AA8IA Amateur Radio

Archive for August, 2010

Colorado QSO Party / Tennessee QSO Party — This weekend

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The Colorado and Tennessee QSO parties are both this weekend. Fortunately, each is held at a completely different time — thus no contention.

Colorado QSO Party 1200Z, Sep 4 to 0400Z, Sep 5
Website: http://www.ppraa.org/coqp/

  • 160-10m (no WARC bands) + VHF/UHF
  • CW, SSB, Digital

Tennessee QSO Party 1800Z, Sep 5 to 0300Z, Sep 6
Website: http://www.tnqp.org/

  • All amateur bands (except WARC bands)
  • CW, SSB, Digital

I will try to make a few contacts. However, my brother and his wife are coming in from CMH this weekend so operating time will be limited. Great WX forecast this weekend here in Ohio…. hopefully I can take advantage for a few hours.

I’m not sure about activity in the CoQP, but the TnQP is a very popular contest. If you are going to work the TnQP you should anticipate a lot of activity.

Written by Mike

August 31st, 2010 at 11:19 am

Ohio QSO Party 2010 – Summary


(subliminal message – If you operated the OhQP this year, and especially if you were an Ohio station, please upload your logs to Logbook of the World (LOTW) and eQSL. Many people worked this contest in the hopes of getting a rare Ohio county confirmation. Do your part and upload your logs. It’s not difficult. If you want to know more about LOTW and eQSL, click on the link at the top of this page)

I put a tremendous amount of thought into OhQP 2010 operations from my home this year. That’s not to say that I put enough effort into optimizing my antenna system. I did not. However, I did manage to at least get the 80m dipole up in inverted-V fashion. It sure is a good thing, because I actually made more Qs on 80m than anywhere else.

80m was rocking, both on CW and SSB. Unfortunate for me is the fact that I didn’t take into account how important SSB operations would be if i wanted to reach as many stations as possible. My 80m Vee tuned fine on CW but would not tune on SSB. I could not resist the temptation to operate [at reduced power levels] on 80m SSB even though I couldn’t come anywhere close to tuning the SSB portion. I made quite a few 80m SSB Qs, all things considered. But, next year I will be sure to have an antenna that easily tunes on 80m CW and SSB. Even with my situation on 80m SSB, stations seemed to copy me without a problem.

40m was a bust band for me. Apparently I didn’t know when the right time was to get on 40m. I made some 40m CW QSOs, but I didn’t make any 40m SSB Qs. And I see that a lot of other Ohio stations made significantly higher numbers of Qs on 40m. So I was definitely doing something wrong there. There were RTTY contests going on, and 40m CW was a hard place to operate. I heard some CW mixed in with the RTTY, but in the cases where I did I tried to avoid making a contact. I wanted to be friendly to the RTTY contesting guys. Too bad there was a RTTY contest on the same day as the OhQP though. This did affect things.

20m was alright. On only operated CW on 20m. Not sure why I didn’t bother to seek out SSB contacts.

I made 1 QSO on 15m. 15m/10m were pretty much deader than a doornail.

  1. There were a ton of Ohio stations on the air. Kenny [K2KW] did an excellent job with PR for this event.
  2. Weather was beautiful in all of Ohio for the contest
  3. QRN was at a minimum [at least for me] in Ohio

    I did a lot of CQing. It was effective. The problem is that I obviously didn’t know when to quit. Well, I knew there were many times when I should quit, but I didn’t. At those times I either should have checked other bands or SSB, or I should have QSY’d to a fresh frequency. Failing to adjust when rates were really low was a fatal flaw for me.

    Another fatal flaw of mine was that I didn’t choose the right band for the right time in order to maximize my Qs on all the workable bands.

    I also failed to look for the mobiles until the very end. This meant that I didn’t get a chance to work any of the mobiles/rovers when they were moving around East Ohio. The exception is K8RYU — Ralph did a fantastic job and I was able to work 3 counties on 80m with him. The mobile ops are all fantastic. They can copy fast/slow, without the need for repeats. In the end I was able to pick up a couple of county mults from the mobiles. If I had been on the ball, I’d probably have been able to snag K8MR and KC8YJJ on one or more bands/modes while they were in BELM / CARR / HARR / COLU / TUSC.

    Lastly, I failed to think ahead regarding the significant amount of SSB activity that would be occurring. This is probably because I usually run CW-only and because I usually have a piss poor setup for SSB. As it turns out though, low power aside, I actually have a good SSB setup now. I definitely need to get the 80m Vee to work on 80m SSB.

    In the end, I’m a bit disappointed with myself. Failure to pay attention caused me to not get any Qs for most of Eastern Ohio. I heard COSH and TUSC, but they weren’t CQing when I heard them and I never managed to catch up with them when they were CQing. Not even sure if they did CQ.

    I had a great time this year. I’m sure it is my best ever OhQP score. But even before the contest was over I new I made too many fatal mistakes and that had I given proper forethought to things I could have increased my score a bit and gotten the close counties. I also know there were some errors in my logs. I guarantine it won’t be a prisitine log, which is going to hurt my score.

    I saw the 3830 reports of quite a few out-of-state stations that did a phenomenal job, including working various OH mobiles 10-15 times.

    Thanks to all of the Ohio and out-of-state stations that worked me.

    My Results

    Ohio QSO Party

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

    Class: Single Op LP
    QTH: Toronto OH
    Operating Time (hrs): 12

    Band CW Qs Ph Qs
    80: 160 39
    40: 47 0
    20: 39 0
    15: 1 0
    10: 0 0
    Total: 247 39 CW Mults = 86 Ph Mults = 32 Total Score = 62,894

    What counties I did not work: ALLE , ASHT , BELM , BROW , CARR , COSH , DEFI , GREE , HARD , HARR , HIGH , HOCK , JACK , LAWR , MAHO , MARI , MIAM , MONR , MORG , MUSK , NOBL , PAUL , PERR , PIKE , PORT , STAR , TUSC , WYAN . 28 counties not worked! What the hell? Now, think about how many of those had mobile operations that I missed. I heard a station in BELM (probably mobile) but they were gone before I had a chance to throw out my call and find out their call. I heard [but did not work] COSH and MUSK.

    K9TM reports having not worked 8 counties. And out of those 8 counties he did not work, I worked 3 of them and heard 2 of them. That means that at the very least, there were operations in 85 of the 88 counties. So I missed at least 25 counties that I could have worked but didn’t.

    I worked 35 or 36 states. K9TM worked 47 states. So I wasn’t too far off. I didn’t do much on 40m or 20m. Had I put in more effort on CW/SSB on those bands, I probably could have picked up a few more states.

    I worked a few DX stations including IK2, G3, four DLs, HP9, OK2, and SP5.

    To sum it all up, I should have worked more 40m CW and I should have worked 40m SSB and 80m SSB. I should have made sure the Vee tuned on 80m SSB before the contest started and should have rectified that problem if it didn’t. I should have paid attention to the mobile routes / timelines so as to be able to catch some more mobiles in the “rare” counties.

Written by Mike

August 30th, 2010 at 10:21 am

80m Inverted V ready for the OHQP

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Raised the 80m inverted V today. 38′ apex and ends just inches from the ground, 12 feet away from the back of a two-story house doesn’t sound optimum does it? Well, it does if you consider the alternative for 80/40m operation. The only other antenna I have is a Alpha Delta DX-EE (a 40-10m parallel dipole which is shortened on 40m, total length 42 feet).

The DX-EE would tune up and both 40m and 80m, and it hears just as well as the V on 40m. But on 80m it doesn’t hear worth a damned, nor is it efficient. No surprise there.

This V is fed with 40-something feet of ladderline into a DXE current balun, and then 8 feet of RG-213 into the house to the tuner. (I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of getting ladderline into the house)

The 80m inverted-V is magnitudes better on 80 for reception, and all signs tell me it is magnitudes better for transmit as well. It has been up for two other contests.

The previous times I had it up, I could only get the tuner to tune it on 80m, and I expected better given that it was fed with mostly ladderline. I took special care today to get the ladderline a foot away from the fiberglass mast, the back deck, and the bush at the bottom where it comes under the porch. I also moved all the rolls of wires and tools that were setting an inch away from the balun. Something I did has now allowed it to tune on every band I’ve tried (not 160m, didn’t even bother to try that). So, as it stands now it tunes up pretty easily on 80m-10m including 12m. I will check out 17m/30m later.

During the OHQP I certainly want to make as many Qs as possible, but I particularly want to be able to snag as much action I can in-state from the different counties. Without a decent 40/80m antenna that just wasn’t going to possible.

I think everything is ready to go. I want to make some changes when Fall arrives. I have been thinking long and hard about ways to get the inverted V up a little higher, including ways to get the ends up off the ground 8 feet or more. Currently this is a portable/temporary setup — The ends are inches [or less] from the ground. I want to move the fiberglass mast another 20 feet out away from the house. Without forking out cash for a new mast I likely won’t be able to go any higher than a 38 foot apex. But certainly raising the ends up off the ground makes it much safer for people out on the lawn as well as lessens the chance that deer will get tangled up in it and pull the whole contraption down. The other [more important] benefit is that doing all of this would provide me with better tuning and quite possibly some increased performance.

Yes, I realize everyone and their mother has at least one tower, at least one beam, at least one amp, and a half dozen talls trees in their yard to facilitate stringing up antennae. This guy doesn’t. Truly a modest station. I’m not alone, but if you’d hear every ham tell it they have the best station on earth. I just don’t make any bones about the fact that I’m running strictly with wires and am trying to improve upon a wire-only antenna system as much as possible.

Written by Mike

August 27th, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Ohio QSO Party – only two days away

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The Ohio QSO Party is almost here. Looks like Ohio stations have all counties covered. So if you’re a county hunter, you should be checking out 80-10m (minus WARC bands, and mostly on 80/40/20m) from noon til midnight (ET) on Saturday.

I haven’t done anything with the antennas. I just haven’t been able to. Fortunately the weather will be nice and I’ll be able to push up the 38-foot fiberglass mast that supports my 100+ foot inverted V that I’ll use on 80m. It’s not ideal… it’s not full length on 80m, and it’ll be 38′ at the apex with the ends extremely close to the ground. I was doing some modeling in EZNEC and can see how much better it would perform if I could get the Apex at 50′ and the ends at 38′ and 22′ (which is what I’ve figured would be the best I could possibly ever do at this location).

Fortunately, the OhQP activity is mostly on 80/40m for us Ohio stations, although those Ohio stations with good 20m ants do manage a significant number of Qs. Based upon some of last years results, it looks like Ohio stations made an almost equal number of QSOs on 80m and 40m with about half as many on 20m.

I’ll get the 80m antenna up in the air tomorrow, and I’ll also update N1MM, configure the macros, and test things out to make sure it is all working. Then, assuming I manage to go to sleep early enough and get 8 hours, I should be feeling pretty good for Saturday. I can’t even recall my scores from the few previous OhQPs I’ve worked, but I’m anticipating a significant improvement in my performance this year versus any previous year.

There are a significant number of Ohio stations working mobile this year, coveraging an amazing number of counties combined. But, there is also a large number of fixed stations as well.

This is a 12-hour contest, and the hours are easily doable for anybody in the states. I am hoping to hear a lot of people on working the contest.

Of course, the Kansas QSO Party is also this same weekend. That may make it more of a pain in the rear end for those who want to work both contests, especially when it comes to log tracking and submitting logs. Hopefully that will not deter anyone.

I plan on doing a signfiicant amount of CQing, as I think this will be very effective for me. However, during my S&P operations I most certainly will be listening for KQP operators and attempting to work them as I am able. I’ll just keep a separate log for that.

If you hear me on, please call — and be prepared to provide a sequential serial number and your state, and expect to receive a sequential serial number and JEFF (my county) from me.

If you hear me and you’re a Kansas station working the Kansas QSO Party, call me too — Indicate to me that you’re working the Kansas QSO Party (send KQP to me in CW) and I’ll send you back a 599 OH and will log you separately in a log that I’ll submit specifically for the KQP.

Hope to hear you and work you!

Written by Mike

August 26th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

NAQP SSB 2010 – the summary

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At about T-2.5 hours til the end of the contest I got back on the air. 80m was all QRN. Very unpleasant. Of course, without an actual efficient antenna on 80m I just wasn’t being heard over the QRN. Every contact was a struggle. Between 11:30 PM and 12:05 AM I managed 4 Qs on 20m and 7 Qs on 80m. On 40m there were only two stations to be found that I hadn’t contacted previously.

At 12:06 AM I shut it down, with nearly two hours of contest left. I simply felt that I exhausted any possibility of useful contacts. I don’t know where the ops were – Was I just not hearing them? Or did everyone give up early?

My Results

North American QSO Party, SSB - August

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

Class: Single Op LP
QTH: Toronto, OH
Operating Time (hrs): 4.2

Band QSOs Mults
160: 0 0
80: 7 5
40: 37 23
20: 44 13
15: 0 0
10: 0 0
Total: 88 41 Total Score = 3,608

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Written by Mike

August 22nd, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Posted in Contesting,QSO Parties

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NAQP SSB – a few hours left to operate

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I’ve operated on and off throughout the day. Nothing heard on 10/15m. 20m is where most of my action has been, with the remainder on 40m. There are still about 2.5 hours left to operate.

  • No 80m antenna. My 42′ Alpha Delta will tune it, but nobody hears me.
  • No 160m capabilities.
  • I’m having a lot of [back] pain.
  • Storm QRN plus had to disconnect a few times for passing storms.
  • SSB ops are less patient, sometimes rude; also lazier. Heaven forbid being asked for a repeat.

I wanted to make a concerted effort to participate in the SSB contest, but I’m definitely glad I know CW. Bright side, I probably got a state or two on 20m that I need… they probably don’t do LOTW though.

No, I’m not sour. My expectations weren’t very high to begin with. Since this is a 100w-or-less contest, at least in the pileups I stood a better chance. I wanted tried not using the speech processor – I thought I sounded much cleaner. However, as soon as I turned it off people were hearing 2’s and other numbers in my call instead of an 8. Turn the speech processor back on and magically that problem goes away. Odd.

Hard to get motivated to operate anymore tonight knowing that there will be people on 160/80m that I effectively cannot work. So I’ll hope for some new 40m Qs and possibly a handful of Qs left on 20m.

Written by Mike

August 21st, 2010 at 11:24 pm

Ohio QSO Party 2010

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The Ohio QSO Party (OHQP) is the last Saturday in August — this year Aug 28th and 29th. That’s less than two weeks away! Take this remaining time to check your antennas and other gear, and be sure to participate! The OHQP is one of the premier QSO Parties, with a lot of activity. Hopefully all 88 counties will be active during this event.

If you’re looking for a confirmation for a specific Ohio county, this is the best time to get on the air.

Details: Ohio QSO Party Website – sponsored by the Mad River Radio Club

  • 1600z, Aug 28 to 0400z, Aug 29 (12 PM Eastern, Saturday to Midnight)
  • 80m – 10m (no WARC bands)
  • SSB and CW

NOTE: http://www.ohqp.org is the official website for the Ohio QSO Party. There is no other valid website for the OHQP, regardless of what your favorite search engine tells you. The OHQP is not on Twitter, not on Facebook, and not on Myspace. The only place to find the Ohio QSO Party is at http://www.ohqp.org

Written by Mike

August 19th, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Contesting,QSO Parties

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North American QSO Party 2010 – SSB

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The North American QSO Party SSB contest is this weekend (August 21st/22nd)

1800Z August 21 to 0600Z August 22, 2010 (Third full weekend in August)

Details and rules can be found at http://www.ncjweb.com/naqprules.php

I’m anticipating a lot of activity, and I plan to be active. Hope to see you on!

Written by Mike

August 19th, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Posted in Contesting,QSO Parties

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SSB Contesting – I’m not quite there yet

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I rarely operate SSB in contests [or outside of contests]. There are many reasons for this. The bottom line is that for a very modest station (no amp, low wire antennas), a CW signal is likely to be copied better on the receiving end than an SSB signal. Plus it’s a lot more trouble to get the “best” audio levels on transmit for maximum effect on SSB.

A CW signal typically occupies around 200 hz of spectrum. Depending upon how fast or slow the keying, the occupied bandwidth varies. On the other hand, with most amateur radio equipment an SSB signal occupies around 2.7 khz (2700 hz) of RF spectrum, give or take a little depending upon whether you are using filtering on the transmit side to cut off the upper and/or lower ends of the audio spectrum.

If you have a 100 watt transmitter, more of your power is going to be used to produce a much narrower signal on CW versus SSB. The wider the RF signal, the more power you are going to need in order for that signal to reach the same distance.

For someone with good hearing, they can usually hear audio frequencies between about 300 – 3000 Hz. But there are certain areas within that audio spectrum where we hear better and where the audio is more intelligible on the receiving end under marginal conditions (weak signal, lots of QRM/QRN, etc.).

We all have differing voice ranges. The microphone we are using may not adequately pick up those audio frequencies that are most accentuated when we speak. The audio stages of the transmitter we are using may need to be tuned to produce the most power at the audio frequencies that are best heard on the receiving end under marginal conditions.

I have a stock microphone. I haven’t done any homework regarding the best audio settings in my FT-950 to tailor the transmit audio to my specific voice characteristics. A stock microphone usually doesn’t pick up the best of my voice characteristics. The stock hand microphone is inconvenient in a contesting environment because you have to pick it up and hold it in front of your mouth each time you speak, which means you do not have that hand free to operate the radio or type on the keyboard. It’s best to buy a high quality microphone with an element that can reproduce your voice well while at the same time accentuating those audio frequencies that are best for DXing/contesting and not accentuate those frequencies that are more difficult to hear on the receiving end. Ideally I’d have something like a Heil Pro Set (combination headphones and microphone) and a foot switch so that I can key up without using my hands and I can have good sounding receive audio while blocking out other localized noise in the room, etc. I actually have what I consider to be a great set of headphones already (Sennheiser HD-280 Professional), so I would likely want to get a good Heil boom mic / boom assembly / foot switch. Then I could change the audio settings on the FT-950 to respond most favorably to the audio it receives from the Heil Mic. This would allow for a nice audio response and the best “audio punch” to ensure I’m being heard as good as I can be heard on the receiving end.

If you don’t have your transmit audio optimized, you won’t drive your signal with much power. On my FT-100 with the stock microphone, it was all I could do to get 50-60 watts of RF out when I would speak into the microphone. And what I really want is to be able to get as much of that 100w of power out when I speak into the mic.

So for now, SSB contesting is not very good for me. CW is much more effective. I’ll do it, and I’ll probably do some SSB in the Ohio QSO Party on August 28th and will likely participate [for a while] in the NAQP SSB contest this coming weekend.

Written by Mike

August 19th, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Posted in Contesting

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WAE DX CW and QTCs — the sky is falling

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I’ve been reading dialog on the CQ-Contest “reflector”. Reflector? Call it what it is, it’s a damned mailing list. The software running this list is the same software that has existed for ages [in internet years at least]. M A I L I N G L I S T

Ok, I’m done with that rant. Back to the topic. People — (a few NA contesters) are rambling on about exchanging QTCs, being requested to send QTCs by the EU guys, and possibly trialing a WAE CW whereby QTCs are both sent and received. You’d think the world was coming to the end. They are saying (1) that they don’t want to receive QTCs and (2) that they don’t want to be nagged to send QTCs. Some say they are in the contest just for fun and that being interrupted by an EU station who wants to know if they have QTCs is annoying and ruins their fun. Read the rules — the spirit of the contest involves QTCs. If you don’t want to send any, then don’t. But don’t bitch about being asked if you have any to send by an EU station.

To this I say:

  • If you don’t like sending and/or receiving QTCs or don’t like being nagged for them, don’t operate in the contest. There are 101 more productive ways to spend your weekend anyway.
  • NA isn’t putting on this contest — shouldn’t be our job to make up the rules, just to follow them.
  • Are you afraid that having to reliably copy QTCs would require you to up your skills? This must be it. There are some phenomenal NA contesters. Certainly they are a few who are up challenge, no?

I know what you’re thinking… Who the hell is this Mike guy? He’s running a low dipole and 100w and has been “contesting” for a few months — He sure has some nerve interjecting. Perhaps you’re right. But sit back and think about what I’m saying. I had enough difficulty figuring out how to send QTCs, especially when having to worry about whether the EU station would even be able to copy my weak station reliably enough. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to think about having to copy QTCs as well. You know, some of those guys are sending/receiving at 50+ wpm. I’d have to really up my game, and I’d be hard pressed to do it. BUT, I like the spirit of the contest — passing some sort of traffic instead of just the simple RST SERIAL.

Let’s not forget that sending/receiving QTCs is not a requirement. And if you are wanting to up your score, you certainly benefit from sending/receiving QTCs. If you’re in it just for fun and don’t care about a score, then simply don’t send/receive. But don’t complain about being asked for QTCs by an EU station.

I really liked the idea that by sending QTCs I could increase my points while at the same time I could help, in some small way, the EU stations to do the same. If they are game for receiving them [by far the more difficult of the two], then certainly I’m glad to oblige them. I am at the bottom of the pack as far as score. I’m competing against only myself. I operate in these contests to have fun, improve my code copy, and possibly get some additional LOTW confirmations.

The vast majority of contests require only a minimal exchange, no additional traffic to pass. If you don’t like the thought of sending/receiving QTCs, spend the WAE weekends with your family and have some fun outside of ham radio.

UPDATE: I just read a post on the CQ-Contest mailing list that sums it all up quite nicely. I won’t quote it. Read it here: http://lists.contesting.com/pipermail/cq-contest/2010-August/091329.html . I agree with this contester wholeheartedly.

Written by Mike

August 16th, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Posted in Contesting

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