AA8IA Amateur Radio

Archive for September, 2010

CQWW DX RTTY 2010

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I was eager to work this contest. The antenna situation was better than it had ever been for me, and the weather was beautiful all weekend. Now that I had the FT-950, I was really anxious to put it through its paces.

Most of the time there did not seem to be much of a difference between the 80m V and the DX-EE 10-40m dipole, but once in a while using one instead of the other helped me to pull out a contact. Just knowing how the DX-EE is oriented, I attempted to use it when the stations I was working were to the north or south of me. And it seemed to perform more reliably on 10/15 than the V. This is probably because the DX-EE is a parallel dipole and the high band elements/wires are 1/2w and provide a more consistent and focused pattern.

I was running AFSK RTTY in PKT mode. For a couple reasons this is not best.

  1. I don’t think the frequency displayed is the true mark frequency. Good thing I wasn’t spotting anybody. I would have no idea of the exact frequency I’m on. This can become very confusing if you were hoping to follow someone else’s spots. I wasn’t doing that, I did not take advantage of any spotting.
  2. Although the filtering in the FT-950 is very nice, the filtering setup when in PKT mode are intended for digital modes such as PSK. If you run AFSK RTTY, you have to use IF shift to move the filter passband so that the other stations tones are centered inside your passband even when you are using the narrowest of filters. In some cases, this was successful in keeping the wanted RTTY signal inside the narrow filter range (200-300 hz). But for some reason, this did not always work. I can’t tell if it was band dependent or what. But on some bands I just couldn’t narrow the filter without losing the station completely. And, of course, running a wide filter was useless all by itself since there were times [especially on 20m] when there were RTTY stations every 250 hz or so. Any decent signal up or down from the one I would try to copy woudl be totally silenced when the station on either side would transmit. When I was able to run the narrow filter, I could set it on 200 hz and copy the wanted signal just fine without the signals on either side obliterating it.

If I would have been running FSK instead, the radio would be in RTTY mode, the filtering would be dead-on to begin with, the proper mark frequency would display, and everything would have been much smoother. I spent a significant amount of time narrowing and widening the filter and playing with the IF shift, and at odd times things would not work as expected. All in all, I wasted a considerable amount of time with filtering issues. This also tired me out more, especially at times when I should have been the most productive.

There was absolutely no shortage of RTTY stations to be worked. I worked many countries on RTTY that had I never expected to hear/be able to work. It was a real thrill. I worked stations who weren’t bumping the S-meter but were audible. I think I even worked one station on all five bands! To the average contester that may not be a big deal, but to me it is.

In total I worked nearly 21 hours of the contest, according to N1MM. It was 100% search and pounce. I really wanted to CQ, but I was not confident in my ability to handle the people who may transmit off frequency. I read up on the use of AFC and NET in MTTY, but the one time I turned on AFC and started calling CQ, the first station that replied was far from centered and the AFC didn’t tune to teh station fast enough. In light of me not understanding how to account for this phenomenon, I thought it best to not bother CQing. As laid back and patient as the RTTY ops were, I knew they really wouldn’t want to waste time being my guinea pig during the biggest RTTY contest in the world.

Before any future RTTY contests I have a lot of things I need to read up on. I need to make a ‘short’ exchange and a ‘long’ exchange, and know when to use which one based upon the quality of the signal coming in. Many times I knew that sending an exchange like “K7DX 599 04 OH 04 OH AA8IA” was overkill, and at other times I knew that duplicating data in an exchange would actually shorten the contact if I felt the other station was not going to hear me well… such as “K7DX 599 04 04 04 OH OH OH AA8IA”. I’ve yet to figure out the fine line / happy medium, but I’m sure many of my exchanges were longer than they needed to be.

It’s all a blur now. I wish I could give you an hourly or four-hourly play-by-play, but I really don’t remember what bands I was on or when I was on them.

I had a great time. The RTTY ops were great, especially the DX ops. I’ll definitely do it again, but I have to make some signfiicant changes in my efficiency as well as in what bands I operate and when I operate on them. Even though a 100′ tower and a bunch of monobanders would yield better results, I know that modifying my operating practices during a contest can yield me double the score. So I’ll work on improving myself until I reach the point of diminishing returns. I’ve got a lot of room for improvement.

My Results

CQ Worldwide DX Contest, RTTY

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

Class: SOAB LP
QTH: Toronto OH
Operating Time (hrs): 20

Summary:
Band QSOs Pts State/Prov DX Zones
—————————————–
80: 83 105 35 7 6
40: 108 200 29 31 13
20: 120 252 21 41 18
15: 86 169 8 30 14
10: 16 47 0 7 5
—————————————–
Total: 413 773 93 116 56 Total Score = 204,845

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Written by Mike

September 26th, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Posted in Contesting,FT-950,Posts

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Connecticut QSO Party 2010

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My Results

Connecticut QSO Party

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

Class: M/S LP
QTH: Toronto OH
Operating Time (hrs): 1.5

Summary:
Band CW Qs Ph Qs Dig Qs
—————————-
80: 2
40: 4
20: 2
15:
10:
—————————-
Total: 8 0 0 Mults = 3 Total Score = 48

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Comments:

Where were the CT stations? If they were there, I missed them completely.
Looked at various times throughout the contest. Even decided to watch
reversebeacon.net, thus necessitating being in the M/S category.

I actually was looking around more than 1.5 hours for CT stations. N1MM just
logged 1.5 hours on.

Thanks to the ops that I worked, all four of them!

Written by Mike

September 19th, 2010 at 11:21 am

Washington State Salmon Run 2010

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Washington State Salmon Run

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

Class: SOCW LP
QTH: Toronto OH
Operating Time (hrs): 3.25

Summary:
Band CW Qs Ph Qs Dig Qs
—————————-
160:
80: 3
40: 3
20: 30
15: 10
10:
6:
—————————-
Total: 46 0 0 Mults = 16 Total Score = 3,444

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Comments:

I was only able to get on and work a few hours through Saturday and early Sunday
AM. Too bad, because there were many WA stations on. Unfortunately, Saturday
evening I didn’t manage to get on the air until after all of the WA stations had
moved to 80m. I missed most of the 40m operation Saturday. I still managed 3
Qs on 80m, which was nice since the farthest west I had been able to get on 80m
before this was CO. I thought i worked W6AEA/7 on 80m, but they were very weak
– so I didn’t log it. Managed to get 2 or three stations on 80/40/20/15, which
was really nice. It was also great to see 15m alive on Saturday.

Thanks to the sponsors and the WA participants. The WA guys seemed to QRS
without even being asked, which was great.

FT950+80m doublet.

Written by Mike

September 19th, 2010 at 11:19 am

FSK RTTY Operation

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I don’t operate RTTY much. When I do, I use AFSK with my Signalink USB. Seems to work alright. However, there are two problems with AFSK.

  1. When you change frequency/tuning and/or power levels, you end up having to adjust audio levels to ensure that your audio device is not overdriving the radio with audio. This is a real pain in the ass.
  2. When using AFSK, you have to use an SSB mode on your radio. On radios that have a RTTY mode, the filtering is usually better if you use the RTTY mode. In order to use the RTTY mode you must run FSK. I use a Yaesu FT-950. I’ve read where people claim you can get the same filtering in PKT mode and running AFSK on the FT-950, but this hasn’t been my experience. The filtering seems better, but it definitely isn’t the same filtering that you get if you put the radio into RTTY mode.

So, now I am on a quest to get FSK operational on my FT-950. I’ve got one serial port tied up with the CAT control on the radio. I’ve got four USB ports. One of the USB ports has a wireless-N dongle in it. Another USB port has has a Serial-to-USB adapter in it for my CW keying interface. Another USB port has a mouse plugged into it. And the last USB port has my Signalink plugged into it.

In order to use FSK, I would need to create an FSK circuit that uses Pin 3 (TXD) on a DB-9 of a serial port. Output would be fed to Pin 4 on the RTTY/PKT jack on the back of the FT-950. The problem with this is that the RTTY/PKT jack is already in use — my Signalink USB is plugged into it. (the Signalink USB is not using Pin 4 though).

I need to get TXD off of a serial port to feed the FSK circuit, and then I need to take the output and feed it into Pin 4 of the RTTY/PKT jack on my FT-950. I don’t want to use another serial port just for this. So I’m going to attempt to get TXD off of Pin 3 of the serial port that is handling my CW keying, since the CW keying interface is not using Pin 3.

Signalink USB jumper wiring for Yaesu FT-950 6-pin mini DIN

Signalink USB JP-1

My plan is to tap Pin 3 (TXD) and Pin 5 (GND) inside the DB9 enclosure of the CW keying interface, run that wire pair out of the DB-9 enclosure and attach the FSK circuit (very small, will use shrink tubing to button it up). The single wire out of the FSK circuit will be routed into a hole (with grommet) inside the Signalink USB to Pin 4 on the jumper block inside the Signalink USB which currently is not in use and supposedly is routed down the RTTY/PKT cable to pin 4 on the RTTY/PKT jack. In the graphic to your left (taken from the Tigertronics website) you can see that Pin 4 on the right side of the jumper block is not jumpered to anything. This goes to the 9600-baud data / FSK-In pin on the RTTY/PKT jack of the Yaesu FT-950. This is where the output of an FSK circuit should be piped in.

In case you all are wondering why the Signalink doesn’t handle FSK by default, it is because the Signalink USB is a USB-only device. It has no connections to a serial port. And you need to have access to a serial port signal (in this case TXD) for FSK keying. If Tigertronics wanted to support FSK with the Signalink USB, it would require that the Signalink USB also attach to your PC via a serial port as well as the USB port. I can certainly understand why Tigertronics didn’t want to do this. For one, most new PCs do not come with a serial port, but all come with multiple USB ports.

Written by Mike

September 9th, 2010 at 11:53 am

TnQP 2010 – Summary

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I had a very busy Sunday, spending most of my time with family doing holiday things. I was able to get on the air for about 1.5 hours and operate the TnQP. I operated 40m only, on both CW and SSB. I mainly wanted to get on the air and give out a few Qs — the TN guys are very active in our OhQP and I wanted to reciprocate to the extent that I could.

I only made 41 Qs, but 21 of those were with 10 different mobiles. There were so many mobiles out and about. It was great. The downside was that there was always a pileup for the mobiles [I think everyone was chasing mobiles]. I didn’t seem to have a problem getting through to the mobiles, but I had much difficulty copying their exchange after I would throw out my call because 10 other stations would be repeating their callsigns trying to make the Q. Also, the TN mobiles often delayed giving their calls ovver the course of many Qs and so I’d have to wait around to get their call just to know who I was working.

Weather was great. 40m to TN was awesome. There were more Qs to be made, but I just didn’t have the time. When I first got on the air I checked 10/15/20. On 15 I heard KH6MB CQing and he was S9+, so I had to snag him. Heard a few other 15m DX stations. If I wasn’t interested in making a few Qs in the TnQP I would have stayed on 15m and worked a few other stations.

Anyway, nothing heard on 10/15/20m for the TnQP when I listened. I didn’t bother to check 80m because I was having so much fun on 40m.

I sure wish I could have operated the TnQP from beginning to end. I think I could have done pretty well. Thanks to all of the TnQP participants on the air, especially the bevy of mobiles that had ascended upon TN counties during the contest. It was really fun to chase them.

I can’t remember if I used my DX-EE or the 80m V for this one. I just tuned up whatever antenna was already chosen.

My Results


Tennessee QSO Party

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

Class: SO Fixed LP
QTH: Toronto OH
Operating Time (hrs): 1.5

Summary:
Band CW Qs Ph Qs Dig Qs Mults
-----------------------------------
40: 35 6 29
-----------------------------------
Total: 35 6 0 29 Total Score = 3,393

Also get bonus points for contacting the TCG station.

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Written by Mike

September 6th, 2010 at 2:28 pm

CoQP 2010 – Summary

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I’d have to say the CoQP was the most fun of all of the QSO parties I’ve worked thus far. Yep, even more fun than the OhQP for me. I worked hard to get the limited number of Qs that i got [72 total], but it was very relaxing to me. 20/40m were awesome. Weather was great. There were very low noise levels. I rarely had to call a second time to get a CO station. Their mobile ops are just great, able to handle fast/slow CW but predominantly sending at a much slower rate than ops in many other contests send. I think this is great because it is more appealing to casual participants, especially those who aren’t used to copying at such high speeds. Whether the CO ops knew it or not, I think they were presenting themselves in a way that made even the most green of participants want to give them a call. Thumbs up to them.

I had a blast working the mobiles. All of the CO mobiles were solid copy and had surprisingly strong sigs on both 20/40 for the duration of the contest. It was really a great way to spend a lazy Saturday before the holiday weekend kicked into gear.

Thanks to all of the CO participants… and especially the CO mobiles that made it so fun to chase them from county to county. W0UA/M and W0ETT/M were everpresent and easy to work. I also liked that the mobiles appeared to often QSY up or down the band after changing county, which made it more challenging since you couldn’t count on them being at one particular frequency through multiple counties.

Another thing I noticed is that my low 80m doublet was the best antenna for 20/40, beating out my DX-EE every time I checked. I was really glad I had the 80m V up.

I had never intended to operate 8 hours, but it was so fun that I got sucked in!

My Results


Colorado QSO Party

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

Class: SOMixed LP
QTH: Toronto OH
Operating Time (hrs): 8.2

Summary:
Band CW Qs Ph Qs Dig Qs
----------------------------
80: 10 0 0
40: 26 9 0
20: 36 17 0
----------------------------
Total: 72 26 0 CW Mults = 32 Ph Mults = 16 Dig Mults = 0 Total Score = 16,320

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Written by Mike

September 6th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Russian RTTY WW 2010

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Russian RTTY WW Contest

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

Class: SOSB/40 LP
QTH: Toronto OH
Operating Time (hrs): 0.5

Summary:
Band QSOs Pts Mults
————————
80: 0 0 0
40: 14 85 5
20: 0 0 0
15: 0 0 0
10: 0 0 0
————————
Total: 14 85 5 Total Score = 425

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Comments:

I was bored Friday so I figured I’d try for a few RTTY Qs…. and a few is all i
got!

Written by Mike

September 4th, 2010 at 11:23 am

Posted in Contesting

160 meter antenna for limited space

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When I first got back into the hobby I had no ambition of operating 160m. I had never had a proper antenna for 160m in the past. My experiences revealed that it was very difficult to hear stations on 160m.

Times have changed. I’m interested in a challenge. I’m interested in Contesting. I’m interested in DXing. Furthermore, after doing some reading I realized that there are times when 160m is better (nighttime, winter, solar cycle minimum). It very well could have been that the combination of a lack of proper antenna plus exploring 160m during the summer and/or at the height of the solar cycle caused me to come to the wrong conclusion about 160.

Now that I’ve pretty much decided upon a plan this fall to get my 100+ ft doublet (technically not since its terminated with a balun and 8 ft of RG-213 after the ladderline) up in the air permanently, it’s time to move on to thinking about possibilities for 160m.

I’m ruling out a dipole for 160m for multiple reasons. I lack the space for anything even approaching an efficient 160m dipole. A dipole isn’t the best antenna for DXing 160m, especially if you are unable to get it up in the air above 65 feet. An inverted-L seems to be an extremely popular antenna for 160m, and from the reading I’ve seen it’s doable here. I could potentially get the vertical section of an inverted L up about 45-50 feet. And I would have enough horizontal space to run the horizontal portion of the L out the remaining distance. I’ve read about 1/2w loaded inverted Ls, but the 1/4w inverted L is simple and effective. I’d probably go with what is best documented, and that would be a 1/4w with a good radial system. This antenna would be a wintertime-only antenna. After the mowing season is over I’d throw out as many long radials as I could out from the end of the back yard up into the side yards. I have no experience creating matching systems or anything like that. I don’t have an antenna analyzer, and an analyzer certainly would be a useful tool to have.

160m is a challenge for DXing. But I could potentially create a 160/80m combination inverted L if i were ambitious enough and try my hand at some DX on 80m as well.

I must have bookmarked 30 different websites documenting various inverted-L antennas today. I’ve still got plenty of reading to do. Noise on 160m receive is also often an issue. I venture to say a beverage would not be doable here. I could run a beverage many hundred feet downhill into neighboring land that doesn’t belong to me and nobody would ever know. But I question how useful it would be if it’s laid out in the woods and would be continously decreasing in elevation at the bottom of the gulley. Seems like way too much work. If I can get a 160m inverted-L up for transmit, then I’d probably just use that antenna for receive and see if I enjoy 160m enough to try and improve the receive side of things over the course of the next year.

Yep, I think I’ll put some effort into getting an inverted-L up. Seems like a useful antenna.

Written by Mike

September 1st, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Posted in Antennas

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