3 years to the 2026 WRTC championship GiG.

While the SFI was far beneath Monday's after-contest SFI of 153, there were no intrusive solar events (that I am aware of), altho a low-level (but not insignificant) atmospheric noise was present Friday thru Sunday evenings on 870 & 40 meters.

Running the usual 2am to 5am shift found NX6T on 80 & 40 running JA-pileups, as well as stateside.  On 40-meters, a listen for the Asian Russian military beacons logged a LOUD "K" (x4) beacon, while the "M" beacon was deduced behind it.  The "F" beacon (Vladivostok) has been AWOL for some time (similar to the "K" beacon's disappearance some months back).

This year's IARU goeswith the backdrop of the Ukraine conflict and the assassination of Japan's Kenjo Abe.

As I was not assigned to the 5am shift @NX6T on Saturday morning, I chose to sleep in until 6:30; which as it turns out cost me access to n AWEsome 40-meter opening to open the contest event. 
My only REAL goal for WQ6X was to submit a 100+ QSO log; with 158 QSOS, that goal was easily accomplished.

























The morning OP's @NX6T got right into it.  While most of the operation was run Cw, our Ssb OPs added over 15% voice contacts to the log.  With multi-mode contests, downtime can be minimized
(or remedied) by switching modes, often offering new multipliers all over again.  My 1st of 2 shifts @NX6T was only a short 2 hours from 18:00z - 20:00z (11am to 1pm).  During that time, sweeping and running 20, 15 & 10 meters put 80 QSOs (and 40+ multipliers) in the NX6T log.  I also later confirmed when running as WQ6X, that 10-meters on the left coast was largely a non-Event.

While we were denied a flood of 50+ special-event callsigns (from the now postponed 2022 WRTC championship), in its place were almost as many Headquarters-style (HQ) stations, bringing in bonus-multipliers, instead of callsign prefixes.  Running dual-OP made callsign recognition easier on the "other station", resulting in fewer callsign surprises.

While much of the IARU championship left me non-plussed, overall, there were no real disasters
at either station (that I am aware of).  NX6T experienced an antenna switch problem on 80, but by
the time I made the 80-meter scene (10:30z), the problem had been resolved.

The Concord operation surprised me by NoT being the signal-vortex, I am used to.  While there were not dozens of EU stations like I heard @NX6T, WQ6X DiD manage to work virtually all stations heard in every direction - including illusive Europe.  At NX6T, WQ6X ran the last 3 hours of the IARU GiG (09:00z to 12:00z), switching between 40-m, 80-m and then back to 40-meters again.  Several furtive attempts @ 160-m yielded ZILCHO!










When it was all over, it would seem that NX6T took 10-place for USA and 1st-place
for the SW Division.  Running single-OP assisted on CW, WQ6X made it to 69th-place.

What about YOU?

Did YOU work the 2022 IARU Contest?

Is WQ6X or NX6T in YOUR log?


Monday, July 11, 2022

WQ6X Meanders thru the 2022 Marconi Memorial Contest

The Marconi Memorial radiosport Contest (MMC) is one of those GiGs I never quite know what
to do with; altho in the E/NE sections of the United States (and Canada) THEY know what to do
with it - they work it!  EU-based contests lack pizzaz on the West coast, probably similar to Asian contests with the East Coasters.  That disclaimer aside, this year's MMC GiG happed amidst COVID-confusion as well as the Russian military nonsense in S/E Europe.

For WQ6X a 12:00z starting means getting up before 5am (local time).  By the time I actually got up at 15:00z (8:30am) the propagation to EU was in-between.  Time spent at my Alameda office kept me off the air until 04:00z (9pm).  During this post-FD weekend, the solar flux (SFI) was hovering around 100.  It was either 20-meters, or no meters.

Considering that the Concord QTH seems all too often to be a receive-vortex, work Croatia (9A),
the Czech Republic (OK) and Italy (IR9) was actually quite an accomplishment.  While signals were weak, the PEAK setting of the QF-1A filters (a function of the Stereo-CW units in use w/the Yaesu
FT-2000) made an impossibility into a possibility.

The REAL value of the MMC weekend came from taking the time to examine previously made
.MC macro files, seeking to create the ultimate key definitions for each Cw contest (Ssb macros must reference .WAV/.MP3 files made well in advance).  During a low-contact contest weekend (like MMC) I make time for evaluating the audio-lines as they are currently laid out, looking for the next "ultimate" sound improvement.

Design of a dual-channel switch panel is in the design stages.  Unplugging and swapping audio cables and filter units manually discloses what audio paths should be toggle-switched, knife-switched, or rotary-switched.  To get started, I begin by using thick cardboard to simulate an eventual steel or aluminum actual control panel.

What about You?
DiD YOU work the Marconi MMC radiosport contest?

When contest activity slows down considerably, how do YOU make the most efficient use of time?

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Reflecting on Reflections of IARU (Reflections)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming up on the 2022 IARU GiG brings up many thoughts about IARU GiGs from the past. 
This year's IARU GiG of course includes the 2022 WRTC competition being held in ITALY
(but in July 2023).  The IARU HF Championship is NoT unlike a DX Field Day (FD); especially
every 4 years when WRTC contestants run their operations from operator tents at a previously undisclosed specific location in the host country.

Running operations from a tent help to "level the playing field"; the uniqueness being the pair of operators and the specific radio equipment they choose to use.  Would a pair of (modified for DC) Autek QF-1A units be allowed for Stereo-CW?  A filter is just a filter, right?

I have written several looks back Blog entries, some of my favorite being:

  • [2018] BLAST from the Past
  • [2019] IARU using Stereo-CW
  • [2020] IARU Reflections
  • [2021] IARU GiG from Anza
     

Because this is an IARU contest, we send our ITU Zone, not the CQ Zone.  (Instead of Zone 3, W6 is in IARU Zone 6,)  Luckily, we have a zone-lookup built-in to most contest logging software.  Years ago I developed the WQ6X IARU Zone Tracker APP, enabling a more detailed breakdown of Zones worked, and on which bands.

Unlike other major DX contests such as: CQ WW, ARRL DX, CQ WPX and All Asian (each which
run for 48 hours), the IARU Championship is a mere 24 hours; there are no "Do Overs" during a 2nd 24 hours.  This is where Space-WX tracking and propagation planning play an important role.

As I understand it, the WRTC contestants run their operations UNASSISTED (meaning no internet usage), altho WE can run assisted (SOA or Multi-Single).  With the WRTC operating from Italy this year, I expect that we will encounter nearly 50 unique Italian prefixes; kind of like a mini WPX contest, as the IARU GiGs often showcase many unique celebratory callsigns such as W100AW used by the ARRL in 2014 - at one point NX6T signed as W1AW/6 during that year.

Due to the weird conflict against Ukraine, there is the unique (for 2022) question to be raised regarding participation by stations from the Russian Federation.  Other DX contests this year allowed Russian participation, while disallowing eligibility from winning plaques and awards.  Radio amateurs in Russia certainly want nothing to do with their idiotic government's war - they just want to join us in the IARU HF Championship; like the rest of us.  Russian OPs are some of the TOP performers in IARU and DX contests.

For 2022, LooK for WQ6X to operate shifts remotely w/NX6T (@the WA6TQT Super Station in Anza).  Then, when not sleeping, listen for WQ6X live In living-CW, and possibly even on Ssb.

What about YOU?  Do YOU DO IARU?

With an increasing Solar Flux Index and the WRTC competition in Italy,
you should join-in and get YOUR share.

C U   T H E R E !!


Wednesday, July 6, 2022

More Thingking about Audio Processing

For over 80 years, receiver (and now transceiver) manufacturers have made increased improvements in improving receive-signal intelligibility.  Additionally, countless manufacturers have developed external audio processing units for improving intelligibility of just about any receive-unit with a
speaker or headphone output.

My current operating setup includes a pair of MFJ-752's and an MFJ-784 DSP (for left-channel audio), along with a pair of 1990's cascaded JPS DSP units (the NIR-10 and NIR-12) for the right-channel. Each channel is front-ended with an Autek QF-1A analog filter which enables the Stereo-Cw method I have written so much about.

The only real downside to cascading all of these units is the potential introduction of [so-called] "ground loops" into the audio line(s) for each channel.  Also in cascade mode, individual filter characteristics may create unexpected interactions.  With a properly wired switching arrangement, filter cascade can be switched in a given channel (left or right).  Additionally, having the ability to switch units from left-to-right (of the audio system) as well as Left-ear and Right-ear, creates the ability to "adapt" a given filter order to each receive mode (Cw, Ssb & RTTY) as well as to the listener's individual-ear differences.

Some filters are better at "Peaking" (the Autek QF-1A) while others are better at bandpass-notching (JPS NIR-10), Dynamic Peaking (JPS NIR-12) simple additional signal notching (MFJ-752); and of course, DNR - Digital Noise Reduction (NIR-10 & NIR-12), not to mention the 15-level DNR circuit built into the currently utilized Yaesu FT-2000 transceiver.

As mentioned earlier, intermixing a number of different audio units (with shared and/or separate
power sources) risks creating unintended ground loops throughout the audio lines.  These loops
can be mitigated somewhat with grounding straps and properly placed bypass capacitors.  While
use of a stereo equalizer at the end of the audio line can tune out any remaining artifact, ideally,
it should not be necessary at all.
 
A disadvantage to using the JPS NIR units to process the same signal heard in the opposite ear is the ~130-ms delay incurred by the DSP chip overhead resulting in a sort of delay-echo between the left and right.  While we can't speed up the DSP chips, we CAN introduce an audio delay to the unprocessed ear essentially counter-balancing the audio between the two ears.
Altho there are many ways to accomplish this, I took the easy way and inserted a little adjustable device known as a "Lip Sync Corrector" to create a timing match between the Left/Right audio lines.  ([CLICK HERE] to see how I DiD that.)

With above in place, I can reap the benefits of using combined analog and digital processing along
a single stereo-audio stream - Life is GooD!

Do YOU process radio receive audio?
What Discoveries have YOU made?


Sunday, July 3, 2022

WQ6X Cartwheels around Canada Day

Canada Day feels to the Canadians more-or-less the way July 4th feels to the YANKS. 

The difference is that North of our U.S. border, the Canadians celebrate their day with a 24-hour
radiosport GiG, and we don't.  

The July 1st Canadian RAC contest is very simple - anyone in the world can work anyone else in the world, adding 2-points to their eventual ending score.  


If the stations we work happen to be Canadian stations, we receive 10-points; 20-points if they happen to be an RAC station (VE7RAC, VE2RAC, etc.).  We collect multipliers for every unique Canadian prefix on each band added to the log.

The RAC contest exchange is very basic:

  • Canadian stations send: 5NN + Province ABBV.
  • non-Canadians send: 5NN + Serial-number
Overall, there were probably more USA stations calling "CQ RAC" than there were actual
Canadians added to the log.  With the Solar Flux index (SFI) in the low-to-mid 90's, 20-meters
was the volume-band.  Considerable effort was put into adding only 25 15-meter QSOs to the log.  Despite a number of "CQ RAC" calls, 10-meters was a complete no-GO, both Thursday AND Friday.

Because multipliers are so important, it is important to understand the importance of which Canadian area (W, N/W, N/E &East) each Canadian multiplier associates with.  To make for easier identification, the BLOG Entry previous to this one was headed by a VE1AAA Callsign Map lifted from the internet.

Out of PURE-laziness, I made the decision to run Cw only.  From the reports I have read, overall,
Ssb was largely a BUST.  The RAC GiG does NoT do RTTY, making it a single-mode operation for WQ6X.  That allowed me to pipe Jazz on Pandora as a background flow.  At one point, I streamed classic "RUSH" music - appropriate EH?

The medium-activity of the RAC contest made it possible to test-run a number of cable changes
made to the audio system in recent weeks.  Of course, Stereo-CW is still the focus of all WQ6X
Cw operations.  A pair of Autek QF-1A filter units can be found at my portable operation in Concord,
as well as the remote setup in use from my Alameda office.













In addition to the RAC GiG itself, it's nice to run an occasional radiosport GiG on a Thursday evening into Friday afternoon (giving me a legitimate excuse to take Friday off).  As quickly as the RAC GiG came, it quickly became a distant memory, 2 days later.

DiD YOU play in the Canadian RAC Contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?