November 26, 2008Editor: Ward Silver, NØAX
IN THIS ISSUE
NEW HF OPERATORS - THINGS TO DO
Looking at the list of contests, it will be a quiet week in Lake Phone-a-gon - all of the contests are either CW or RTTY events. If you want to brush up on your code speed, this is a jam-packed two weekends for you! If you'd rather pass the time of day by voice, the phone bands should take on a leisurely aspect for the coming two Saturdays and Sundays.
After nearly seven years, the Rate Sheet now-Contest Update newsletter cracked the red-black-orange barrier (20 k) with 20,122 copies of the 12 November issue reported as having been emailed to hopefully-happy subscribers! Thanks to all of the readers that contribute tips, tricks, and tidbits that make this a pretty enjoyable editorial task every two weeks!
Correcting my mis-explanation of the term, John K4BAI writes "Precedence in messages refers to exactly that, Routine, Priority, Emergency, etc. The equivalent to Return Receipt Requested is Handling Instructions such as HXC, HXF, etc developed after the current SS exchange was adopted and thus are not reflected in the SS exchange." (Thanks, John K4BAI)
Unfortunately, the QRP reflector archives are open to reflector list members only - apologies. (Thanks, Kirk K4RO and George K5TR)
Rules follow Commentary section
NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, AND GENERAL INTEREST
The ARRL VHF/UHF Advisory Committee (VUAC) is discussing three issues:
VHF+ contesters should contact their VUAC representative with input on these topics. (Thanks, Jim W7DHC, NW Division VUAC Representative)
CQ Communications, Inc has acquired WorldRadio magazine. CQ, based in Hicksville, New York, currently publishes CQ Amateur Radio, CQ VHF and Popular Communications magazines. WorldRadio had been published monthly since July, 1971 with a primary focus on the human side of ham radio. CQ, a general-interest ham radio magazine best known for its support of DXing and contesting, has been in print since January, 1945. Current plans call for WorldRadio to continue to be published online as part of the CQ family of magazines, with Editor Nancy Kott, WZ8C, continuing in that position. WorldRadio subscribers will also have their subscriptions transferred to CQ magazine.
And more from CQ - Ed Muns, W0YK, of Los Gatos,California, has been named Director of CQ magazine's popular radioteletype (RTTY) contests, CQ WW RTTY in September and CQ WPX RTTY in February. Muns succeeds Glenn Vinson, W6OTC, who has been CQ's RTTY Contest Director since 2000, and who guided the events to their current levels of popularity. The number of logs submitted for the RTTY DX contest has tripled in the past eight years, despite declining sunspots
In the last issue, W1MX's Sweepstakes check of "09" was projected to "lap the field" next year as the new 2009 licensees discover radiosport. Steve W3HF points out that the first actual licenses were not issued until 1912, so "a strict interpretation of the Sweepstakes rules would therefore say that the oldest check would be '12'." Checking further (so to speak), Steve found 1MX in the 1916 call book, but listed as "Calley" - MIT came later in the 1922 edition. Stations associated with educational institutions were considered "Special Land Stations" in 1913 and received call sign suffixes beginning with Y. There were ten: 9YI, 8XA, 3ZH, 9XB, 1YH, 9YN, 6YL, 2YN, 3XJ, and 9YC. The station holding its call continuously since the 1913 call book, at least, is present-day W0YI at Iowa State. Then 9YI, the W was likely tacked on in 1928 and the number converted to 0 in 1947 when the tenth district was formed. It would be great to hear some of these seminal calls on the air!
Randy K5ZD's article on sleep deprivation strategy for contests has been republished in the articles section of eham.net. Just in time to fight off that post-turkey drowsiness! (Thanks, Randy K5ZD)
While you're trying to break through the pileups this weekend, why not take a look at the beautiful and majestic antennas at TDP Shortwave Broadcast Antennas? While the prices are a bit out of reach for the average ham, the selection guides and application notes are fun to read. (Thanks, Rich KL7RA)
We have two contesting Silent Keys to report, unfortunately. Dick W7ZR writes to say, "My friend Bob Wruble W7GG and Ai7B QSYed today to a new QTH. I am sure many of you have talked with Bob over the years either in a contest, on the air, or in person. Amateur radio was a major part of his life and he gave quite a bit back to his hobby and his friends. Bob had been dealing with multiple health problems for some time. Our prayers go to Laverna his wife and to the family." Just as that news was sinking in came the very unwelcome word of Frank Hurlbut KL7FH's passing during the Phone Sweepstakes weekend as the result of cerebral injury. Frank was one of the tight-knit KL7 contest community and in the process of building a capable station. Frank's wife Corliss AL1G and son Chris KL9A are also very well-known contesters, with amateur radio running in the family for generations. Both W7GG and KL7FH will be missed as we go through this and future contest seasons without them.
Prodded by Mark K6UFO, I found a workaround for searching the ARRL Contest Soapbox by the station's category of entry. Go to the on-line Searchable Database for the contest and search for all of the stations by their category of entry. If the station call sign is a hyperlink, that means there is a Soapbox entry for that station in the contest. You can easily browse through the Soapbox entries by category that way.
Many of us did a little pre-ham radio DXing on the AM broadcast bands and 50,000-watt WLS in Chicago had one of the biggest and best clear-channel signals. A new illustrated history of the "Big 89" by WLSHistory.com Web site owner Scott Childers W9CHI takes you from it's creation by Sears-Roebuck in the 1920's all the way to the present day. (From QRZ.com on 14 Nov)
A detailed catalogue of the Marconi Archive in the Bodleian Library, Oxford is now available online, featuring images of many of the significant documents described in the catalogue. During the cataloguing process, a number of fascinating items were uncovered, including records relating to Marconi's experimental work in the development of wireless telegraphy from his earliest demonstration in Britain carried out on the roof of the General Post Office in London in 1896, to the achievement of transatlantic wireless communication in 1901 and then to worldwide radio communication. (from QRZ.com on 12 Nov by G4TUT)
At the other end of the temporal yardstick lies this essay by Neil Stephenson on Serious Technology. I'm sure all transmitter-using ham radio operators can appreciate the sentiments expressed here. (Thanks, George K5TR)
Vincent F5SLD announces a new, on-line ham magazine called "Ham-Mag". He requests readers send information, technical content, homebrew project, product support, DX and expedition info, satellite data, etc. The goal is to "share all informations about radio."
Steve KG5VK writes, "It is amazing how many of our fellow hams offer tools that enhance the enjoyment of our hobby. One such tool is K0RC's Excel spreadsheet for contest log analysis. Stating this tool allows log analysis is one heck of an understatement, his Excel work book allows a great deal of data to mined from a log."
VHF+ contesters interested in roving will want to read W9GKA's excellent monograph on the impacts of various changes on VHF+ contesting over the years, including a thorough statistical analysis of various impacts on contest participation. (Thanks, Jim KK6MC)
Contest Club Finland's 40-page PileUP! Is now available for downloading in both Finnish and English. (Thanks, Ilkka OH1WZ)
Very timely for those of us waiting for the start of CQ WW CW - make the pilgrimage to this Encarta quiz. (Thanks, John K1AR)
Web Site of the Week - Jamie NS3T's radiosport.net Web site is packed with articles about the CQ Worldwide CW Contest this weekend. Here are eight new titles:
CT1BOH, YT1AD BID FOR CQ WW CW 2008
All good reading while you're listening to the clock tick away those final minutes to 0000Z on Nov 29th!
WORD TO THE WISE
B4 - so is the station asking "Who's the Bravo Four?" No, they're saying that you had previous contact; Be-Fore. If you check your log and that station's not in it - for whatever reason - just send "NO PSE QSO" and the other station will likely work you again. For those of you on the CQ-ing end of things, it's often not worth taking the time to argue about it, just work the duplicate contact. After all, they make not have your call right or may have been working another station during the first QSO. Send in your electronic log with the duplicates still present. Log checking software (for CQ WW, anyway) will make sure the QSOs are properly credited, without penalty. Check the rules for duplicates in paper logs as those are often handled differently.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
Bob N6TV has discovered a ton of Life magazine images on the Google Images Web site. Searching for "Ham Radio" turned up some real gems. Many are from Field Day in 1946 and a very nice photo from the Sputnik days of 1957. (Thanks, Bob N6TV)
If you'd like to hear what top-level contesting sounds like live, Randy K5ZD will again be streaming live audio from his station during the CQ WW CW contest this coming weekend. He is planning a serious SOAB effort, so there should be something going on most hours. Audio will stream in stereo exactly the same as what I am hearing in the headphones with the left radio on left ear and right radio on right ear. Listening with headphones will give you the true SO2R experience. Note, most of the contest I am listening with both ears on the same radio.
More giant antennas of the North from OH6KN on a tower of more than 100 meters. Jukka says this monster will be in full operation by the summer of 2009 Summer. The installation of loading coils on the 160-meter Yagi will be done by someone who walks out to the elements inside the boom! I'd say OH8X, Radio Arcala ("Arka" means fearful or afraid in Finnish), will be in many logs on many bands.
How many seconds do think the burn shown in this video was found to be "pingable" by the ping jockeys? (Thanks, Bob N6TV)
A short documentary in the PBS "Connections" style, called "The LED", is available on the Make magazine Web site. It begins with some little-known research in the 1920's, through the first practical LED that gave off visible light in 1962, to the modern day LED found everywhere - and poised to tackle the home lighting market at long last. (From Slashdot on 24 Nov 2008)
RESULTS AND RECORDS
Lots of Sweepstakes logs have been received at HQ as of Nov 24th - 1200 CW and 1350 SSB are the round numbers. Look for a spike the prices of brooms! RTTY Roundup certificates are being mailed out, as well. (Thanks, Sean KX9X, ARRL Contest Branch Manager)
If you'd like some help getting your logs uploaded into the ARRL's Logbook of the World, take a look at W3IZ's "Getting Started" instructions. Norm's guide describes each step and even provides graphics of what the screen will look like. Will yours be the 200-millionth QSO entered into the database?
In the ultra-crowded band conditions expected during this weekend's CQ Worldwide CW contest, remember to adjust your receiver's gain to the minimum needed to hear the signals you want to work. Reducing RF gain and adding a little attenuation to the front end can really "clean up" a band by reducing distortion products in the mixers and amplifiers.
TECHNICAL TOPICS AND INFORMATION
All three of these methods keep the antenna DC potential equal to ground. Any static charge picked up from rain, snow, wind is immediately drained to ground.
Depleted battery packs that can't hold a charge can be expensive to replace, and in true ham spirit, are awfully hard to throw away. What to do? Glenn K6NA recommends Batteries Plus, saying, "They rebuild NiCad packs for your HT or cordless drill, cheaper than OEM. The stores have a technician and the battery-contact welder needed."
Larry N6NC reports "a neat little DSP, audio spectrum and waterfall display called SPECTRAN V2 (build 216), by Alberto I2PHD and Vittorio IK2CZL. It provides features such as noise reduction, and adjustable band pass, band reject, and CW peak filters." Look for more coverage of this program in an upcoming issue of the National Contest Journal.
The Microwave Journal online Webinar, "Understanding EMC", is archived from the live Nov 20th session, but can still be accessed online. Conducted by Allen Podell, IEEE Life Fellow, and Patrick Hindle, Technical Editor, Microwave Journal, the seminar introduces techniques for identifying and eliminating the sources of unwanted coupling and radiation. Topics covered include Electromagnetic Compatibility, Coupling and Radiation, Shielding, Grounding, and Bypassing. The Dec 16th Webinar on RF Amplifiers is open for registration, as well.
The pre-formed "Big Grips" used on high-strength metal guy wires are also available for non-metallic Phillystran. (Be sure to order the right ones - the metal and Phillystran grips are not interchangeable!) Bob W3YY has posted step-by-step pictures of their installation on his Web site, posting the pictures in the Projects section under "Phillystran". Roger K8RI notes that installation of the grips is much easier and likely more secure with the Phillystran under tension during installation. You'll also notice that there is a short leg and a long leg in each grip. Steve K7LXC observes that starting the installation process with the short leg makes the process much easier.
Batteries are found all over the ham shack - on the operating desk, in the mobile, and on the belt - so improvements in battery capacity are hot news, like this story from the Physorg.com Web site about Lithium-Ion technology.
Pat F6IRF has written a number of articles comparing the VOACAP "mystique" to actual measurements. For example, he studied the nearly-antipodal path between F and ZL for a three-week period. This kind of analysis can be a big help in understanding what the prediction software is telling its users.
An oldie, but goodie - Dave G0OIL reminds us of the Boat Anchor Manual Archive. One of the most useful sites in ham radio for manuals for way-out-of-production equipment often still pumping out the QSOs in contesting shacks around the world. If you have an equipment manual not in the archives, why not do a good deed and upload it yourself?
Building an unbalanced-to-unbalanced impedance transformer? There are some some unun building instructions along with a lot of other good ham radio know-how on the K0GB Web site. (Thanks, Mark K6UFO)
Having mentioned the synchronizing of one's PC with a reference time source, Dick K6KR notes that "Windows XP and later have an NTP client built in. Right click the time at the bottom right of the screen (presuming your task bar is at the bottom), select "Adjust Date/Time", select the Internet Time tab, and choose an internet time server. The default server, time.windows.com is good enough for me, but you may also select time.nist.gov if you want the official government-maintained time. If you check "automatically synchronize with an Internet time server" the time sync attempt happens weekly. However if the time sync fails, there's no notification, so you might want to do this manually before an event where the time and date really matter, like before a contest. There's more information about time syncing online, as well.
Technical Web Site of the Week - In the last issue a short story noted the need to check out the outlet voltages and wiring for safe levels when expeditionin. Just as important to the testing equipment is the knowing what the voltages should be! You can find that information online in this handy table of ac wiring practices per country. The Wikipedia article on international voltages and frequencies is also quite useful. (Thanks, John VE3EJ and Dave W9VES)
Blessings In Disguise
After 26 years of operating the CQ Worldwide CW contest from stations on three continents, this year I will once again be making my transmissions from the Midwest. Events conspired to scuttle a planned trip to the Caribbean, but undeterred, I've managed to round up the equipment to put together a station, toss an antenna up in the tulip and walnut trees, and start making QSOs.
My expectations were quite modest. Without an island QTH or big stacks of steel and aluminum at a friendly host's big station, perhaps it would be understandable if I was disappointed, but I find myself as excited about operating as can be! The challenge of finding the gear, getting it all in one place, making what needed to be made, and integrating it into a real radio station has been energizing.
First came the radio - a used FT100D - and a power supply. For an antenna, I'd wanted to try a non-resonant doublet for a while, so why not now? The hardware store provided a roll of #14 stranded wire and some PVC plumbing parts for insulators. Open-wire line was ordered and arrived in plenty of time, along with a couple of coax jumpers. The wire was stretched out in the back yard and soon there was a 105-foot doublet ready to be hoisted.
Getting the wire hoisted up to tree-branch level proved...stimulating. Catfish line and a hot pink "super-ball" were conjoined. Line was laid out in a careful zig-zag to prevent snagging and my pitching aim and velocity were put to the test. Tree number one ran the count to 2-and-0 before a high-heat fastball dropped the line over just the right branch. One down, one to go. In the back yard, I had to be extra-careful to make sure the ball and line went nowhere near the power lines running down the alley, but this tree went down swinging on the first pitch. From there it was "simply" a matter of negotiating the wire around lots (and lots) of other little tree branches, gutters, shingles, vent pipes, and the miscellany without number that go mysteriously unnoticed when starting a project like this. Delayed by only minor setbacks, the full doublet in all its majesty was soon straight and true, 35 feet off the ground, feed line a-dangling outside the entry window and it wasn't even dark yet!
But would it work? Changing from a beam and rotator, my expectations, as I said before, were quite modest. I figured that I'd get the doublet to load up on three, maybe four, bands in a useful way and make some QSOs around the states. Hooking the feed line to the tuner, an MFJ-974HB for balanced loads, I had that same feeling as when hooking up a similar dipole to my HW-16 a Long Time Ago. Time for a tune across 40 meters - lots of signals! And lots of switching supply hash from the off-brand power supply. Back to the store for the bigger, linear supply I'd passed over the first time. Ah...that's more like it. Nice and quiet (for an urban location, anyway), with the signals just popping out of the late-afternoon aether!
Next problem to solve - I've decided that I like the problem-solving part of ham radio best - was a keying paddle. Oh sure, RadioShack has straight keys, but I was facing the biggest CW contest of the year and here I was without my trusty Brown Brothers CTL-B that had been my right-hand companion for more than thirty years! Hmmm. Gears spun and pretty soon I was collecting a used hacksaw blade, some wood screws, and scrap wood. You know, you can make a pretty darned good paddle out of that stuff! I started with a single-lever version, but quickly realized that wasn't going to cut the mustard and broke off another piece of hacksaw blade. Voila! The photo shows the result. I call it "The Band Saw" paddle. It's not sold in stores or online, but it certainly can send code with only a little practice. I'll be glad to get back to my CTL-B, but if you hear me on this weekend and it's not my CW Microkeyer doing the job, you'll be listening to N0AX's "singing saw".
And yes, the system plays. Instead of the three bands I expected, I was able to get it to load on every single HF band from 160 through 10. I have CW QSOs logged on the six of the seven that I've heard open and I fully expect to change the Top Band stations from heard to worked. I'm filling out the log pages one after the other. I'm ready to launch the logging software and have a great time this weekend! The happy dance is seen across Radio-Land again.
The blessings in disguise? They are the excitement and enjoyment I re-discovered in building, testing, breaking, fixing, configuring, adjusting, and using. I know there are a lot of people out there with serious challenges this Thanksgiving - at home and at work. I do not intend to trivialize them with my tale of overcoming what are in the grand scheme of things, minor obstacles. But I've thoroughly enjoyed revisiting my ham radio roots, reawakening the excitement that once permeated every QSO with more ionospheric adventures around every corner. Will I have my biggest score ever this year? Of course not, but I will immerse myself in the radio magic that lies behind every power switch in every shack. And that's a great blessing. Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends and I'll see the rest of you on the air this weekend!
26 November through 9 December
An expanded, downloadable version of QST's Contest Corral in PDF format is available. Check the sponsor's Web site for information on operating time restrictions and other instructions.
CQ WW CW--CW, from 29 Nov 0000Z to 30 Nov 2400Z. Bands (MHz):1.8-28 Exchange: RST and CQ zone. Logs due: 15 Jan. Rules
Top Band Sprint--CW, from 4 Dec 0000Z to 4 Dec 0600Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8. QRP calling frequencies (see Web site). Exchange: RST, S/P/C, ARCI number or Power. Logs due: 30 days. Rules
ARRL 160 Meter Contest--CW, from 5 Dec 2200Z to 7 Dec 1600Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8. Exchange: RST and ARRL/RAC section if US/VE. Logs due: 6 Jan. Rules
TARA RTTY Mêlée--Digital, from 6 Dec 0000Z to 6 Dec 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RST and State/Province or serial. Logs due: 31 Dec. Rules
Top Operators Activity Contest--CW, from 6 Dec 1600Z to 7 Dec 1800Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5. Exchange: RST, serial, and TOPS/PRO number. Logs due: 31 Dec. Rules
LOG DUE DATES
26 November through 9 December
November 30 - JARTS WW RTTY Contest, email logs to: (none), upload log at: http://www.kiznax.com/p/jarts/submit_form.html, paper logs and diskettes to: (none). Find rules at: http://www.edsoftz.com/JARTS/2008/rules2008.html
November 30 - W/VE Islands QSO Party, email logs to: CM@usislands.org, paper logs and diskettes to: John Almon, WA4JA , 1411 Oak Leaf Dr , Columbia, TN 38401 , USA. Find rules at: http://www.usislands.org/contest_rules.html
December 1 - RSGB 2nd 1.8 MHz Contest, CW, email logs to: firstname.lastname@example.org, paper logs and diskettes to: RSGB-G3UFY, 77 Bensham Manor Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 7AF, England. Find rules at: http://www.vhfcc.org/hfcc/rules/2008/r18mhz.shtml
December 1 - CQ Worldwide DX Contest, SSB, email logs to: email@example.com, paper logs and diskettes to: CQWW SSB, CQ Magazine, 25 Newbridge Road, Hicksville, NY 11801, USA. Find rules at: http://www.cqww.com/2008_rules_cqww.pdf
December 1 - Feld Hell Sprint, email logs to: (none), post log summary at: http://www.bambinomusical.com/autolog.html, paper logs and diskettes to: (none). Find rules at: http://sites.google.com/site/feldhellclub/Home/contests
December 1 - CQ-WE Contest, email logs to: (see rules), paper logs and diskettes to: (see rules). Find rules at: http://cqwe.cboh.org/rules.html
December 1 - OK/OM DX Contest, CW, email logs to: firstname.lastname@example.org, paper logs and diskettes to: OK-OM DX Contest, CRK, PO Box 69, 113 27 Praha 1, Czech Republic. Find rules at: http://okomdx.crk.cz/g.html
December 1 - SARL Field Day Contest, email logs to: email@example.com, paper logs and diskettes to: Field Day Contest, Bloemfontein Radio Amateur Club, PO Box 12104, Brandhof, 9324, South Africa. Find rules at: http://www.sarl.org.za/public/contests/SARL%202008%20Contest%20Manual.pdf
December 2 - DARC 10-Meter Digital Contest, email logs to: firstname.lastname@example.org, paper logs and diskettes to: Werner Ludwig, DF5BX, PO Box 1270, 49110 Georgsmarienhuette, Germany. Find rules at: http://www.darc.de/referate/ukw-funksport/sonder/tei-digi.htm
December 2 - Ukrainian DX Contest, email logs to: email@example.com, paper logs and diskettes to: Ukrainian Contest Club HQ, PO Box 4850, Zaporozhye 69118, Ukraine. Find rules at: http://www.ucc.zp.ua/urdxc2008rules_eng.htm
December 3 - ARRL Sweepstakes Contest, CW, email logs to: SSCW@arrl.org, paper logs and diskettes to: November SS CW, ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111, USA. Find rules at: http://www.arrl.org/contests/rules/2008/novss.html
December 3 - NA Collegiate ARC Championship, CW, email logs to: SSCW@arrl.org, email log summary to: firstname.lastname@example.org, paper logs and diskettes to: November SS CW, ARRL, 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111, USA. Find rules at: http://www.collegiatechampionship.org/rules/
December 6 - YO International PSK31 Contest, email logs to: email@example.com, paper logs and diskettes to: Radioclubul YO5KAD, PO Box 220, RO-430281 Baia Mare, Romania. Find rules at: http://www.yo5crq.ro/Rules2008EN.htm