AA8IA Amateur Radio

Archive for July, 2010

DXing

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For some reason I’ve actually started to seek out DX. I’m not sure why. It must have something to do with the FT-950. I find it so much more pleasurable to listen to CW on the FT-950 and find it so much easier to establish an SSB contact on the FT-950. Purchasing this radio has opened up a whole new world for me.

I find myself reading more about greylines and being more interested in propogation in general. I have been turning on the radio and tuning around in the evenings about an hour before sunset to an hour after sunset and then tuning around again, if I’m awake, during EU sunrise.

I also check DXSummit and ReverseBeacon.Net to see what DX is out there. Oftentimes you’ll see DX listed on one that isn’t on the other. And, just because it isn’t spotted on the packet cluster doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Many times I’ve just tuned around and heard DX and spotted it for others.

Some recent catches that are significant for me are:

9X0TL – Rwanda
5N50K – Nigeria
JW/OZ1AA – Svalbard

I’m sure that back in the 90s sometime I made contacts with Africa, but I have no logs or QSL confirmations to back that up. And since I’ve been back in the hobby I hadn’t been hearing anything from Africa. I figured I just don’t have much of a chance. As it turns out, it’s doable even on my mediocre station. You just have to pay attention for when the stations are active and try to listen for them. You’ve got to know what times of the day or night you are most likely to hear Africa, what band they would be on, etc.

Svalbard is just cool… it isn’t in Africa, but check it out on Google Maps.

I’m amazed at some of the operators that end up responding to my call. I may be hearing them S0 [under the noise] but if i hear them I try to reach them. And since I’m using a simple low wire, I know I’m not putting out a big signal. So obviously the DX is skilled at picking stations out of the mud [and the pileup]. There is no reason for me to expect that my signal is going to make it when 30 stations from various parts of the world with a kilowatt and multielement yagis are part of the pileup. But sure enough, even I can often get through with perseverence and an idea of how to garner the attention of the DX when other stronger stations are calling them.

Written by Mike

July 28th, 2010 at 1:04 pm

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RSGB IOTA 2010 – my take

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I was hoping for one or more contests to work before the Ohio QSO Party. I had looked at the WA7BNM Contest Calendar and saw the IOTA contest. For some reason or another I dismissed this as a “limited audience” contest and thus did not plan for it. I had other obligations this weekend.

Yesterday, out of curiosity, I actually went and read the rules of this contest and realized that it is open to everyone and that you get points for ANY station, island or not, that you can work — with actual registered IOTA-registered islands providing increased points and acting as multipliers. I was kicking myself. I knew I couldn’t operate 24 hours or even 12 hours, but I decided I was going to get on.

I’m glad I did. I worked about 4.7 hours of this contest off and on, on 15/20/40 with 100w and the 40-10m wire. Mostly 20m activity with a smattering of 15m and some 40m. Worked a handful or two of new DXCC entities (if they happen to decide to confirm via LOTW).

If I had read the rules and realized that the IOTA contest would have been as active as it was, I may have planned to spend more time. It’ll be on my list of contests to work next year. Definitely a fun time and worth the planning.

IOTA Contest 2010

Call: AA8IA
Operator(s): AA8IA
Station: AA8IA

Class: SO(A)12Mixed LP
QTH: Toronto OH
Operating Time (hrs): 4.7

Summary:
Band CW Qs CW Mults Ph Qs Ph Mults
—————————————-
80:
40: 23 12
20: 41 14 20 10
15: 2 1
10:
—————————————-
Total: 66 27 20 10 Total Score = 29,082

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Written by Mike

July 25th, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Posted in Contesting

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Ham Radio via Internet remote — what a character

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I was monitoring 20m today, and lo and behold an interesting character was talking to another ham. When that ham signed to thank the interesting character for the QSO, the interesting character (we’ll call him neB) mentioned that he doesn’t consider it a QSO unless he’s talked to the person for at least an hour. What the hell? Strike #1.

Then when he signs he gives his KC9 call and indicates he is talking by way of an HB9 remote station. Strike #2. I can see how it would be cool to do this, given my own background in internet technologies. But, when the communication cannot be established via a direct radio link on both ends, it is my feeling that it is no longer considered an amateur radio contact. Call me old school.

Strike #3 was when another ham called him and before the actual QSO even commenced the interesting character felt the need to lay out the guidelines for the QSO.

I guess it takes all kinds, but “neB” appears to be one of a kind.

Written by Mike

July 25th, 2010 at 8:19 pm

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My [almost] new Yaesu FT-950

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I was reading QRZ and saw an FT-950 for sale, $1000. Better yet, it was for sale by a local ham (from PGH area). Even better, he would actually deliver the radio. Ok, how could I not bite on that? The radio is still under warranty [was purchased in new in January].

I called Gary up, arranged a time, and collected the necessary funds. Gary K3WOW and Jerry K3FKI showed up with the FT-950 in tow. Wow, what a beautiful rig. I hadn’t seen one close up and personal before. Much larger than the tiny FT-100 that I have been used to for the past 10+ years.

Gary offered to stick around and hook it up so that he could demonstrate that it would work. Well, I was in a hurry to play so I declined and told them I’m confident it would work just fine. They left. I proceeded to re-arrange my desk and hook up the FT-950.

Except for the fact that I couldn’t hook up headphones or keyers [because the FT-950 takes 1/4″ jacks and my headphones/keyers were using 1/4″ and I didn’t have adapters] and I couldn’t hook up the CAT interface (didn’t have a straight-thru serial cable, only a few null modem cables), I got everything else hooked up.

I fired this sucker up and the first thing I noticed is how quiet the bands were. This thing has a lot of buttons and a ton of menu options, very few which I knew what to do with. But after messing around a while and realizing the signals were strong when I tuned around, I came to the realization that the receiver on this radio is a magnitude quieter in my location.

Today I got the needed 3.5mm-to-1/4″ adapters and a serial cable, and now the FT-950 is completely controllable via HRD and also is working just fine with N1MM [for contesting].

Last night, with the QRN from the storms coming through, the SSB signals on 20/40/80/160 were amazingly copyable. On my FT-100 I never bothered to listen to SSB on 160m or even 80m because I just couldn’t pull out a voice from the noise. On the FT-950, using the same antenna, I had absolutely no trouble hearing beautiful SSB audio from stations on 160/80/40m. My antenna is a shortened 40m antenna and is extremely poor for 160 reception and not very good for 80 either. But with this radio there were stations all over the place, easily copied on SSB. I love it. I may actually want to work SSB now, whereas before I had no desire because of the poor performance on the FT-100.

I’m sure that comparing the FT-100 to the FT-950 is apples to oranges, and I’m sure that those of you owning $3000+ radios will say that an FT-950 can’t compare to one of them. You may very well be right. But I have only worked with two radios to make a comparison, and this FT-950 opens up a whole new world for me.

Between the multiple IPO and ATT settings, it seems to be very easy to limit the typical band noise, leaving just the signals popping out. I haven’t even delved into the notch, contour, and width functions, or anything else in the menus. I’m just using it as it was configured when I received it and am extremely happy with it thus far.

I’ll try to give a proper review after a few weeks.

Written by Mike

July 14th, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Posted in FT-950

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DL-DX RTTY Contest 2010

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It wasn’t until after half of the contest was over that I realized it was going on. It was then that I decided I’d give it a try. Wanted to use N1MM (my favorite logger) but was used to using HRD for RTTY. Ended up downloading, installing and figuring out the config for MTTY so that it works in conjunction with N1MM. Integration seemed pretty good, but the RTTY decoding in MTTY leaves a lot to be desired compared to HRD (HRD seems to decode much better).

I really am bummed that I didn’t work 24 hours of this contest. Instead I worked 6 hours. I only made a few contacts on 80m, and the rest on 40m and 20m. I really would have liked to work some RTTY on other bands, and more of it to Europe. Hopefully next year I’ll be on top of things, will be prepared, and will be able to operate all 24 hours.

This RTTY contest was extremely fun, with a lot of activity. Id’ encourage others to give it a try next year.

I’ll say thanks to the sponsors and to the stations that worked me. I really enjoyed it.

Below is my summary:


DL-DX RTTY Contest

Call: AA8IA
Operator(s): AA8IA
Station: AA8IA

Class: SOAB-6-Dipole LP
QTH: Toronto OH
Operating Time (hrs): 6

Summary:
Band QSOs Pts Mults
------------------------
80: 4 20 1
40: 27 220 3
20: 28 255 9
15:
10:
------------------------
Total: 59 495 13 Total Score = 14,850

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Written by Mike

July 4th, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Posted in Contesting

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Electronic QSLing

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Electronic QSLing is becoming more popular by the day. You’ve got ARRL’s Logbook of the World (aka LOTW); you’ve got eQSL; and, for Ham Radio Deluxe nuts you’ve got HRDLog — which doesn’t appear to have any following among many other than users of HRD working digital modes. And, now there is a new kid on the block — QRZ’s Logbook.

I’ve used LOTW for years. I’m also using eQSL. Enough is enough though. There has to be a defacto that everyone logs to, rather than everyone logging to a different place.

It used to be that the ARRL and CQ were the only places issuing awards, and you would get these awards by having both participants in a QSO send in the QSLs they have received for verification in order to obtain the awards. This still happens, albeit to a lesser extent now.

Now, instead of just ARRL and CQ standard methods, you’ve got LOTW, eQSL and QRZ’s Logbook version. This is an amazing amount of confusion. There are those will never participate in electronic QSLing, either because they do not have a computer or they just believe that the time-tested way is the only valid way. There are those who will only use electronic QSLing methods, out of convenience, thrift, or as a middle-finger protest to the old school paperchasers. Out of those who use e-qsling they have to pick and choose which options they want to use.

I personally haven’t had any QSL cards made up since I got back into the hobby again. I intend to, but it just hasn’t been a priority. It’s not that I’m cheap; I’m just lazy and not really looking for awards. However, I do respect those who want a contact verified via an actual QSL card, and I intend on accomodating them.

E-qsling can be a real pain if you are torn between the options. I use LOTW and eQSL. I use HRD (Ham Radio Deluxe) for my master log storage. Regardless of what program I actually use for logging (I use N1MM Logger for competitions and HRD for casual contacts), my HRD always has a copy of that contact. Then, I use HRD to upload my contacts to HRDLog and eQSL. I then manually export logs periodically to ADIF, sign them with TrustedQSL, and upload them to LOTW. It’s a helluva lot of work, and I’m just a small potatoes operator. Serious DXers and contesters just don’t have the time to be pulling logs from different sources and uploading them to 3 our four different sites.

In addition, the only way any of the electronic QSL entities become any good is if the majority of people use them.

LOTW is trusted, by virtue of it being operated by the ARRL. The problem is that everyone bitches about LOTW being too difficult. You can’t just take an ADIF and upload it to LOTW. You first have to get a certificate issued by the ARRL in order to become trusted. Then you have to sign your log submissions with the trusted certificate. None of this is automated in any general logging program that i know of. Thus you must export the logs to ADIF format, sign it with TrustedQSL, and then upload it to LOTW. I dont find it particularly cumbersome, but there are a lot of dumbasses in the world who can’t handle this. If I had my way, LOTW and the ARRL would be the only place to send your logs.

eQSL is trusted by many. It has been around a while now and has a large number of people using eQSL for confirmations / awards. Of course eQSL confirmations do not count for ARRL awards and LOTW confirmations do not count for eQSL awards. Apparently CQ is allowing some of its awards to be garnered via eQSL confirmations though. eQSL is very easy to upload to, and many logging programs have integration built in whereby you can upload your QSOs with a click of a button to eQSL.

HRDLog is not a serious endeavor. It’s pretty. It has a lot of features. But it seems like only people using HRD use it. I doubt it would become a contender, and in fact I hope it does not.

QRZ is last on the list, and the most recent place to role out Logging with the idea that you will be able to garner awards from QRZ down the road [I believe]. However, I think they are too late in teh game and are trying to re-invent the wheel. I’ll never upload to QRZ. I draw the line here. QRZ already offfers great forums and the extremely popular QRZ.Com callsign lookup and integration. They should just strive to improve upon that rather than dealing with the QSL bullshit.

Paper QSLing is not gone. I hope it never dies. I will always be glad for those QSL cards that I receive, and I’ll save them up. I’ll never attempt to turn them in for an award at the ARRL or anywhere else, but this is a tradition that should be maintained.

Everyone who has access to a computer should strive to at least establish an account at LOTW and upload their. Then, if they are feeling froggy they could upload to eQSL. There is no reason not to do this if you have a computer and internet access. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that if you use a computer regularly and have internet access, you are doing others a disservice [if not yourself as well] by not uploading logs to LOTW [and optionally eQSL].

Stop holding your grudges against the ARRL or EQSL and instead establish accounts at both and upload your logs. You may actually find that you enjoy having those logs online and that you enjoy having the ability to work for a lot of awards without having to specifically exchange QSL cards and send them in. Yes, I know QSLing is a time-honored tradition, and I’m not proposing that you let it go. But why not broaden your minds and make the hobby a little more enjoyable for yourself and everyone else :)

Written by Mike

July 1st, 2010 at 4:01 pm

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