June 11, 2008Editor: Ward Silver, NØAX
NEW HF OPERATORS - THINGS TO DO
Now that you know about HF operating, why not take what you've learned back to the VHF+ "weak signal" band segments and have some fun with the summer's VHF+ operating events! The Kid's Day event is a great way to introduce HF operating to your younger hamabees, too!
ARRL Contest Branch Manager, Sean KX9X, has been busy testing the Contest robot in preparation for the ARRL June VHF QSO Party this weekend. Of particular importance is to make sure Cabrillo headers will properly categorize the new Rover categories. The new Rover rules and categories were ratified less than a week before the 2008 ARRL January VHF Sweepstakes, so the June VHF QSO Party will be the first time the Robot will be able to automatically separate the three Rover categories that are now in play. Look for Sean's "how to" article on getting your Rover log category on the ARRL Contest Branch blog. Sean will activate W1HQ on a part-time basis in this weekend's June VHF
Rules follow Commentary section
NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, AND GENERAL INTEREST
"It continues to be dead." Donald W5VXF was the first to send a link to a widely distributed story about the dearth of sunspots. One of the scientists was quoted as saying that "it was a very small concern," but that scientist is obviously not a 10 meter operator.
Fred Hopengarten K1VR's popular and useful book, "Antenna Zoning for the Radio Amateur", now has a 72-page downloadable errata and addenda in PDF format. You might also want to read Fred's May 2007 QST article, "PRB-1 and CC&Rs -- What Should I Do Now?".
Bencher has announced a new version of the Skylark Yagi antenna for 17 and 12 meters. Free-space forward gain is nearly 8 dBi and front-to-back ratio is between 21 and 24 dB. The compact antenna weighs 38 pounds and has a 16-foot boom, so it will fit on most any tower-rotator combination. Complete information has yet to be posted on the Web site, but the antenna is available. (Thanks, Bob W9KNI)
Jim AD1C's set of Country (CTY) files were updated on 2 June. This is a particularly important release as it is the first with a new file format. Starting with this release, a '=' character will prefix full call signs in CTY.DAT, CTY_WT.DAT, CTY_WT_MOD.DAT and WL_CTY.DAT. This change was necessary to differentiate a full callsign like K7A in Alaska from the prefix K7A (i.e. K7ABC should still be counted as the United States, not Alaska).
George K5TR sent a link to an article about chess that should sound a very familiar theme to anyone that has been following the discussion about Skimmers and other forms of signal decoding in contests. This quote could be applied to chess or contesting, "Use your computer as your slave, to do the annoying stuff, don't let it get away with the fun stuff!" So which is annoying and which is fun?
Shall we consider another parallel universe? Doug K1DG sees some similarities between this tale of early endurance bicycle racing and modern DX contesting. How about you?
Comparisons of several popular contest logging programs was the theme of the Northern California Contest Club's May 12th meeting. You can download the complete set of program slides thanks to the five authors. Scroll past "Next Meeting" to find programs from many previous meetings. (Thanks, Bob N6TV)
The Microlog logging program, written by Jerry WA0H, now supports Field Day and can be downloaded from his Web site.
From the June issue of the Potomac Valley Radio Club newsletter, "I think that there is a transition occurring with many hamfests now from flea markets to more social events. The hamfests that will survive are the ones that bring hams of common interests together more for fellowship and education (Visalia, Dayton, SEDCO, etc.). The big flea markets are going away as EBay and internet classifieds make them obsolete. I personally go to Dayton to see old and new friends and to put faces to call signs. Mission accomplished...Will AA4NC"
Major Edwin Armstrong is a famous name as any in radio and while most of his legacy is now in circuitry, the Alpine Tower that he constructed across the Hudson River from New York City still stands. In the lobby of the facility, you can view Armstrong's original control room equipment. (Thanks, Hal W4HBM)
Do you know how to report severe weather? The telephone number for the National Severe Weather Reporting Hotline is 877-633-6772. The National Weather Service encourages us all to report severe weather whenever encountered.
Downloadable toolbars for Web browsers have become quite popular and there's one for ham radio, too. This is a set of information sources that hams will definitely find useful. (Thanks, Jerry K8RA)
NASA has announced the winners of a competition for its NASA's Small Explorer (SMEX) Program and one of them is a solar experiment. The Coronal Physics Explorer (CPEX) will study the solar wind and coronal mass ejections, two topics of importance to the HF and VHF operator.
URL of the Week - If you're planning any contest travel for upcoming years, you may be wondering just what the dates of those far-off contests might be. For contests with a predictable dates - such as "first weekend" or "last full weekend" - Bruce WA7BNM's perpetual contest calendar might be just the ticket, so to speak. (Thanks, Clay K7HC)
WORD TO THE WISE
Penalty - In radiosporting, a penalty is often assessed when a logged contact is found to contain an incorrect ("busted") call sign or exchange information. The penalty usually consists of the loss of the QSO (including any multipliers) and some additional QSO points. The sponsor is not making an accusation that intentional deception (i.e. - cheating) was attempted, but simply recognizing the error, much as offsides in football results in a 5-yard penalty instead of just repeating the play.
Tom, K8CX has finished loading the 2008 photos taken at the Dayton Hamvention. This is the 12th year in a row that Tom has posted his Dayton photos. (Thanks, Tim K3LR)
Many Hamvention photos were posted by the Dayton Daily News. More than 100 photos of various hamfest activities are available!
The FCC Forum at the Dayton Hamvention always attracts a crowd. If you couldn't make it this year, you can still listen in as the FCC tag team of Hollingsworth and Cross regale the crowd. (Thanks, Ken K0PP)
Bob McGwier's 2008 Dayton Hamvention AMSAT Engineering update is on-line. Amateur radio does involve some pretty amazing technology!
A reminder that the slides from the 2008 Dayton Antenna and Contest Fora are available to download. Click the "Dayton 2008" button. Doug KR2Q's presentation on the classic Multi-Multi stations is priceless! Thanks to K5TR and N5KO for providing the storage. (Thanks, Tim K3LR)
SM0W is a familiar call to HF contesters. Teemu's SM0W Web site has a lot of excellent photos and technical material to keep the reader busy for a long time. Stop by and say, "Hej!"
Guy N7ZG was one of the team at 6Y1V for CQ WPX CW and he's posted a number of photos online. This is where the big signal comes from!
Thanks to Jim K1IR, you can listen to some electro-pop ditties, such as "Measurement Blues" and "Electrical Heros" by Marty Rowe of Test and Measurement Magazine. All of Marty's makin's are discussed in the story "A song for the often unsung heros".
RESULTS AND RECORDS
2007 ARRL 10 Meter Contest results are now available on the Web. The complete set of records for the contest have also been updated for both US/VE and DX stations. You can see what new records were set last year by searching for "2007". (Thanks, Ken WM5R)
The Claimed Scores for the June VHF+ QSO Party will include the category of the submitted log. This is important because there are three Rover categories this year (Rover, Rover-Limited, and Rover-Unlimited). Be SURE your log is allocated to the right group! (Thanks, Jon KE3Z)
CQ WW 160 Contest Director, Andy N2NT reports, "I have received numerous notes about logs not showing up on the CQ 160 Logs-Received Web page for the CQ 160 contest. It seems the SSB contest was most affected, probably due to a change in servers around log submission time. Please check the following link and confirm your log is there. If not, please re-submit it." While you're there, check out the updated contest Web page!
The 2008 GQP scores are now available. Mike NE4S reports that participation set a record this year. Gordon K4OD, has prepared a write up with many details of the current and prior contests. (Thanks, John K4BAI)
Curt K9AKS reports that a table has been published of all-time high scores by region for rovers in the CQ VHF Contest. This took some serious digging and data mining by W1XX, K9JK, and N0DQS. Thanks, guys!
Take a look at CQ WPX CW Soapbox comments received via post-contest reports to the 3830 Web site. (Thanks, Dink N7WA)
Set up some filters on your spotting network cluster of choice to reduce the volume and increase the workability of spots. For example, here on the West Coast, there is not much point in seeing a blizzard of EU spots from New England when the bands are hours away from opening in that direction. The syntax for filters is explained by the help functions on the host system.
TECHNICAL TIPS AND INFORMATION
Recent Towertalk reflector traffic contained a good question - how does one move a heavy crank-up or tilt-up tower when it's horizontal on the ground without using a crane or boom truck? Advice was soon forthcoming. Rich K2XT recalled that he moved a similar tower by using a number of 3-4" diameter pipes as rollers. Placing sections of lattice tower under the tower to be moved as skids also works, according to Pete K4OM, although this might scuff up their galvanizing. Add a couple of friends to either of these methods and your tower will soon be in its new home!
Karl-Arne SM0AOM posted links to two very good Mini-Circuits application notes; "How RF Transformers Work" and "Balun Transformers". The former goes into detail about the fundamentals of RF transformers. The latter presents three types of balun and discusses their limitations and construction considerations. You might want to bookmark the Mini-Circuits Application Notes Web page for general reference.
Don't you wish you had one of these neat automagic coaxial cable trimmers on your workbench? It sure makes short work of whatever you stick into it's maw! I don't even want to know how much it costs. Now to work on the PL-259 soldering machine! (Thanks, Tom N6AJR)
The June issue of Nuts and Volts magazine has four articles of interest to hams. The first is a PIC-controlled toaster oven temperature controller for SMD soldering work. It uses a PIC16F88 chip to set and monitor solder paste reflow parameters and is available from sparkfun.com. You may have seen those ads in the back of magazines for fast-turnaround PC boards? A second article is a tutorial on using the free Express PCB software to lay out printed circuit boards. The two final articles are a primer on switching regulators, including plans to design your own, and revving up a test bench Variac with voltage and current monitoring. (Thanks, Stew W5FYI)
The ARRL Web ran a good article on inverter generators that supplements the June QST article by Kirk NT0Z. Follow the hyperlink to learn more about how those amazing little sewing-machine-sized devices work!
Another tidbit from the June issue of the Potomac Valley Radio Club newsletter comes from tower-climber Don K4ZA, "I've long supported the idea of having a feed line running to the feed point that ends at the boom to mast plate. It solves several problems. One, perhaps you're using something like LDF-5-50 to feed the antenna, so you'll need a jumper anyway. Two, you need a rotation loop. Three, should you ever need or want to check the antenna (the driven element's probably out of reach, huh?) OR the feed line needs to be checked, this short run of flexible cable makes that an easy task (I like to use BuryFlex for this jumper myself). The main argument against it is always waterproofing, but I am convinced I solved that issue long ago. Being able to insert an SWR meter or a dummy load right there is invaluable."
Bob N6TV has published a simple online presentation describing one way to add a Software Defined Radio to an existing SO2R station. If you would like to give the Skimmer or other outboard DSP gadgets a try, here's a way to get started.
The April 2008 issue of IEEE Communications takes the theme of "RF Spectrum Management Using Cognitive Radio". It makes for interesting reading, especially since so much of cognitive radio sounds like good old day-to-day non-channelized ham radio.
When using a double-line tram to raise a big antenna, you can keep tension equal on both lines by using an "evener" - a bar with one tram line connected on each end and a pivot point in the middle hooked to the anchor point with a come-along and clevis. The attach points for the tram lines much be equal distances from the pivot point. The tension on the come-along will be twice the tension of either tram line or rephrased, the tension of each tram line will be half the tension on the come along. This was originally developed to equalize the load on two horses pulling a wagon! (Thanks, Roger K8RI)
"An introduction to the air cored coil" is a Web page with formulas for calculating the inductance of air-core coils, both single- and multi-layer. There's a pretty good discussion of the theory behind those formulas, as well. Ralph K8RYU points out that if confronted with a coil of unknown inductance, wire a capacitor in parallel or series with the coil and use a "dip" meter to find the resonant frequency and, thus, the inductance. (Thanks, Pat AA6EG)
TECHNICAL URL OF THE WEEK - We all know about ham radio contests, but what about software programming contests? Tom K1KI sent a link to an article in Dr Dobbs Journal about competitions in a milieu not so very far away from those on the airwaves.
Here's some counter-intuitive advice: When the MUF drops, tune higher in frequency! Huh? Has the lack of sunspots finally gotten to your editor? Well, kind of, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the exciting conditions on 6 meters lately.
Towards the end of May, the spotting network began to occasionally come alive with 50 MHz spots. As I was operating on 15 meters at W7RN in Nevada during WPX CW on the morning of May 24th, I noticed that 50 MHz seemed to be a hot bed of activity. The rate was pretty slow - what would it hurt to try 10? Maybe I'd pick up a few QSOs.
Sure enough, there were a handful of loud signals CQ-ing away. The most interesting thing was that two were from the 9 and 0 districts. I'd expected to maybe hear a 5 or two and maybe a 4, but hearing the more northerly stations at that strength was unexpected! I quickly found a clear frequency (no problem on 10 meters) near one of the CQ-ers and soon was making QSOs at a rate at least double that of 15 meters!
This was not just a freak occurrence as the contacts just kept coming in and I stayed on 10 for a couple of hours. The other station (we were a multi-two entry) jumped to 15 from 20 meters, but the band was still flat. 10 was amazingly open, with stations calling in from VE3 and W1, and with a solar flux of about 67, too.
Clearly, this was a persistent sporadic-E opening (is that an oxymoron) of a quality I hadn't experienced before. 21 MHz was just too high for regular F-layer skip, but the ionized clouds that support E-skip were out in force. The phenomenon repeated on Sunday, although there were fewer new stations to work.
This summer looks to be great for sporadic-E and also a great opportunity to give that 50 MHz VFO setting a try. There are three contests coming up that will focus activity and maximize your chances of stretching your 6 meter abilities. The first is this weekend - the ARRL June VHF QSO Party. The second is Field Day - not a contest, I know - with many groups taking advantage of the "free" VHF+ station to pick up extra points. The third is the CQ WW VHF contest on July 19th and 20th - a 6 meter/2 meter party.
Take some time to bone up on where the 6 meter calling frequencies are located. Read your rig's manual about 6 meter operation. Whip up a simple antenna, such as a 2-element quad or yagi. Even a dipole will work well when the band is hot - I've worked W1 from Seattle with a piece of wire nearly laying on my deck! Then read up on sporadic-E in any number of references. Your local VHF contest club's Web site and email reflectors are probably the best source of applicable information. Oh, and look up your grid square and even the 6-digit grid locator - they'll come in handy!
11 June through 24 June 2008
Note that the following abbreviations are used to condense the contest rules summaries: SO - Single-Op; M2 - Multi-Op - 2 Transmitters; MO - Multi-Op; MS - Multi-Op, Single Transmitter; MM - Multi-Op, Multiple Transmitters; AB - All Band; SB - Single Band; S/P/C - State/Province/DXCC Entity; HP - High Power (>100 W); LP - Low Power; QRP (5W or less)
An expanded, downloadable version of QST's Contest Corral in PDF format is available at <http://www.arrl.org/contest>. Check the sponsor's Web site for information on operating time restrictions and other instructions.
ANARTS WW RTTY, Digital, from 14 Jun 0000Z to 15 Jun 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RST, UTC time, CQ zone. Logs due: 1 Sep. Web site: http://www.anarts.com.au
Portugal Day, Phone, from 14 Jun 0000Z to 14 Jun 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RS, serial or CT district or region. Logs due: 1 Sep. Web site: http://www.rep.pt/pdf/contest_portugalday.pdf
GACW WWSA CW DX Contest, CW, from 14 Jun 1500Z to 15 Jun 1500Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RST, CQ zone. Logs due: 30 Jul. Web site: http://gacw.no-ip.org
West Virginia QSO Party, Phone/CW, from 14 Jun 1600Z to 15 Jun 0200Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28, CW--35 kHz from band edge, Phone--General segments. Exchange: RS(T), WV county or S/P/C. Logs due: 20 Jul. Web site: http://www.qsl.net/wvsarc
Digital Pentathlon - MFSK, Digital, from 13 Jun 1800Z to 13 Jun 2200Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: Serial, 6-digit grid locator, power. Logs due: 30 Jul. Web site: http://dqso.net/start.html
Asia-Pacific Sprint, Phone, from 15 Jun 1100Z to 15 Jun 1300Z. Bands (MHz): 14-21. Exchange: RST, serial. Logs due: 7 days. Web site: http://jsfc.org/apsprint/aprule.txt
Spanish Islands Contest, Phone/CW/Digital, from 15 Jun 0600Z to 15 Jun 1200Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RS(T), DIE number or serial. Logs due: 60 days. Web site: http://www.ea5ol.net/die
All-Asian DX Contest, CW, from 21 Jun 0000Z to 22 Jun 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RST, operator age (YL may send 00). Logs due: 31 Jul. Web site: http://www.jarl.or.jp/English
Digital Pentathlon - Olivia, Digital, from 20 Jun 1800Z to 20 Jun 2200Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: Serial, 6-digit grid locator, power. Logs due: 30 Jul. Web site: http://dqso.net/start.html
Kid's Day, Phone, from 21 Jun 1800Z to 21 Jun 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: Name, age, location, favorite color. Web site: http://www.arrl.org/FandES/ead/kd-rules.html
50th Anniversary Honduras Radio Club, Phone, from 22 Jun 0000Z to 22 Jun 2359Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-7. Exchange: RS, serial. Logs due: 15 Jul. Web site: http://www.hr2rch.org
ARRL June VHF QSO Party, Phone/CW, from 14 Jun 1800Z to 16 Jun 0300Z. Bands (MHz): 50+. Exchange: grid square. Logs due: 15 Jul. Web site: http://www.arrl.org/contests
SMIRK QSO Party, Phone/CW, from 21 Jun 0000Z to 22 Jun 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 50. Exchange: SMIRK number, grid square. Logs due: 1 Aug. Web site: http://www.smirk.org
LOG DUE DATES
11 June through 24 June 2008
June 16 - VK/Trans-Tasman 80m Contest, CW, email logs to: VK: email@example.com, ZL: firstname.lastname@example.org. Paper logs and diskettes to: VK: VK/trans-Tasman Contest, 28 Crampton Crescent, Rosanna, VIC 3084, Australia and ZL:, VK/trans-Tasman Contest, PO Box 21-363, Christchurch 8143, New Zealand. Rules