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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

Blogging is Tough Work

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You know, sometimes it’s just a royal pain in the rear end to keep a blog updated. This is especially true if the scope of your blog is fairly limited and the content uninteresting.

There are quite a few posts I should have made recently, such as some summaries for the TnQP, CoQP, ArQP and OSPOTA. I’ll try to get to them. The problem is that after a contest / QSO Party event is over, I rarely retain any memorable stuff to write about.

So, don’t be surprised if you see spaces of time where nothing gets posted. Lack of a post doesn’t mean I haven’t been operating. I’m usually on, at least for a little while, every weekend trying to work some QSO Party or contest.

Written by Mike

September 13th, 2011 at 10:27 am

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Ohio QSO Party 2011 — August 27th

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The 2011 OhQP is this weekend, from 1600z Sat, Aug 27th to 0400z Sun, Aug 28th. For those of us in the Eastern Timezone, that’d be Saturday noon to midnight.

Full details can be found at the Ohio QSO Party website including the Rules, a HowTo, the submitted Planned Operations, and an area where you can submit your operation if you are a station operating from an Ohio county during the OhQP.

Oh — one more thing. The Ohio QSO Party does not do Facebook and does not do Twitter. The only official web presence for the Ohio QSO Party is http://www.ohqp.org . Don’t let the impersonator fool you.

Below is a semi up-to-date map of planned fixed, mobile and rover operations. However, this is but a small number of Ohio stations that will actually be on the air. Not all Ohio stations submit their planned operations to the OhQP website. This QSO party is one of the largest / most popular.

Note: Click on one of the counties to see what stations have submitted operating plans for that county. Different colors represent different #s of stations.


View Larger Map

Written by Mike

August 26th, 2011 at 4:39 pm

HostICan VPS Order — or not

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On Aug 11 I submitted an order at www.hostican.com for a VPS. When i was done filling out the form and submitting the order, it redirected me to a thank you page. After a while of not receiving an email verification of my order or a welcome email, I called them up. Understand that I don’t expect to order a VPS and have it automatically set up in five minutes. I do expect an instant notification via email that my order was received and put in the queue.

I called them up and they said it was a busy day and they had a lot of orders. I was told that if I didn’t hear from them by 8:30 PM, give them a call. Well, I had other things to do so I didn’t call them last night.

This morning I still hadn’t heard from them so I called them up a little after 9 AM. The person who answered indicated that there was no record of my order in their system. So we ended that call, and I then went and placed the order again via the website. After placing the order I called them to verify they received the order, and they did. They said it should be set up by 10:00 AM.

I received a Welcome Email at 9:30 giving me login instructions to the customer center, where the email indicated I could manage all aspects of my ordered package. I went and clicked on the link to access the VPS, and the IP address was missing.

I opened a ticket via their support system, and a short while later (9:48 AM) the ticket was closed with the response that “It appears that your vps is not setup yet. You need to wait for a welcome email from us.”

I thought I did receive a Welcome Email from them. After all, the email I received had a subject line of “Welcome to Hostican” and it provided me with a customer ID and password to log into their Customer Manager system so that I could manage the product I ordered. Granted, I did not recieve an email providing me with the IP address of my VPS or the root password. Nonetheless, I technically did receive a “Welcome Email” :)

I tried to reply to the email that was sent from the ticketing system, and the email indicated that the address that sent the email is no longer in use and that I must respond via the ticket system. That’s interesting since the tech who picked up the ticket already closed it. So now I need to re-open the ticket.

Needless to say, so far this experience has been irritating.

~11:35 AM – I re-opened the ticket and asked when the VPS might be up. The response probably won’t be the one I’m looking for.

~11:39 AM – I received this response:

Hello,

Yes, that welcome email means your order is confirmed with us. It usually takes upto 12 hours to setup a VPS account after placing a order.

Thanks

According to their website, 15-20 minutes is what it takes to set up an account. Although they give more details here: http://answers.hostican.com/questions.php?questionid=124

So they may have to verify things? Considering I’ve spoken with them on the phone multiple times, the domain associated with the VPS is in my name with my email address, and I’m calling from my home phone providing useful ANI, you’d think that is all the verification one needs.

Who knows, maybe I’ve already been enough of a pain in the ass [not intentionally] to cause them to simply refund my money after 48 hours. That’s not what I’m wanting. I signed up for a reason. I don’t waste my time signing up just so that I can give them a hard time and waste their staff resources.

Guess we’ll have to see what happens next.

~2:44 PM – Received notification that the VPS was set up. I ssh’d into it and did the prerequisite turning off of unneeded services, editing /etc/hosts and /etc/resolv.conf to my liking as well as /etc/sysconfig/network to change the hostname and do a “hostname server.mydomain.ext”.

Then it was on to seeing what packages were installed and installing those I needed. Lo and behold Yum [the package manager] was not installed. Hey, I’ve been a diehard *nix, especially Linux, junkie since 1991. I don’t need no Yum. But, this is a CentOS [Redhat-based] operating system and as such it most certainly should have Yum installed on it.

~6:38 PM – Rather than installing it myself, I figured I’d ask them why they omitted it during installation heh. I mean seriously, no Yum on a CentOS install? That’s just silly. I figured there must be a logical reason, such as that perhaps they have troubles with customers using Yum to install the stock OS packages over top of ones they shouldn’t [such as those ending in .swsoft, since this is a Parallels Containers VPS]. Of course I knew that wouldn’t be a problem. I already run other VPS’ on the same VM platform with CentOS and Yum installed with no prob. They installed it quick enough, and didn’t give me an explanation why it wasn’t included in a basic OS install.

Everything else was fine from there. Working great so far. Of interest is the fact that the same day they set up the VPS [and I paid for a month up front], they have already issued the invoice for the next month of service. It’s not due for a month, but it has been issued now. Go figure. I think I’ll hold off on that one :)

Written by Mike

August 12th, 2011 at 10:21 am

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June ramblings

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June is a fun month for amateur radio contesting. But, with the good come the bad. It’s at this time of year that I really find myself thinking about improvements I’d like to make in the station. Unfortunately, it also forces me to think about the difficulties in making those improvements.

  • 1. I still don’t have a tower up.
  • If I did have a tower up, it would be no taller than 40 ft. I’d also be stuck trying to figure out whether I want to put VHF/UHF antennas on it or HF antennas. If I wanted to do VHF, we’re talking about 6m, 2m and 70cm all on one tower. Given the spacing required for optimal operation of yagis on those three bands, it’d be tough to get 3 yagis on a reasonable length mast. It can be done though. Many people sacrifice some pattern distortion in order to do this. But, the bigger problem is that there definitely would not be room for an HF directional antenna, whether that be a Hexbeam or a typical tribander.

  • 2. If I were to acquire the necessary minimum for a VHF/UHF station, can I really justify the cost and hassle?
  • Outside of a few contests a year, regular SSB/CB activity on VHF/UHF is hard to come by. And when it is there, it’s usually between stations running amps, using stacks / arrays per band, and it requires one to get the antennas up as high and in the clear as possible.

    I am quite positive that if I had VHF/UHF DX capabilities, I’d really enjoy them a couple times a year. But, I’m thinking the rest of my time would be spent regretting the lack of a directional antenna on 10/15/20m.

  • 3. Both of my dipoles were put up very quickly and without proper care.
  • There is no lightning protection on either one of the dipoles. One is fed with LMR-400 with no care taken to protect the coax-to-antenna connection from the weather. By now I suspect that there has already been significant rainwater encroachment down through the top of the SO239 / N-to-PL junction.

    No care was taken to waterproof anything at the junction of the ladderline and 80m doublet either. I still don’t have the ends of the 80m doublet off the ground as far as I’d like. I would prefer 10-15 feet at the ends, but right now they are perhaps 3 feet off the ground.

  • 4. I do not have proper shack grounding.
  • I don’t have a shack ground. If I did it wouldn’t be bonded to the AC Mains ground since there is no visible ground rod connection to the AC Mains. I have underground utilities. I’m not sure where the ground is for the AC mains, but there is not a ground rod or ground wire outside at the entrance. Inside there is a ground from the AC to the cold water pipe.

    I have no lightning arrestors. Of course they’d do no good without any grounding.

    As it is right now, when i’m not using the station I lower the mast to deck height and remove all feedline to the house. It just stays outside coiled up and hanging on the fence 10 feet from my shack.

  • 5. I don’t climb. I can’t stand or sit for long periods of time because of my back.
  • Doing antenna work of any kind usually requires a day or two of recuperation after as little as half an hour of antenna work. Mowing lawn I can do. Standing still and upright working on antenna crap, I cannot. Sitting for extended periods on anything but a couch really can ruin a week pretty fast.

Ok, that’s it for the ranting. I’ve cried a river. In the end, I’ll still be in all of the significant contests and I’ll still participate in nearly every QSO Party I can. Even with such mediocrity for a station, I still have a blast every time I get on and can work some stations. Gotta love the addictiveness of amateur radio.

Field Day is next weekend (June 25/26). I’ll be there, with bells on, running 1D (or perhaps even 1E) from the home with a couple of dipoles. Last year I made 359 Qs in 13 hours. I’m hoping for 600 or more in a 24-hour period this year. If I can do it, you can too. I hope to work you!

Written by Mike

June 19th, 2011 at 5:16 pm

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Nice little 6m opening to the Caribbean today

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Had a little time so I fired up the radio and checked on vhfdx.info. Looked like some activity to the south, but none spotted from an Ohio station. I turned the Moxon south and managed to get:

PV8ADI and 9Y4VU on CW as well as KP4EIT and KP4BJD on SSB

KP4BJD, Gabriel, was interesting in that he was about 51/52 when he heard me call him, and then once I repeated my call a couple times he realized I was a stateside station and he turned the beam from Europe to me. Then of course he was 59+. He said I should be happy in that I broke a European DX pileup that he was working. He thought I was a PP station. At any rate, he turned his beam towards Ohio and we talked for a minute. Helluva nice guy. You don’t run across too many people working pileups who take the time out to swing the beam away from the action to work a wimpy stateside station. Thanks, Gabriel. You made my day, brother.

Written by Mike

June 16th, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Posted in DX,Posts,VHF_UHF

Less than stellar weekend for radio

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Here in the Ohio Valley we’ve been plagued by a lot of storms since April. Many of them brought mostly rain, but some have been quite severe with lightning acccompanying them.

This weekend is no exception. There has been near constant rain with periods of really nasty thunderstorms. Not only is it very difficult to work a contest with ever-present lightning crashes, but it’s always a risk to do so.

In addition, there has been no decent Sporadic-E on 6m for days — so much for the VHF Sprint tonight. Today there has been pisspoor propogation on the HF bands (at least 10-20), which didn’t bode well for CQ-M, the FOC QSO Party or the Volta RTTY contest.

To add insult to injury, the damned grass is growing ever taller while the forecast indicates no hope for abatement of the rain for a few more days.

This is definitely a weekend I could do without.

On another note, I’m hoping [and planning] to get a decent ground system in, the generator tied into the AC mains, and some lightning protection for my antennas so that I don’t have to take every damned antenna down when there is a threat of a storm. Of course, nothing can guarantee protection from direct lightning strikes, but as it stands right now I have no protection and have to take all sorts of precautionary measures in the event of storms. That’s really a buzzkill for ham radio. A lot of ham radio ops couldn’t care less about lightning strikes, but I’m not one of them. It makes no difference if I have $1000 or $100,000 worth of equipment, and it makes no difference if insurance would cover a strike or not. The bottom line is that lightning is an extreme nuisance, at minimum, and a killer if you’re unlucky. I prefer not to take any chances.

Written by Mike

May 14th, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Modeling my 80m wire using EZNEC

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I’ve played around with EZNEC briefly before, but not enough to have really learned anything useful. But, yesterday I decided I’d install it again and attempt to do some really basic modelling of my current primary antenna.

A few things of note:

  1. Primary antenna is a 105′ long inverted V with the apex at 37′ and the ends at 0′. Yes, you read that correctly — ends at 0′. There is an approximately 39′ section of 450-ohm ladderline feeding this, which then runs into a DX Engineering 4:1 current balun and then into my LDG AT100Pro tuner. The center support is at ground level of the basement of our ranch home. The antenna wires are parallel with the back of the house and are approximately 13′ from the back of the house. The length of this wire is oriented nearly N-S (about 10-12 degrees W of N. Broadside would be nearly E-W (about 10-12 degrees S of W
  2. Secondary antenna is an Alpha Delta DX-EE, which is a shortened [using a coil] 40m dipole with separate parallel dipoles for 15 and 10m. This is about 11′ off the ground on one end and 35′ off the ground at the other end, with a slight droop in the middle due to having no center support and the weight of the LMR400 that is attached to it. This ends of this dipole are oriented NW-SE. Broadside to this antenna would be SW-NE.

My first antenna was the DX-EE. It worked well enough for being so low, but only on 20m through 10m. It would tune on 80m but lacked any efficiency. It tuned fine on 40m, but it’s shortened and really didn’t perform like I wanted it to. Because I primarily like domestic contests, I wanted/needed to have 40m/80m performance. That is why I decided to put up the Vee.

Obviously these are both compromise antennas because they are shortened antennas for the lowest bands I want to use them on. Besides, they are way to low to the ground.

At any rate, when I got the 80m wire up I was pleasantly surprised at the performance. I was having great fun in the domestic contests and considered this antenna to be a great success. I was hearing and working stations very well that I couldn’t even hear on the DX-EE. Life was good.

I then participated in the ARRL International DX contest this year (CW) and realized how poor even this antenna is for non-domestic contests. So far I haven’t found a way to really improve upon that as far as antenna design / height goes. But I decided to do some modeling in EZNEC of the basic 80m Vee itself, as it is erected in my yard.

What I saw in EZNEC shed some serious light on things.

3.525 Mhz 3D plot with ends at 0′. Mostly omnidirectional with some favorability in the direction parallel to the dipole.

3.525 Mhz 2D plot with the ends at 0′. Max gain -0.5 dbi (-2.65 dbd).

3.525 Mhz 3D plot with the ends at 8′. Omnidirectional.

3.525 Mhz 2D plot with the ends at 8′. Max gain 5.07 dbi (2.92 dbd).

Lifting the ends off of the ground 8′ results in not only a more omnidirectional pattern but a remarkable improvement in maximum gain to 5.07 dbi (2.92 dbd).

Certainly this reveals that what the experts tell you is true — GET THOSE ENDS OFF OF THE GROUND! In my case, it looks like I would gain 5.5 db by simply elevating the ends of the dipole. This has to be the cheapest and easiest 5 db that I’d ever gain.

Similar remarkable results can be seen on the 40m (7.025 Mhz) plots for this same antenna, visible below.

7.025 Mhz 3D plot with ends at 0′. Pattern fairly omnidirectional but favors 45 degrees broadside to the wire.

7.025 Mhz 2D plot with ends at 0′. Max gain -0.11 dbi (-2.26 dbd).

7.025 Mhz 3D plot with ends at 8′. Omnidirectional pattern.

7.025 Mhz 2D plot with ends at 8′. Max gain 5.97 dbi (3.82 dbd).

NAQP RTTY contest is this weekend. I’m hoping to get the ends elevated up off the ground before the end of the day today.

Written by Mike

February 25th, 2011 at 11:57 am

Posted in Antennas,Posts

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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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