Thursday, August 31, 2023

Sometimes just showing up... Part IV

Thus far, I have written THREE Blogs on this topic.  ([CLICK HERE] to read Part III - with links
to the earlier Blogs.)  I was prompted to create a Part IV by the receipt of yet another 7QP QSO
Party plaque: this time for my remotely run non-W7 Mixed mode QRP operation from KN6NBT's station - using the NX6T's Tower #2 (originally in Fallbrook) - that has been moved to atop the hill
in Ramona (So. California).

Making it all happen involved a number of "LittLe ThinGs" happening correctly at the right time,
in the correct relationship to other things going on.  Some of these things include:
  • Calling CQ a lot, using the RBN (Reverse Beacon Network) as a gauge on whether
    the antenna(s) were pointed in the most efficacious direction for that time of day and
    that frequency band.
  • The station in Ramona is set up with the N1MM+ logging software sending the current score information to the Online ScoreBoard website.  Seeing the WQ6X score in relation to others (not just QRP, but multi-OP as well), contributed to deciding when and on WHAT band to S&P.
  • Because I was also putting in a few hours remote for NX6T (running remote from Anza),
    I chose time-blocks that would maximize operating effectiveness for BOTH the NX6T
    and WQ6X operations.
  • WQ6X Software sponsored two 1st-place plaques for the 7QP, which found me more "invested" in a successful 7QP Party.  Then as it turned out, I won the sponsored plaque for the QRP-Mixed operating category.
  • Posting the final WQ6X score on the 3830Scores website offered up a reason to monitor the end-score submissions as well as sharing the link, enabling the
    other stations to read my take on what actually happened - at least from the perspective
    of a Ramona operation.
In case you think that taking 1st-place in a radiosport contest operation is all about LUCK,
remember what Thomas Jefferson had to say about LUCK:

I'm a GREAT Believer in Luck. 
  However, I quickly discovered that the HARDER
  I work, the more Luck I Experience " 

What about YOU?  

Do YOU Feel Lucky? 

Are YOU willing to do what it takes to get Lucky?


Monday, August 28, 2023

WQ6X FIVE(5)-OP's End of August Radiosport

I recently put together a "Blast from-the Past" Blog about the last contest weekend in August.
([CLICK HERE] to read that.)  @023's 4th radiosport weekend in August was headlined by the Hawaiian QSO Party (which was also summarized in a BLAST post.  What made the weekend
unique is that (with the exception of the YOHF Dx Contest), all other events were run at the QRP
(5-watt) power level.  Having access in Ramona to NX6T's old Tower Trailer#2 55' high antennas
(3-ell Stepp-IR + 2-el Shorty-40 and 80/75 coaxial "bazooka") from Fallbrook and a hilltop QTH
makes all the difference.

When it comes to radiosport I am rather flexible with when/where/how a given weekend
goes - as long as I get time in the "operator's chair".  This weekend provided a weird opportunity
to accomplish all, opening with another monthly live meeting of the Amateur Radio Club of Alameda (ARCA).

While there were SIX HF-style events on the calendar, as WQ6X, I managed to participate
in all but the digital GiG.  To accomplish that would have required a physical presence at the
Concord QTH - the only location from which I can currently run RTTY.

After the ARCA club meeting, I spent the afternoon behind the helm of the K3/0-Mini on the desk at my Alameda office LooKing for: HI KS OH stations.  Because Hawaii and KS/OH are approximately 180-degrees apart azimuthally, the Stepp-IR's Bi-directional mode enabled looking for counties an ALL 3 locations.  Hearing a callsign, it required just a single double-click to focus the antenna
NE (for KS / OH) or 180-degrees opposite (SW) for Hawaii (KH6).
  • [X] - Hawaiian QSO Party
  • [X] - World Wide Digital Contest
  • [X] - YO DX Contest (Cw/Ssb)
  • [X] - W/VE Islands GiG
  • [X] - Kansas QSO Party
  • [X] - Ohio QSO Party
For this contest weekend, the HQP event started off with a HUGE flurry. 
Then, as quickly as it began, that seemed to be the major LoT of it - HuH? 
As I write this part (Sunday morning), I am hoping maybe the propagation GoDs
will properly conduct our atmosphere to the Southwest.
(Ed. NOPE - never happened.)

Working both Ssb & Cw, when I told operators I was a QRP station, they were incredulous
until I described the QTH (Ramona) and the antenna configuration the 5-watts was feeding into. 
For the YO-Dx contest, because the QSO point-value favored DX (not domestic), the power level
was upped to 95 watts; enough to produce RBN spots, working stations throughout Europe including UY5 (Ukraine) and EW8 (Belarus).

After 20-meters folded-up I found time for sleeping, waking in time to work East coast stations but no more Dx before the 12:00z contest end.  After another sleep stint, @14:30z the hunt was on again for Kansas stations.  There were an incredible number of mobile/rover stations wandering all over, some even camping out at a 3-or-4 county intersection - how CooL is THAT?

I would venture that next to California, the state of Kansas conducts the most efficient and original single-state QSO Party.  With BONUS Points for spelling K-A-N-S-A-S and S-U-N-F-L-O-W-E-R and
This adds a more "Personal" feel to an otherwise rather std. QSO Party.  
Meanwhile, all of a sudden, the KSQP GiG has JUST ended - DEAD OVER.   
It would seem the 2023 KSQP is by far, the most successful one I have ever run;
the amazing thing being that it was run ENTIRELY QRP.

When KQP ended (20:00z), switching the 3-el Stepp-IR 180-towards KH6 yielded nothing except dead-air STATIC.  When I switched locations to run remote from Concord, a pair of KH6 stragglers called-in on 20-meters, responding to my "CQ HQP WQ6X WQ6X/QRP" calls.

As for the U.S./VE islands GiG, like the [RSGB] IOTA affair a few weeks back, it is always a disappointment.  What am I NoT getting? I heard only TWO weak island stations - both unworkable.  Increasingly, I am resorting to ([F-12]) "WEIRD" as stations unexplainedly disappear into the ether.

DiD YOU work the contest conglomeration ending the month of August?
What WEIRDNESS DiD YOU Encounter?

Friday, August 25, 2023

Blasts from the PAST: End of August Contests

The 4th contest weekend in August brings us a LoT of different radiosport contest configurations to
navigate through.  While tossing some notes together regarding the 2023 rendition of this weekend,
I took a look back and was quite surprised to recall the many different variations of this weekend
WQ6X has managed to cobble together over the last ~10 years.

  • [X] - 2022: WQ6X Romps thru another multi-QSO Party Weekend
  • [X] - 2021: WQ6X Works another disappointing triple-QSO Party weekend
  • [X]- 2020:  WQ6X runs an Ethics-oriented Contest Weekend
  • [X] - 2019: WQ6X StePP's Through Another 7 Contest Weekend.
  • [X] - 2018: WQ6X Dabbles and Delves into Misc. Radiosport
  • [X] - 2017: 3 QSO parties test-drive WQ6X Remote

    ----- There seems to be a 3-year GAP in end-of-August activities. -----
  • [X] - 2013: WQ6X makes another HQP/OHQP bare-minimum appearance

    Related to THIS Blas From the Past is one written up in 2019 for the HQP
  • [X] - 2019: Blast From the PAST: Hawaiian QSO Party (HQP)
There really isn't any more to say about all of this.
It does however offer a backdrop to writing up the current 4th-weekend activities.

Do you participate in the end-of-August radiosport activities.
How have things turned out for YOU?

Monday, August 21, 2023

WQ6X Runs a Sizzling NAQP Ssb Dual-OP Operation

As it turns out, the month of August has been about "remote radio renovations", as I move through
a series of receive audio innovations for WQ6X's FT-2000 setup @ W7AYT's QTH in the East Bay (EB) ARRL section.  These changes intertwined two NAQP contest weekends (Cw & Ssb), with the WAE (Worked All Europe) Cw contest GiG slipped in between.  Back-to-back Cw contests enabled
a re-examination of the Stereo-Cw concept.  Complementing the concept is the recently added pair
of LAKATO speakers - spaced apart and turned slightly inward (toward the operator) generates a
near 3-D listening experience, creating an illusion of DEPTH - even more so when front-ended by
a pair of Autek QF-1A analog-IC filters.

The accomplished goal was Dual-OP'ing the NAQP Ssb GiG, spending more-or-less 6 hours operating  WQ6X as a QRP station from KN6NBT's hilltop QTH in Ramona, interspersed with
more-or-less 6 hours remotely running NX6T's STN-1 from the other hilltop in Anza.  Now, because
there were rumors of possible "drive-by" hurricane activity in So. California the antenna tower was 
lowered down to barely 22-feet high.  While that was adequate for running Stepp-IR and a Shorty-40 antennas, the 75-meter coaxial-bazooka was so droopy that it (probably) developed some NVIS-like characteristics.

If it weren't for 15-meters and then 20m and 40m
(in descending order) this GiG would've been a Complete BUST.

Having access to
a 3-el Stepp-IR helped make up for the poor band conditions.  

Luckily, the NAQP contests focus largely on N. America, altho stations like OM2VL like to call-in during North American GiGs.  2-points is 2-points.

With the Stepp-IR set to Bi-directional, it is possible to point the antenna Northwest (NW) and work North American stations in the Caribbean which give us country-multipliers.  Running QRP made things trickier, altho it would seem that calling stations had an easier time hearing WQ6X that the other way around.

In LooKing at the 3830 Scores website, it would seem that WQ6X took 2nd-place for the West Coast
(behind K6GHA) while NX6T (as a multi-2 operation) took 4th-place and 1st-place for the Southwest.

DiD YOU work the NAQP Ssb Contest?

Is WQ6X or NX6T in YOUR LoG?

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

For WQ6X it's: Filters, Filters and MORE Filters












During recent weekends with a significant lull in contest activity, I have been rerouting
the audio cables behind the scenes of the portable setup I maintain at W7AYT's QTH
in Concord.

Having recently reintroduced a classic Radio Shaft 15-Band stereo equalizer (not shown in the
above photo) back into the audio line, I marveled at the morass of patch cables behind-the-scene enabling it to all work more-or-less with minimal artifact (i.e., unwanted signal interaction).

The transceiver setup in Concord is actually 3 units:

  • A Classic (2009) Yaesu FT-2000
  • A Classic (2007) ICOM 7000
  • A not-so-Classic Elecraft K3/0 - for remote K3 radio access

Because Stereo-Cw is at the heart of ALL the audio filtering employed, a pair of Classic Autek QF-1A analog filters (A) front-end the audio line.  The filters which follow, shape the stereo audio differently for each ear - an MFJ-784 for the left ear and a pair of NIR DSP filters for the right ear.

The mixing box (B) enables mixing audio from the FT-2000 and the K3/0 through the array of audio filters, with capability to add another pair of devices.  The USB-powered unit contains OP-amp isolation with adjustable volume control for each channel.  Next to it (I) is an old-design 4-port
signal splitter unit which enables sending the audio to multiple filter inputs with a similar form
of device isolation insuring they get only the signals, NoT ground-loop voltages.

The Rockville 8-channel mixer allows listening to signals from the mixing box directly or by way
of a pair of MFJ 752 audio filters or DSP units - an MFJ-784 for the left ear and a pair of cascaded JPS (NIR-10 --> NIR-12) filters for the right ear.

A side effect of using older-style DSP units in parallel with analog boxes is the artifact that
is introduced in the form of an approximate 120ms signal delay created by the DSP unit itself. 
This problem has been resolved by adding a bypass-able AU Tool AP-411 device known as the
"Lip Sync Corrector" into the analog audio line introducing an audio delay that matches the
processing overhead of the NIR-10 + NIR-12 DSP devices in the opposite ear. 
A repurposed A / V switch allows the L-S-C to be switched-in or bypassed.

Overall, this combination of switches and filters allow for a number of different approaches
to massaging receive audio into something more readily understandable.

What about YOU?
Do YOU make use of external audio?
What secrets have You uncovered?

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

WQ6X Works yet another Wildly Wonky WAE Contest

WAE (Worked All Europe) contests are truly a unique world inside the already Wild World
of radiosport.  LooKing back, a number of truly unique runs have been made in the annual
August Cw affair.

For 2022, I ran as WQ6X from the WA6TQT's mountain-top superstation in Anza (California). 
The submitted score MAY have resulted in a top-100 finish for USA.  This year I have been
running a number of events remotely from KN6NBT's mountain top QTH in Ramona using
the antenna tower #2 originally in use by NX6T when we operated from Fallbrook.

Client commitments kept me at my Alameda office longer than expected on Friday. 
I spent the afternoon buzz-testing a new Stereo-Cw cable for the WQ6X/6 portable
setup at the Concord QTH.

The N1MM+ software (in Ramona) was configured just in time for the 00:00z (5pm) contest start. 
The Windoze computer in Ramona is accessed using VNC Viewer (a VPN), while the radio itself
is controlled using an Elecraft K3/0-Mini atop the office desk by way of an RRC-1258 internet box
on a shelf hidden under the desk.  (In Concord, a full-size K3/0 Box is run into a hidden RRC-1258 box for internet interfacing). 

Running QRP power, band condx. were so PooR that during those first 2-hoursa no QSOs were
actually made; while EU stations were easily heard over the K3/0-Mini, none came back to my calls.  Unfortunately, arriving in Concord, the Comcast internet was out (area-wide).  I used that downtime
to test-run the Stereo Stereo-Cw  speakers using the FT-2000 transceiver as the test audio source.  Amazing the switching arrangement worked 1st-time.

Unique to the WAE contest is the process of sending QTC messages, in addition to making
QSO exchanges.  Sending a QTC message is simply sending a summary of a previous QSO
made earlier in the contest to a station in Europe other than the one you're sending the QTC
about.  We are allowed to send TEN (10) QTC messages to any one recipient station.

Notice that the N1MM+ software sports a screen designed to automate the process.
Pressing a [SND] button sends a QTC message and positions ready to send the next
message.  Repeats of individual QTC data can be made by pressing "1", "2", or "3".
Also notice that the N1MM_ Summary Statistics keeps a tally of QSOs versus QTCs
sent on each band.

In some ways, this weekend felt like a European-only version of the WEIRD Prefix
contest, as there were a LoT of Weird occurrences occurring all weekend long.  Recently,
radiosport contests have become SOOO weird that I have configured function key [F12] as the
"Weird" key.  In Cw contests it sends "WEIRD"; in RTTY it sends "WEIRD - WEIRD - WEIRD". 
In Ssb contests a "Weird.Wav" file plays thru the transmit audio.

When it was all over, it would seem that WQ6X took 1st-place WORLD WIDE for QRP.

Unfortunately, in the WAE contest there IS NO QRP category.
My high score, while impressive, actually means NOTHING.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed a fun time, taking QRP to the next level: Contesting + QTC's.

DiD YOU work the WAE Cw contest?

How many QSOs + QTC's are in YOUR Log?

STEREO Stereo-Cw: It All begins with a Concept

As you probably know, I am a fan of the Stereo-Cw receive audio enhancement idea.
In preparation for this BLOG entry I DiD a BLOG-wide search on "Stereo CW" phrase.
[CLICK HERE] to see some of the more relevant Blogs written on this subject and related
areas (Ssb and RTTY) in particular).

While Stereo-Cw is usually run into a pair of stereo headphones, using speakers can not
only relieve ear strain, it can create an incredible listening effect for visitors to the radio shack. 
Until recently, I've been using stereo speakers (and sub woofer) from a retired home entertainment system, which unfortunately is highly prone to RFI distortions when transmitting at power levels above
QRP (5-watts).

Recently I happened onto a LEKATO JA-02 Mini guitar amplifier running around 5-watts. 
Altho the unit uses a rechargeable battery; it comes with a charge cable that can plug into any
USB port.  It occurred to me that a PAIR of these speakers could take the Stereo-Cw to the next
level - what I call STEREO Stereo-Cw.  This approach relies on the fact that each amplifier unit
is actually a pair of stereo speakers.

The Yaesu FT-1000mp, FT-2000 & FTDX-5000 transceivers (thru menu settings) enable complete separation between left/right ear, or a mixture of both in each ear.  Devising a simple switch arrangement enables creating the same kind of effect with a pair of JA-02 amplifier units.
After doodling on the whiteboard, I scrawled these notes, from which a simple 2-pole
3-position switch makes it all work.

An advantage to using a PAIR of LEKATO JA-02 units is that the speakers can be moved apart
(or closer together) creating the most dramatic listening effect for a given listening environment.   Because the power/input connectors are on the REAR of each unit, aesthetically, these speakers look AMAZING together.

While there is more to say about this Stereo Stereo-Cw idea, we shall wait until we have
a few weeks operation behind this installation.

Have YOU Ever attempted the Stereo-Cw concept???

How DiD it Turn Out for YOU?

Blasts from the PAST: Worked All Europe (WAE) Cw contest

In preparation for writing-up the latest WAE-Cw contest, I realized that I've never written a Blast post about this unique contest.  LooKing at previous Blast posts ([CLICK HERE] to see the list) certainly confirms that fact.  When a search was made regarding the different entries written about the WAE GiG, I came up with the following entries (from 2016 - 2022):

  • [X] (2022) - WQ6X Works another Wonky WAE Contest
  • [X] (2021) - WQ6X WiNGs and Wangles' another WAE Cw Contest
  • [X] (2020) - WQ6X Weirdly but Wisely Works another Wicked WAE 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
wOw!  It would seem that all WAE Cw operations were run remotely in some way; initially using
the setup in Fallbrook and then moving onto utilize the WA6TQT superstation in Anza (Southern) California.  For 2023, not only have I run a number of remote operations from KN6NBT's mountain-top Ramona QTH, many of them have been run using the QRP power level.  For this year's WAE-Cw contest, a major operating goal will be running this GiG at the QRP (5-watt) power level; which will take QTC message passing to a new level.

With the EU-Only focus of the WAE GiG, very little rotation of the Stepp-IR yagi was necessary. 
Many contests seem boringly all alike, year after year, after year.  What sets the Worked All Europe GiG apart from all the rest is of course the QTC message passing; when you earn 2-points for every contact messaged-about, you really EARN those 2 points.

Do YOU ever work the Worked All Europe (WAE) Contest?

Is NX6T in YOUR LoG?

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

WQ6X Dual-OPs a Solar-SLOGGed NAQP Cw Contest

While NX6KI correctly identified 80-meter operations as a SLOG, for WQ6X,
the ENTIRE 12-hour NAQP Cw radiosport contest was a Slog.  LooKing at the
individual Space-WX forecasts belied what was REALLY happening, virtually
from the 18:00z contest start.  Reviewing past August NAQP Cw events
demonstrates a marked contrast to this year's solar-flare riddled event.

  • [X] - (2022)- WQ6X Dual-OP's another NAQP Cw Contest
  • [X] - (2021)- WQ6X Creeps thru another NAQP Cw Contest GiG
  • [X] - (2020)- WQ6X Reprises another NAQP Cw Dual-Operation
  • [X] - (2019)- WQ6X runs another Dual-OP NAQP-Cw Contest affair
  • [X] - (2018)- WQ6X DUAL-OPS NAQP CW CONTEST (and other things)

Except for last year's Low Power (LP) event 358 QSOs, this year's 300+ QSO QRP operation
was quite amazing by comparison.  Then again, having access to the medium-gun antenna array @KN6NBT's Ramona QTH made all the difference.  Had I run LP, the QSO ToTaL woulda been
close to 500+; to be expected with a 20x power increase.

The real news from
this NAQP event was Friday's solar flare which manifested mid-afternoon
on Saturday during my 2pm to 5pm shift running NX6T remote from Anza.  

Reading 3830Scores soapbox comments, it
was clear that flare effects were experienced all over North America. 

However, East coast operators were able to take refuge on 40 meters, which was 2-hours away from manifesting on the West coast.  

LooKing at the score standings shows the higher scores largely from the East.
While I could see the SPOTs on 40, they were of no use to us in Southern California, leaving
us with no one to work except DUPES of each other.  10-meters never really materialized except
4-QSOs with California and Texas.  Compounding poor propagation was a STUCK rotor for the
15-meter yagi stacks.  Because the beam-width of the array is so narrow, being stuck-pointed
at 60-degrees made it virtually impossible to work KL7 (355-Degrees) or 8P5 (98-Degrees),
much LESS South America.

When it was ALL over, it would seem that WQ6X managed a 1st-place for the SO(A) QRP
category.  I guess this is PRooF once again that JUST showing up can sometimes result
in a win. NX6T managed a 3rd-place overall and a 2nd-place for the S-W Division.

DiD YOU work the NAQP Cw contest?

Is WQ6X or NX6T in YOUR LoG?