AA8IA Amateur Radio

Archive for November, 2010

Christmas Sebbatical

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I’ll be off the air for the Christmas season. Not much going on in the contesting world, and more importantly there is a lot going on at this time of year that takes precedence.

I’ve resumed my winter scanner monitoring hobby and will return to amateur radio sometime early in the New Year. I’ve still got a shortened 40m wire up, just in case. But the main antenna is down and much cabling and eyesore have been removed.

It’s been a really enjoyable year for me with regard to contests and QSO parties. I’ve improved upon the station. I’ve worked quite a few new DXCC. I’ve got Basic WAS and am very close to WAS on two or three bands. I’ve learned quit a bit. I’ve regained my CW code copy abilities. I’ve had the privilege of working many decent amateur radio ops. All in all a great year!

Written by Mike

November 28th, 2010 at 2:18 pm

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CQ WW DX CW 2010 – Summary

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Not much to report. I turned on the radio at the start of the contest and heard very little if any DX on any band, 10m through 80m. That was enough for me. If I wanted to work US stations, I could only manage 4 or 5 contacts per band to count for anything since you don’t get points for working other US stations. And the DX just wasn’t there.

Since my best operating is done at the start, and since the start proved to yield very slim pickings, I said screw it. I decided I would not even bother. I checked out the SFI and A/K indexes, and things didn’t look good for the high bands, and I don’t have 160m capabilities and my 80m wire is lousy for DX. It didn’t make sense to try to put any kind of effort in given the minimal return I would get. I’m greedy now… aside from QSO parties, if there is a CW contest that I don’t think I can get 400+ Qs on, it isn’t worth my effort.

In checking the DX spots today, there was DX but not nearly as much as I would have expected to see being spotted by NA stations. Of course, on http://www.getscores.org there were some stations with 2500-4000 Qs, and I’m sure there were likely others with more Qs not reporting to GetScores. But most of them were non-US and were multiop superstations. The SOLP guys weren’t doing very well. I suspect my wires weren’t going to yield much fun.

Hey, I’m not crying the blues. I always feel compelled to participate in contests, and in fact i end up enjoying it when I do for the most part, but it’s a total relief to not even think about turning on the radio all weekend. After all, it is the holidays. I now have the whole weekend to do other things, or nothing. It’s great.

No more big contests this year, at least none that I would participate in. The ARRL 160m contest is out of my reach at the moment. I may stick up a rotatable dipole at 40 ft if there is any chance that 10m looks like it may have some increased propogation for the ARRL 10m Contest, but I’m not counting on it.

So for all intents and purposes, I’m done with contests until next year. The DX will always be there though, so I’ll just chase some of it when I feel the urge.

Written by Mike

November 27th, 2010 at 5:49 pm

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ARRL SS SSB 2010 Summary

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ARRL Diamond Logo
SSB contesting isn’t fun. Listening to multiple SSB signals mixing in close proximity is simply monotonous. Trying to find a place to park and call CQ, especially when you have a very modest station and aren’t running an amp, isn’t easy. Compared to CW where you could potentially have 5+ stations in a kilohertz of bandwidth and be able to copy those stations with a 100-200 hz filter, it’s very difficult to filter out ~2.5 Khz SSB signals in close proximity. There were many times that I wanted to call CQ but couldn’t find a spot. Sure, I could find a spot where I could manage to filter out enough adjacent signal damage to be able to call CQ, but my TX signal would have been wide enough that it would create a lot of problem for those adjacent stations if they weren’t able to equally filter out my signal. Besides that, I have no reason to believe my signal was narrow or pleasant. I was running the audio EQ and speech processing, although I didn’t have my mic gain up any further than 25. Most of the time I couldn’t bring myself to park in between two stations knowing that some part of my signal was really going to cause problems for them. I know, the rules are different for contesting and part of contesting is learning to cope with signals covering up what you are trying to copy.

On 80m, I spent a lot of time tuning… and if I went up past 3650 I really couldn’t tune at all. It was potluck above 3650 with high SWR and much of my power lost. I still made contacts up there though. At one point on Saturday night I did CQ on 3610 late at night and was fairly successful. Certainly not the rate of a true contester, but I had a long string of contacts. I probably could have repeated this Sunday if i had wanted to.

I always have a lot that I”m thinking about during a contest, much of which may be interesting if I were to write it down. By the time I am ready to post on here, it is all nearly forgotten.

It was great to put a voice to many of the ops I’ve worked in previous CW contests. It was also nice when quite a few of them recognized my call and took a moment to say hi. The 7-land guys are a friendly bunch, notably K7IA (and yes, IA calls are the best) and KI7MT. Took a nice break on 80m when Bill, KB3LIX, called in and we shot the shit for a few minutes. Bill runs a similar setup to me, so if we both put in the same amount of time and effort we often seem to find ourselves close in score. Of course, he obviously has more stamina and ambition than me, because I typically have the lower score!

SSB was also annoying because of all of the pre-recorded messages. In at least one case the pre-recorded CQ was a YL and then when I threw out my call an OM answered. A lot of people set up a pre-recorded macro for P CALL CK SEC, and they most did a great job of verbalizing their SN and then hitting the exchange macro to auto the rest of it without losing the rhythm. I only had my CQ pre-recorded, and I ended up not using it because it sounded so much different than my live voice did.

There were a couple of occasions where people were acting like jackasses. I’ll omit the callsigns, but let’s just say that I heard an exchange between a 0-call OM and a 6-call YL where the OM was ranting to the YL about her splattering and was lecturing her in the middle of the contest on spectral purity. She had moved up the band after his initial complaint, but apparently that wasn’t far enough for him because he could still hear her. So he challenged her to stay on the frequency she moved to and see what happens. She did, throwing out a CQ. Instantly he started CQing every time she did and was pissing and moaning for 5+ minutes about how she needs to move farther away from him “or else.” The only word that comes to mind for this performance is “asshole.” The YL eventually relinquished that part of spectrum to the OM. My suggestion to the OM is to relax, take a deep breath, step away for a minute. Way to serious, when it requires you to become a jackass towards other ops. Incidentally, the OM was using someone else’s station. Me thinketh he should be banished to his own basement station for a few contests until he learns to be cordial. He was a pisspoor representation of an amateur radio op on that day.

Overall I had fun. However, I only worked about 12 hours of the contest and definitely was tired of listening to the SSB — and my voice was fading fast. I eventually just decided that I’d spend the Sunday time with the family, which I ended up enjoying much more.

BTW, if you ever hear me on SSB and I sound like shit, let me know. I don’t know of an easy way to make sure my SSB is sounding decent. Mic Gain was set at 24, but I was using audio EQ and the speech processor. It seems that without using EQ and the speech processor, people were hearing a 2 or 3 when I was saying an 8. Anyway, if my signal sounds bad, let me know.

I got to work some MRRCers, which was nice. Although, I heard many more than I worked.

Thankfully CQWW CW is this coming weekend, so I can recover from the SSB insanity of this past weekend.

My Results:

ARRL Sweepstakes Contest, SSB

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

Class: Single Op LP
QTH: Toronto OH EN90QL
Operating Time (hrs): 11.5

Summary:
Band QSOs
————
160: 0
80: 195
40: 47
20: 30
15: 48
10: 0
————
Total: 320 Sections = 76 Total Score = 48,640

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Written by Mike

November 23rd, 2010 at 1:12 pm

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Worked All Europe (WAE) RTTY 2010 Summary

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Let me start off by saying that I wasn’t sure I wanted to put a significant effort into this contest. Thursday night we get a call to say we are invited to dinner at my niece’s places on Saturday. She is an hour away and the dinner was set for 4 PM. That put the icing on the cake. I not only couldn’t refuse the generous invitation, but I wouldn’t want to. It’s always a pleasant time up in beautiful Carroll Co. I also knew that Sunday the family would be gathering here, which is what happens most Sundays. Between those two events, that’s 8 hours of daylight missed.

I also didn’t want to force myself to wake up nice and early Sat/Sun just to work the contest. In order to work any DX for mults and to pass QTCs, I needed to work 10/15/20m for the most part. My 80m doublet doesn’t do much DX on 40/80 in contest pileups. Of course, it’s not actually a “performer” on 20-10m either. I do have an Alpha Delta DX-EE that I switch in and out on those bands, and i use whichever one provides the best receive signal on the station I’m wanting to work. However, the DX-EE is even lower (average 20′), which doesn’t cut it for DX.

Because of all of the above, I knew I wasn’t going to get much DX nor pass much QTC traffic. One great thing about WAE DX RTTY is that any station can work any station and QTCs can be passed between any two continents. This provides much more competition since there are many more participants than there would be if you could only work European stations.

Being as ill-prepared as I am, I did not test the QTC system in N1MM prior to the contest, which means that some non-NA station was going to be my guinea pig. That just happened to be DQ4W, who was extremely strong. They sent me 10 QTCs. I copied/pasted them into the RQTC window. I then sent them ALL OK and closed the QSO. After the fact I realized that N1MM would not save the QTCs because one of the callsigns didn’t appear legit [because it didn’t have a number]. I didn’t know at the time that I could hold down CTRL and click Save to save the QTCs, and so I put in a fake call and saved it. But, by that time I was already done with the DQ4W QSO and wasn’t going to contact them again to try and ask for a resend of QTC 8 out of batch ##/##. I don’t like creating undue hardship for other stations who are actually trying to win the contest.

I accepted QTCs four more times, and everything went well each time. I did not get a chance to send any QTCs [although I had many to send]. I didn’t think any DX signals on 10/15/20m were strong enough at the time for me to judge that they would hear my signal adequately to copy 10 QTCs without a lot of fills, so I did not nag any DX to accept any from me.

I have to wonder if conditions just weren’t great this weekend on 15/20m. Certainly there were stations, but they were always the same stations and rarely were S9+20. Of course, I didn’t expect 10m to be booming. I did figure I’d see stronger signals on 15m though.

To be honest, I’m sure a lot of it had to do with the times I was attempting to operate on 10/15/20m. As mentioned before, I didn’t wake up bright and early to work the contest, and I missed many afternoon hours on both days that would have been good hours for working 10/15/20m.

I was ill-prepared for this contest, which is unfortunate since I really love the WAE rules and format, especially the QTC activity. I’m sorry that I missed out on so much.

To be fair to myself, I worked less than 8 hours in this contest [out of a possible 36 hour total]. But even so, I should have been able to do another 50-100 Qs and passed a significantly larger number of QTCs than I did. So, I’m disappointed in myself. I guess everyone has their bad days :)

My Results:

WAE DX Contest, RTTY

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

Class: Single Op LP
QTH: Toronto OH EN90QL
Operating Time (hrs):

Summary:
Band QSOs Pts QTCs Mults
——————————
80: 11 11 0 36
40: 34 34 0 39
20: 5 25 20 10
15: 68 108 40 66
10: 14 14 0 14
——————————
Total: 132 192 60 165 Total Score = 31,680

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Written by Mike

November 15th, 2010 at 9:52 am

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ARRL SS CW 2010 Summary

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ARRL Diamond Logo
The 2010 ARRL Sweepstakes CW has come and gone. This was my first time working this contest.

Being a NA-only contest, it provides a huge opportunity for those with very modest stations to make a large number of contacts and to work many many states and Canadian prefixes. In this contest QRO and QRP operators alike, with directional antennas or low slung wires, can have tons of fun.

I’m one of those with a modest station, and I can tell you now that this contest was a blast. Going into it I wasn’t that enthused. After all, I am more interested in getting DX confirmations than NA confirmations for awards. Plus, I went into this with the mindset that there would be a ton of activity on 20/15m compared to 40/80m, despite having been told beforehand that for us in W8 40/80m would be the bread and butter bands. Don’t get me wrong, there was quite a bit of activity on 15/20m, but 80m definitely was the band for me to increase the Q-count.

As noted in a previous post, the exchange is more significant in this contest as there is [more] meaningful data in the exchange than simply an RST or Serial #. Each Exchange contains five elements:

  • Serial Number : must be given out consecutively
  • Precedence : The category you are competing in, such as low-power, high-power, QRP, multi-op, school club, or unlimited
  • Callsign : Yes, you have to include your callsign in the exchange as well
  • Check : this is the first year you were licensed
  • ARRL / RAC Section

Where a typical exchange might be 5NN MIKE OH or 005 OH, instead you’ve got 001 A AA8IA 91 OH.

Two other interesting things about this contest are (1) you can only work each station once in the whole contest and (2) the mults, which are the ARRL and RAC sections, only count as a multiplier once. This means that no matter how good you are, you’ll never have more than 80 mults in this contest. And, even the very best of contesters would rarely reach 255,000 points (I think 255K is the record). Couple this with the fact that there are so many participants, you can obviously see that it can be very competitive with many stations having scores extremely close to others.

Some reading this may already know that 10m is one of my favorite bands. Well, there was very little activity on 10m that I heard. Of course, I only checked briefly on two or three occasions. I wasn’t using packet or RBN to get spots, so if there was any significant opening on 10m to Ohio I didn’t know about it. I don’t think there was though. At any rate, I knew early on that 10m wasn’t going to yield mults and Qs so I didn’t waste my time on it. I did work 15m and 20m for periods on both Saturday and Sunday. 40m is a band I don’t really like. I can’t explain it. I just haven’t learned how to read it yet, so I’m always jumping on that band wondering what I’m going to hear. In this contest it was usually a station that i worked on 20/15m earlier in the day or that I could work on 80m later in the evening. So I made 80m my priority. It worked out well for me.

Early Sunday morning I got up the nerve to CQ on 80m, but it wasn’t very productive. I was also very tired and just felt like I wanted to sleep. I didn’t have a high enough QSO count to be satisfied, so I had almost given up on reaching 500 Qs. The only thing that kept me going on Sunday was the fact that Hal W1NN had suggested to me that if I would work 24 hours of the contest I could likely get 700 Qs. Late Sunday morning, after I had already slept 8 hours and knew I was going to spend a few hours with the family on Sunday, I didn’t have high hopes. Well, later in the evening I noticed that my QSO count was creeping up faster than I had expected. It wasn’t moving along at a pace that would allow me to make 500 Qs by end of contest though. I was prepared to be disappointed with an end result below 500 Qs. As luck would have it, somewhere beeen 1.0 and 1.5 hours before the end of the contest I decided to CQ. This turned out to be a wise thing to do. My CQing time was very productive [in comparison to all of my previous attempts at running in a contest]. I don’t remember what my rate was [and it likely wouldn’t be impressive to many], but it was damned good for me. Things were moving along nicely with stations continuing to call in, and before I knew it I was at 500 Qs. I was extremely pleased at this time. I continued on until the last available second and managed a total of 520 Qs.

I didn’t get a clean sweep — meaning, I did not work all 80 sections. I missed NWT and NL. I had heard VY1EI a couple times during the contests and attempted to reach him, but he was having pileup troubles and appeared to be overwhelmed. Everybody and there mother wanted him for a mult.

520 Qs, 78 sections — I don’t think that is too shabby for my first SS CW. I think 520 Qs is my all-time high QSO count in any contest thus far. And, I did it in 17 hours. Based upon those figures, I think Hal was spot on when he predicted I could work 700 Qs in 24 hours. So, happy as I may be, I’ll be kicking myself until next November because I didn’t push myself to work 24 hours.

This contest was pure fun! I worked a dozen or so of the MRRC gang. I worked all states. achieved my highest QSO count in a contest ever. I reached my highest sustained hour rate when CQing. My modest station had no problem working anything I heard [except for VY1IE’s pileup]. And, I was able to sleep and spend time with the family. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

For next year I’m going to set a lofty goal. I’m not sure what it will be yet, but it’ll be at least 700 Qs. That’ll require me to be feeling my best. I’ll also need to work 24 hours of the contest. And, I’ll just have to take every opportunity to learn from every contest between now and Nov 2011. It’s doable though, even on my wires.

Thanks to all of the stations who worked me, and thanks to the ARRL for putting on such a great contest. In two weeks is SS SSB – I’ll be there, but it won’t be the same as SS CW!

My Results:

ARRL Sweepstakes Contest, CW

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

Class: Single Op LP
QTH: Toronto OH
Operating Time (hrs): 17

Summary:
Band QSOs
————
160: 0
80: 325
40: 75
20: 60
15: 60
10: 0
————
Total: 520 Sections = 78 Total Score = 81,120

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Written by Mike

November 10th, 2010 at 4:43 pm

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ARRL Sweepstakes CW – This Weekend

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ARRL Diamond Logo
The CW portion of the ARRL November Sweepstakes is this weekend, Saturday, Nov 6, 2100Z to Monday, Nov 8, 0259Z.

I haven’t operated in the SS before. It’s a domestic contest, meaning that this is a contest for North Americans (US / Canada / possessions). We work each other. In the contesting community this seems to be a very popular contest. I’m unsure of the reason for it being so popular, but apparently there are ops who only dust off their radios twice a year, in November, to work the CW [and SSB] Sweepstakes. Go figure. Personally, I think the WPX contests are more fun. But there is no doubt that as long as everything goes as planned I will have a great time. I’m not averse to working Florida, California and Texas for the millionth time.

Although the contest window is 30 hours, those competing aren’t allowed to operate more than 24 hours. Off Times are 30 minutes. If you operate off and on for the whole 30-hour period, you must have enough off time to equal 6 hours — and if you want your time off to count as bonafide off time, your off periods have to be 30 minutes or more in length.

One thing unique in this contest is the fact that you don’t have per-band multipliers. There are 80 ARRL and RAC sections. These are your multipliers. If you first worked OH on 80m, then it OH doesn’t count as a mult on any other band. So, in the end the most # of mults you will have is 80. If you work all 80 sections you have a “clean sweep.” You get two points per QSO. So, even for the most competitive station you likely would never see a score above 250,000.

Another unique thing about this contest is the exchange. It isn’t your typical RST SEC or SERIAL SEC exchange but rather an exchange that looks like this:

### A AA8IA 91 OH

That’s a fairly ‘complicated’ exchange as far as contest exchanges go. I’ll be interested to see how many stations omit their callsign in the exchange simply because they presume the person they are passing the info to already has the callsign. I’d be even more interested to see how an op responds if I send back CALL? because they omitted their call in the exchange. They’d probably send back “FU” :)

I’ll leave it up to you to read the rules of the contest to learn more about it. They can be found at http://www.arrl.org/sweepstakes

Should be a fun contest. I’ve got 50 states worked, not on all bands though. But just a basic WAS is all I give a damn about, so I’m not in it to collect new states / provinces. I’ll be in it just for fun.

I’d anticipate it to be a really fun contest where everyone can make more than a handful of contacts simply because it is stateside. So if you are running a 20m wire in your attic and QRP, your’e still going to have fun.

Hope to see you on!

(notes for myself)

  • Saturday 5 PM EDT to Sunday 10 PM EST
  • Work each station only once in whole contest
  • Mults are not per-band
  • Exchange: ### A AA8IA 91 OH
  • practice Friday night at 10:30 PM Eastern

Written by Mike

November 5th, 2010 at 8:28 am

Posted in Contesting

CQ WW DX SSB 2010 – Summary

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My Results:

CQ Worldwide DX Contest, SSB

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

Class: SOAB(A) LP
QTH: Toronto OH
Operating Time (hrs): 11

Summary:
Band QSOs Zones Countries
——————————
160:
80: 16 3 2
40: 9 5 6
20: 45 14 29
15: 82 17 47
10: 33 8 10
——————————
Total: 185 47 94 Total Score = 65,001

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Comments:

Only put in about 1/4 the time. Ran assisted to take advantage of spotting
since I wasn’t going to be competitive anyway. Low wires and no power really
can’t compete with directional stacks and high power on SSB. Don’t get me
wrong – I had fun, especially on 15m. 10m opened a bit on Sunday to South
America [and perhaps elsewhere for the big stations]. It was a fleeting few
hours during the afternoon when I saw 10m perk up, and I stuck around and
worked all I could.

I definitely need a tribander for next year — too much fun on 20-10m.

Looking forward to CW next month. Thanks to all who gave me Qs.

Written by Mike

November 3rd, 2010 at 9:43 pm

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