AA8IA Amateur Radio

Archive for October, 2011

An Embarrassing Event

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I fired up the radio today and decided to look for some DX. I just recently switched from using Ham Radio Deluxe for general logging to the DX Lab Suite, which includes DXKeeper.

One of the apps in the DX Lab Suite is SpotCollector, which will automatically QSY you to the spot frequency (and split) if you have the Commander app running as well.

I saw the spot for TX7M on 15m and clicked on it to QSY. RX VFO got set to 21.020 and TX freq got set +1 Khz to 21.021. I then decided against trying to work TX7M since I had worked them already on 15m CW. No sense wasting their time and likely adding to the QRM by keying up when they are already in the log.

I then saw a spot for JW5HPA on 21.305. I manually tuned to 21.305 with the radio dial, tuned up, and proceeded to throw out my call for 10 minutes. No joy. Eventually I realized I was still in “split” because I manually tuned from TX7M to JW5HPA rather than clicking on the spot in SpotCollector.

No harm, no foul, right? Well, I continued trying to snag JW5HPA to no avail. I then checked my email, and lo and behold a kind ham emailed me to let me know that I was QRMing the TX7M frequency with my SSB. Yep, that’s right, I was transmitting SSB on 21.021… probably for 10-15 minutes.

The person who emailed me went on to remind me of the DX Code of Conduct because I didn’t state my full call when I was chasing DX.

1. Calling JW5HPA on 21.021 SSB was a major fail. I plead guilty. Where is the wet noodle?

2. Throwing out a partial call when chasing DX? Well, I am going to have to plead innocent on that one. As a rule I don’t do that. Could it have happened? I guess so. I wasn’t recording it, so I can’t prove otherwise. But I would say it was highly unlikely I’d do this.

At any rate, #2 is simply not good etiquette. But #1 is a QRM issue and an actual violation of FCC rules. Where’s Riley when ya need him? I F’d up on that one. Hey, it happens. I’ll brush it off and move on. But I’ll certainly be more diligent when it comes to transmitting. That’s such a rookie mistake.

Thanks to the “Fun Club” for bringing these things to my attention. I’ll try not to let it happen again!

Written by Mike

October 31st, 2011 at 3:48 pm

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Down in the Dumps

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I’m beginning to feel sorry for myself. I don’t like it, but that’s the way it goes. It was about this time last year that I swore I’d make improvements in the coming year and learn to prepare better for contests. Nothing at all happened.

It’s now late October and the first big contest of the season is upon us this weekend, CQWW DX SSB. I still have the same shitty [there is no better word to describe them] dipoles up in the air. What I’ve got is a 100-foot long inverted-V parallel dipole with the apex at 35′ and a 42-foot long flattop parallel dipole with one end at 12′ and the other end at 30′. It’ll do okay for the up and coming ARRL Sweepstakes, but isn’t going to amount to anything as far as DX contests go.

I had high hopes of putting up some combination of a 40/80m inverted-L. A 160m vert is out of the question because I simply don’t have the real estate for a good radial system. Every week this summer I pondered what I should do, but that’s all I did was ponder.

I also thought about trying to find a way to get a Hexbeam at the top of a solid 40′ tree (it used to be much taller until I had the tree guys come and take off the top). But, alas I don’t know of anyone local to hire for such a job. And no, I wouldn’t think to ask other hams to assist. That’d only come back to bite me in the ass if they should fall or get electrocuted — I like my home and prefer to keep it.

I have had tons of time to record audio files to use for the SSB exchanges in N1MM, but I never did it. So I’ll lose my voice two hours into a contest and then be miserable for a few more hours until I decide to throw in the towel.

I’m still plagued by random RF that wipes out my CAT/digital interface. On 80m SSB if I use my Heil headset and handswitch my audio will sound horrible due to RF getting back into the audio chain. I end up having to use a stock mic and my Sennheiser headphones [I prefer them to be honest]. SSB contesting is tedious.

For six months I thought about purchasing the NS roofing filter from ACOC and then sending my radio off somewhere to have it installed, but I didn’t want to be without my radio for who knows how long.

I still haven’t got a proper hole cut through the block in order to bring cables in. So when it’s time to play radio I’m pulling the damned coaxes in from outside and through the sliding glass door. As you can imagine, the electric bill is higher because of this — and in the winter it gets chilly down in the basement with the wind blowing against the sliding glass door that isn’t fully closed.

My antenna mast is more portable than stationary. I can’t raise my dipole to 35′ if there if its windy. It’s not guyed well enough to withstand 30 mph sustained winds let alone 50 mph gusts.

10/15m had been great the past few weeks, but currently the conditions are mediocre on those bands and probably will remain so for CQWW DX SSB. I’ll be trying to make DX contacts against the overwhelming masses of tribanders, monobanders, kilowatt amps and true contest stations.

Really, sometimes I wonder why the hell I do it. I’m a masochist I guess. I’m a pawn on some contester’s chessboard to be sure.

Hope to work you this weekend!

Written by Mike

October 27th, 2011 at 9:11 pm

TX7M from a sea of nothingness

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TX7M 2011
Today I fired up the radio anticipating conditions on 10m / 12m / 15m to be as good as they have been for the past few weeks. Well, I was in for a rude awakening. There was very little to be heard. I even hooked up the second dipole to see if i’d hear anything on it that I couldn’t hear elsewhere.

The only exception was TX7M. When nothing else was to be heard, I’d find TX7M on the band. And, in a matter of less than 30 minutes I worked them on 10m / 15m / 17m / 20m CW. Yep, that’s right, four bands in less than 30 minutes. They were hardly strong, and I’m sure i was as weak as could be. But the TX7M guys appear to be on par with the T32C crew. They are all over the bands and have bionic ears.

I’ll jump back on the radio later this afternoon and see if anything has changed, but the A-index is 16 so I’m not counting on much. Things will likely be improving tomorrow.

Written by Mike

October 25th, 2011 at 2:37 pm

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T32C (Kiritimati / Christmas Island) is QRT

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T32C
The record-setting T32C crew are QRT as of 10-24-2011. On that last day I managed to get them into the log two more times, for a total of 12 band-mode combinations. Most of those I didn’t really have to try for. I was simply tuning around on the bands yesterday and found them.

They will be missed, by me at least. They are some fine DX ops. Even during the biggest pileups they seemed to keep it together and maintain their wits. They were omnipresent on the bands. I don’t think there was a time of day or night that a T32C couldn’t be found on the air on some band/mode.

They were excellent listeners, and they ID’s after each QSO [at least when I heard them] and always would indicate if they were listening up or down and if they were targetting a certain geographic area. Until the very end I rarely if ever heard them simplex. They stuck to their plans of operating split [sometimes a very wide split], and it appears that it worked out very well for them and for us [the DXers].

Every time I worked them they seemed calm, polite, and did not rush you to the point that you felt you had to end the QSO before being certain you were in the log. And, if you weren’t in the log, no problem — call them again later on. They’d work you once or 10 times on a band, didn’t matter.

Another bonus is that they will [eventually] be uploading all QSOs to Logbook of the World.

There isn’t much I can really say [that would be worth anything], but if someone where to ask me I’d give these guys the #1 position in my list of best executed DXpedition. From my perspective it was a great success. I thank all of the ops, who took devoted a lot of their personal time and expense and who were diligent in picking out callsigns and exchanges through QRM, QRN, and often deep QSB.

Written by Mike

October 25th, 2011 at 2:15 pm

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Worked All Germany 2011 Summary

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Weather conditions dictated that my main dipole be down, which would limit me to only having a low shortened dipole available this weekend. I made do with what I had. I intended on trying to make a few Qs in some contest this weekend, but I wasn’t sure which ones.

As it turns out, Saturday morning at the start of the WAG contest 10m was solid. Signals from Germany were strong, and there were tons of DLs on 10m CW. So, I worked a nice chunk of them. When I found no more, I tried 15m and then 20m to make a few quick Qs there. While I was on those bands, I managed a few Qs [a very few] for the IaQP and NyQP.

Sunday morning I jumped back on at 1400z for the last hour of the WAG Contest because I wanted to push my Q-count up above 100. I managed to do that.

The German operators are top notch. They send solid CW. They have bionic ears. And they don’t require repeats. From my experience, this actually seems to be typical of many if not most European countries — not just Germany. But, I give the DL ops credit because their ops are top notch!

I sure wish i could have had my other dipole up. If i could have, I would have tried to work 16-18 hours of this contest rather than 4 hours. Thanks to all of the German ops who provided me with one or more Qs!

Worked All Germany Contest
1500Z, Oct 15 to 1459Z, Oct 16

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

Class: SO Mixed LP
QTH: Toronto OH EN90ql
Operating Time (hrs): 3:47

Summary:
Band CW Qs SSB Qs Mults
—————————-
80: 0 0 0
40: 0 0 0
20: 15 0 10
15: 11 8 12
10: 74 2 20
—————————-
Total: 100 110 42 Total Score = 13,860

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Written by Mike

October 16th, 2011 at 12:29 pm

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Pennsylvania QSO Party 2011 Summary

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I really enjoyed the PaQP last year, and so I figured I’d operate this year as well. I was really hoping to make some 160m contacts, but I could only manage to get the dipole to tune extremely low in the band and was only able to squeeze out one Q. No matter, the rest of the party as a blast. 40m was a hotbed of activity on SSB and CW. I never thought to try RTTY this year. I did manage to work the bonus station, K3SMT, twice.

On Saturday night I found 80m to be noisy and lacking in contacts. I’m not sure if everyone just stayed on 40m much longer than usual or if the noise was so bad that I just wasn’t hearing people. But, typically on 80m I do pretty good into neighboring states. So I’m really thinking the activity was down on that band.

K8MR/M, W3USA/M, N8II/M, WA3WSJ/M, W3NO/M, K3YTL/R, K8RYU/R, N3SW(/R?), W3WPA, WU3U/R, KD8MQ/R, and NK8U/3, WI8T and W3TDF apparently running /P were all worked one or more times. A special thanks goes to these folks for getting out of making the extra effort to put counties on the air.

I believe Saturday night I had all but 7 or 8 counties. So I spent Sunday just hoping I’d run across the remaining ones, although I wasn’t hopeful. After getting some of the needed counties from mostly mobile/rover ops I ended up needing just one county — Sullivan. Then, on 40m on Sunday afternoon I heard W3ZR answering another stations CQ and stating he was in SUL. I broke in and asked if I could contact W3ZR, and the running station kindly obliged. Unfortunately, W3ZR was already gone. Then, I looked for a clear freq down the band a little bit with the hope that I could sit and call CQ and maybe have W3ZR stop in. I stopped in a clear spot, listened for a minute and was about ready to ask “is this frequency in use?” when lo and be hold, I heard W3ZR asking the same thing. I waited patiently for him to determine that the freq was not in use and to start calling CQ. When he did, I pounced. W3ZR in SUL was the last county I needed for a sweep, and I got him! Upon reading the PaQP reflector afterwards, W3ZR wasn’t even scheduled to be operating in Sullivan Co, so it was a stroke of good fortune that I ran into him.

All in all I think I probably made about 40 more Qs than last year. I am claiming a sweep, and I think I was missing 6 or 7 county mults last year. I sure wish I could have found more CW to work. I looked for K8MR, W3USA (both were K8MR but with different drivers) as well as K8RYU, K3YTL and W3NO when I could, but I was hardly chasing mobiles. i should have though, since most of them were on CW. I needed more points, and CW was a way to get it.

Being so close to PA, the only bands really worth using were 40m, 80m and 160m. I heard at least 12 stations on 160m CW when I tuned around briefly Saturday night, but since I couldn’t get the antenna tuned I didn’t work but one station. I really really wish I would have been able to do 160m. I also wish there would have been more ops on CW.

K8JQ and W8TM were omnipresent, so my hope of winning my section were dashed early on. Those guys are running far better antenna systems than I. The contests need a category for “low wires only”!

I had a great time. I’ll be back next year to give it another try, but I doubt I’ll be able to improve upon the score from this year.

Thanks to the sponsors and all to all of the stations who were on the air in PA, especially W3ZR and all of the mobile and rover ops.

Pennsylvania QSO Party
1600Z, Oct 8 to 0500Z, Oct 9
1300Z-2200Z, Oct 9

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

Class: Single Op LP
QTH: Toronto OH EN90ql
Operating Time (hrs): 15

Summary:
Band CW Qs Ph Qs RTTY Qs PSK31 Qs
—————————————
160: 1
80: 35 24
40: 115 144
20: 1
15:
10:
6:
2:
—————————————
Total: 152 168 0 0 Mults = 67 Total Score = 32,024

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Comments:

Thanks to all of the PA stations — and an extra pat on the back for the mobiles
/ rovers. I had a lot of fun. I am claiming a sweep — we’ll see if that
pans out. That’s eight more counties than I got last year. Sullivan was hard
to come by. Thankfully W3ZR showed up on a frequency that I was about to QRL?
on. Of course I waited for him to CQ and nabbed him ASAP.

I was hoping to do some 160m CW, but dummy me forgot to verify the antenna
would tune. Shows you how much I play on 160m.

I bested last year’s score, but not by a whole lot. Most of the additional Qs
were Phone Qs. I wish I would have made more 80m Qs Saturday night, but it was
noisy as all get out and most people stayed on 40m really late.

Thanks to the sponsors as well.

Written by Mike

October 11th, 2011 at 10:37 am

Scandinavian Activity Contest SSB 2011 Summary

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Saturday morning I awoke and finished preparing for the PaQP. 10m has been great lately, so at about an hour before the PaQP was to start, I went to 10m to see what I’d hear. Lo and behold the Scandinavian countries [and other EU] were very strong on the band. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I had a little time to play, so I fired up N1MM and I answered some CQs. It was really great to work some SSB so easily across the pond, and I was glad to hand out some Qs. In the end I managed 34 contacts in about an hour of casual operating. Heck, that’s a better rate than I usually get in a contest where I’m actually working hard at making Qs.

Even better, a lot of those stations seem to be on Logbook of the World, and so I’ve got many 10m confirmations from those Qs. Thanks to the SAC sponsors and stations for putting on a great test. Now that I think about it, I sure wish the PaQP would have started a few hours later. I really wanted to make some more SAC contacts on 10m through 20m.

Scandinavian Activity Contest, SSB
1200Z, Oct 8 to 1200Z, Oct 9

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

Class: SOAB LP
QTH: Toronto OH EN90ql
Operating Time (hrs): 1:07

Summary:
Band QSOs Mults
——————-
80:
40:
20:
15: 8 7
10: 26 17
——————-
Total: 34 24 Total Score = 816

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Written by Mike

October 11th, 2011 at 9:59 am

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Makrothen RTTY 2011 Summary

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Not much to say here. I got on the air for a short while Friday night and made a few contacts. I really wasn’t feeling up to this one since I had plans for putting in a lot of time in the PaQP and since there were some other contests I was thinking about dabbling in.

Makrothen RTTY Contest
0000Z-0759Z, Oct 8
1600Z-2359Z, Oct 8
0800Z-1559Z, Oct 9

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

Class: SO/Single Xcvr LP
QTH: Toronto OH EN90ql
Operating Time (hrs): 0:53

Summary:
Band QSOs
————
80:
40:
20: 18
15: 3
10:
————
Total: 21 Total Score = 71,460

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Written by Mike

October 11th, 2011 at 9:50 am

Posted in Contesting,RTTY

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10m DX abounds!

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10m activity has been bustling as of late. Ole sol is finally being kind to us all. The past few mornings I’ve turned on the radio and have discovered plenty of CW/SSB action across the 10m spectrum. I easily worked many Europeans during CQ WW RTTY less than two weeks ago. Since then I’ve found countless DX. I haven’t worked them all, nor have I tried. I mostly just tune up and down the band listening to the activity. It takes me back to 1991, when I got my General ticket and was KB8MAZ. I worked all over the world on 10m using a low G5RV and a Kenwood TS-120.

Some of the recent DXpeditions were extremely easy to work when I ran across them on 10m. This includes T32C and OJ0X. I just snagged OJ0X on SSB this morning. I believe it was the reknowned Martti OH2BH at the helm, and he was working by numbers. It was so very efficient. I started listening when he was on the 9’s, and when he finally got back to the 8’s I worked him on my third call. He was humming along working stations like a well-oiled machine. T32C and OJ0X are both doing a superb job. Yesterday I heard John, ON4UN [another reknowned DXer, contester, and the author of ON4UN’s Low Band DXing]. He was S9+ and I’m sure I could have easily worked him, but I sat back and enjoyed listening to the ensuing pileup.

I’m beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t just get a Cushcraft A3S or a Moslely TA-33-M (WARC) and shove it up on a piece of pipe. I’d already have a Hexbeam up if it weren’t for the hideous appearance of that beast.

Anyway, I’m off to work a few more on 10m. If this keeps up, I may end up with a higher DXCC total on 10m than I have on 15m or 20m right now.

Written by Mike

October 6th, 2011 at 12:17 pm

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California QSO Party 2011 Summary

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10-20m was a blast. 10/15 were open both days just great between OH and CA.
I probably spent too much time on those bands, but I couldn’t help myself. I
did better on 80m last year. Can’t tell if it was a noise problem or that
nobody was hanging out on 80m. I just know I barely heard a station, and the
few that I did hear had trouble copying me on 80m.

I did a lot more SSB this time around, which forced me to make some extra
contacts just to beat out my score from last year. When bands are good and
the radio is working right, it’s too easy to go to Phone and neglect CW. I
gotta remember that there is usually a point bonus for CW Qs.

I was down about 30 Qs from last year on 20m and but made up for them on 10m
this year.

I missed YOLO, SHAS, DELN and MERC. Last year I only missed two, and they
were SISK and GLEN.

K6AQL was sounding great from all the counties I worked him on 40-10m.

Thanks to the sponsors and all of the CA crowd for putting on an extremely fun
contest.

California QSO Party
1600Z, Oct 1 to 2200Z, Oct 2

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

Class: SOFixed LP
QTH: Toronto OH EN90ql
Operating Time (hrs): 11:42

Summary:
Band CW Qs Ph Qs
——————–
160:
80: 4
40: 57 27
20: 83 40
15: 65 47
10: 76 47
6:
2:
——————–
Total: 285 161 Mults = 54 Total Score = 63,558

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Written by Mike

October 3rd, 2011 at 4:05 pm