AA8IA Amateur Radio

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Field Day 2012 – A Hit!


OK. So I worked FD from home as a class D station. Nothing new there. What was different is that I didn’t have a station set up at all prior to 1600z Saturday. We’ve been having a bit of work down here at the house, and as such all of my antennas were down. To add insult to injury, I didn’t have my Yaesu FT-950. (The 950 isn’t back in my hands yet)

I threw up a dipole, pulled my FT-100 out of storage and got computer control working. I had the capability to run QRP for as long as I wanted, or HP for a much shorter period of time, a battery / solar panel combination. The battery was already charged [via the solar panel]. I could have set up on my back porch and used paper logging. In my eyes, this would have been a bonafide portable operation and I could have gotten extra points per Q and been in a more favorable class, being able to work all stations. But, I wasn’t about to go through the extra hassle [and discomfort] to do this only to find out later that the ARRL didn’t agree with my “portable” operation. So I decided to go 1D instead. The upside, of course, is that I had all the creature comforts such as computer control/logging, central air, high def, etc.

I was on the air just shy of three hours total, in three sittings [twice on Saturday, once on Sunday]. I stopped at 100 Qs, well 101 Qs. Sunday is the normal family gathering day and we had some yardwork and normal summertime activities going on. On Saturday, I meant to start at 1800z but had taken a Vicodin about an hour before and [for the first time] got very sleepy. So I napped two hours before starting.

Because I hadn’t used the FT-100 in so long, it took some time to get used to the menu system again. But it worked just fine. I didn’t bother to check 10m. I may have worked a couple people on 15m, but I don’t remember. I worked 20m in the first setting. The second and third sittings I stayed on 40m. 40m was packed, all day and all night, both days. There was tons of activity.

I really hadn’t planned on working FD because I didn’t have the FT-950 and because I didn’t have any antenna up. It was at the last minute that I got motivated. Too bad. I could have easily bested any previous FD QSO tally. Despite the poor 10/15 propagation, it seemed as though there were many more stations on the air for FD this year.

I had a really enjoyable, relaxing time. No stress trying to get a particular number of QSOs. No worry about having an aching back and being nearly crippled for a day from having to sit in the chair for 18+ hours. It was a great experience this time around.

With that said, in retrospect I wish I would have put in at least 12 hours. I wish I would have played all of Saturday and into Sunday morning.

Incidentally — I think there are a number of douchebags out there falsely claiming 1E. Seriously, single op, one transmitter, from home, non-QRP, and they are going on generator power for 12-24 hours? I doubt it. The 1E class is BS because 99% of time you have to take the station at their word that they are actually using emergency power. I truly believe that most of the time they simply enter E class so they can work all stations and so they don’t have to compete against as many people. But I’m fairly certain most of em are sitting at home using AC power. Really, hams in general aren’t any more trustworthy than the average person — and the average person is rarely trustworthy these days.

If ya ask me, for home stations you shouldn’t get penalized by not being allowed to work other D stations. In my case, I set up everything at the last minute. Nothing about my setup was permanent, except that I used AC power. If i knew for sure that I could claim portable operation, I definitely would have ran QRP off the battery and logged by paper. As for setup, I did just what most do on FD (and what many don’t do on FD) — I set everything up from scratch. Also, there shouldn’t be an E class because people can’t be trusted enough to only claim it if they are using emergency power.

I’m done bitching. After all, you can’t change an unethical operator. All you can do is be legitimate yourself when you’re working a contest.

I had a fun. Hope to work some more folks next year.

Written by Mike

June 25th, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Contesting,Field Day,FT-100

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IARU HF Championship 2011 Summary


ARRL Diamond Logo
First off, to all of the ops that worked me, especially those who worked me on multiple bands and modes and who also let me know when they were active on another band so I could work them. It was a pleasure to work you all.

As far as I’m concerned, band conditions were lousy. I invested a lot of time and energy into this contest. I certainly wish I could have worked more DX, but I did manage more time in the chair and was able to increase my raw score by a factor of 3.2 over last year and increase my mults by a factory of 1.6. Although some of my score increase is related to more operating time, it is due more to better preparation and learning from all of the other contests in which I’ve participated over the past year. I still have a long way to go.

I decided to use spotting this time. In long contests i get bored. It’s nice to see a populated bandmap in N1MM. Don’t get me wrong, I do take advantage of the spots from time to time, but I don’t use it to chase mults. I never purposefully QSY to a mult frequency, except if a station requests that I do [see below]. Instead, I use the spotting to fill the bandmap in order to make me aware of stations I should be or may be hearing as I move up and down the band. I’m quite certain that my use of spotting did not significantly increase my QSO count or mults, but it did make things more enjoyable.

In their infinite wisdom, the ARRL folks responsible for setting rules have failed miserably in this one — There is no Single-Op Assisted category! Thus, if you want to use spotting assistance, you must enter the Multi-Op Single-Transmitter (MS) category.

  • 4.1. Single Operator
  • 4.1.3. Use of spotting nets, packet, or multi-channel decoders (such as CW Skimmer) is not permitted. Single-operator stations that use spotting nets, packet or multi-channel decoders will be reclassified to the Multi-operator, Single Transmitter category.

I don’t have a problem at all with there being category separators for Assisted and Unassisted. I do have a problem with being punished by being forced into a category intended for the “big guns” when I’m not a big gun by any stretch of the imagination. I neither have a big gun station nor the contesting skills of a big gun.

  • 4.2. Multi Operator, Single Transmitter, Mixed Mode only
  • 4.2.1. Must remain on a band and mode for at least 10 minutes before changing bands or modes.
  • 4.2.4. Violation of the band change rules will reclassify the entry as a checklog.

This means that if a station wants you to QSY to another band to work them, you have to be sure that you’ve already spent at least ten minutes on the first band and that you spend at least ten minutes on the second band before returning back to the first one.

This happened to me at least once, when I worked NU1AW/5 on 15m CW and then QSY’d immediately to 20m to work them. This didn’t break me, but what happened next did…

QSO: 15m CW 2011-07-09 1352 AA8IA NU1AW/5
QSO: 20m CW 2011-07-09 1353 AA8IA NU1AW/5
QSO: 15m CW 2011-07-09 1400 AA8IA WT9U
QSO: 15m CW 2011-07-09 1402 AA8IA W9OA
QSO: 20m CW 2011-07-09 1403 AA8IA NS9I

As you can see, I was on 15m [and had been for some time], worked NU1AW/5, and then switched to 20m to work NU1AW/5 again. No harm, no foul. But, after I worked them, I instantly went back to 15m. Even worse, after I went back to 15m but barely spent ten minutes there. So, quite possibly the QSY from 15m to 20m at 1402-1403Z would be considered a violation of the band change rule even if the QSY from 20m to 15m after 1353z hadn’t been.

It was a real buzzkill moment when I realized I had done this at least once, possibly more. I never have intentions of running Multi-Op Single Transmitter, but I realized that if I wanted to be honest I needed to get out of the Single-Op category if I was going to use spotting. I really didn’t pay close attention to the Multi-Op rules. I was aware that there was a band change rule, but it just didn’t stick in my head during the contest.

At any rate, not only were the band conditions poor compared to last year, but I was forced into the Multi-Op Single Transmitter category simply because I wanted to use spotting and then was finally forced out of competition by a band change rule that should never have applied to me in the first place.

What the hell? I’ve got a parallel dipole up 20′, an inverted-V doublet up 38′ at the apex, and I don’t use an amp. How the hell is there justice in adding additional insult to a “little pistol” station by forcing them into a “big gun” category?

I have absolutely no desire to turn in a log, but I will because logs are needed not only to verify my QSOs but to verify the QSOs of those I worked. So I’ll be a good little boy and turn one in. Then I’ll wait patiently for the royal spanking that the ARRL will give me. I’m not sure how they will notify me. I guess I’ll just have to learn of my fate once the 2011 official scores are made available and I’m not listed [indicating a checklog].

Just so we’re clear here, I have no problem with the Multi-Op rules, and I also have no problem with people using assistance having to be in a separate category from those who don’t. The problem I have is that there is no Single-Op Assisted category.

A Single-Op Assisted category is even more important because there are those who won’t submit a Multi-Op Single Transmitter entry when they use spotting. They’ll simply fly under the radar. After all, if you use spotting but you never personally spot somebody and your logs don’t reflect that you’ve jumped around the band specifically working spotted multipliers, you can easily cheat by using assistance in Single-Op. Without a Single-Op Assisted category, there will be those people who can’t bring themselves to submit as an MS entry. Had their been an SO(A) category, they’d be more likely to submit in that category rather than cheat.

IARU HF World Championship
1200Z July 9 to 1200Z July 10, 2011

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

Class: M/S LP
QTH: Toronto, OH EN90QL
Operating Time (hrs): 17:07

Band CW Qs Ph Qs Zones HQ Mults
80: 73 1 9 4
40: 127 37 16 19
20: 199 48 23 32
15: 71 10 11 13
10: 30 1 5 4
Total: 500 97 64 72 Total Score = 203,048

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Written by Mike

July 11th, 2011 at 12:07 am

ARRL VHF QSO Party 2011 Summary

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ARRL Diamond Logo
Equipment used this year included the Yaesu FT-950 for 6m and the Yaesu FT-100 for 2m/440; a Par Electronics Stressed Moxon for 6m and a Diamond X300 dual-band vertical for 2m/440. I didn’t really plan nor expect any activity on 2m given that I was running a vertical and there wasn’t a whole lot of local activity. As it turns out, an additional factor in low VHF activity was the fact that 6m was open somewhere all weekend. I don’t remember what it was like last year, but I’m guessing conditions were better this year on 6m. Anyway, it’s obvious by the contest scores of others that a large majority played on 6m for the whole contest period.

I am never any good at recapping what happened during the contest. My mind is a blur after it’s all over. Notable was a nice West Coast opening, PJ2/K8LEE and T48K, and Florida/Texas very strong, all on Saturday evening. The better band conditions along with the Moxon this year (instead of a 40m wire) made for much more fun. Of course, I had to make about 30 trips out to the mast to turn it during the contest. After 6m died down Saturday night I swapped out the Moxon for the Diamond vertical and attempted to find something on 2m/440. I managed a few EN90/FN00 contacts as well as K2LIM on 2m. Heard nothing on 440, but I didn’t expect to and didn’t even try.

Sunday morning I turned the Moxon to FM/FN grids and got and handful or two of grids/contacts. It was great to manage a few contacts in that direction — as it turns out, some of my fellow MRRCers up north weren’t as fortunate into FM/FN. There was a lesser opening to the West Coast on Sunday — Seemed to be a much narrower section of stations available out West. Activity from the south was very poor compared to Saturday. The Heartland of America was out in force on Sunday though. I bet if you look at some of the scores from W0 you’ll see some really nice QSO counts.

Managed to work some locals / some MRRC guys, such as K8MR, N8VV, K1LT , K8MFO, and K8WFN. Worked quite a few other Ohio and MI stations that I had never heard from before this contest.

Had a lot of fun, but I’ll never bother with 2m/440 in a contest again until I have some directional gain antennas up and a rotator.

June 11-12, 2011

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

Class: Single Op LP
QTH: EN90QL East ohio
Operating Time (hrs): 13:16

Band QSOs Mults
6: 172 91
2: 4 3
Total: 176 94 Total Score = 16,544

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Written by Mike

June 13th, 2011 at 11:20 pm

Posted in Contesting,QSO Parties

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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

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

Posted in Contesting

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ARRL SS CW 2010 Summary


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

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 Field Day 2010

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FD this year was great. Of course, I operated 1D from home. Ideally I would have been at some FD operation, but it wasn’t in the cards.

6m had some activity, but it didn’t appear to be nearly as “open” to Ohio as it was during the June VHF contest. Or, maybe less people were prepared/planning to operate on 6m.

10m was alright, but not spectacular. In the past month I have seen much better openings on 10m.

15m was just awesome from my perspective. I made a lot of contacts on 15m/20m CW and more SSB contacts on 15m than I have made at any other time since I obtained my ticket in 1991. 15m is my fav band, when it’s open.

I didn’t even attempt to make a digital contact. Dummy me. Although, there were so many CW stations that I wouldn’t have wanted to give up the time on CW to play on the digital modes.

My summary is below…

ARRL Field Day

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

Class: 1D LP
QTH: Toronto Ohio
Operating Time (hrs): 18

Band CW Qs Ph Qs Dig Qs
80: 22 2
40: 64
20: 97 8
15: 73 45
10: 26 18
Total: 282 73 0 Total Score = 1,274

Club: Mad River Radio Club


More fun than I’ve had in a long time. I’m beat…no stamina whatsoever.
Great conditions from my perspective. Thanks to all the stations that worked

Written by Mike

June 28th, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Posted in Contesting,Field Day

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