March 4, 2009Editor: Ward Silver, NØAX
IN THIS ISSUE
NEW HF OPERATORS - THINGS TO DO
A DX contest is right around the corner - fire up that microphone and check out the ARRL DX Phone contest. If you have been frustrated that the DX stations seem to hang out in the Extra class segments and don't listen for Generals, you won't have that problem this weekend. One caution - on 20 meters, tune the carrier frequency shown on your radio's display no higher than 14.347 MHz. An upper-sideband signal extends up to 3 kHz above the carrier, so keep your signal 100% in the band!
For a short period recently, ARRL DX CW and January VHF Sweepstakes logs were being rejected by the email log robot because of "Possible_UCE" being included in the email subject line. This was caused by problems with the ARRL's email forwarding ISP and has been resolved. If you have not already re-submitted your log, please do so! (Thanks, ARRL Contest Branch Manager - Sean KX9X)
The Design News Gadget Freak hyperlink was missing a "com" last week. (Thanks, Dick K1HTV) And in keeping everybody straight, Zoli's proper call sign is HA1AG, not -AD and Jim VK9NS was, of course, a resident of Norfolk, not Lord Howe Island.
Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section
NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, AND GENERAL INTEREST
Popular conventions Pacificon and EMCOMMWEST are merging into a single event to be held May 1-3 at the Circus Circus Hotel in Reno, Nevada. The keynote speaker will be former FCC Enforcement Special Counsel, Riley Hollingsworth K4ZDH. Lots of emergency communications forums and programs are planned, along with ARRL convention material. Watch the Web site as the programs develop.
The program lineup for the 2009 Visalia DX Convention now includes a Contest Academy hosted by the Northern California Contest Club, the Radio Arcala Project by OH2BH and OH8NC, Special Guest and Banquet Speaker: The Hon. J. Scott Redd K0DQ, Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy (ret), and for the Sunday Breakfast Program: The Desecheo, K5D DX-Pedition.
Microwave Update will be returning to the Dallas area from Oct 23-25, sponsored by the North Texas Microwave Society and held at the recently remodeled Westin. The conference begins with a tour of the local surplus emporia and the traditional noise figure measurement and "rover row" will also be held. Topics for papers are currently being solicited. (Thanks, Steve N5AC)
Registration is now open for the 35th Eastern VHF/UHF Conference on April 17-19 in Enfield, CT. Papers for the conference Proceedings are due March 10 at the latest. (Thanks, Bruce N2LIV)
The Contest Country (CTY) Files your logging software uses to determine countries were updated on 19 February 2009. To install the file, follow the link at the top of the page to your software. Note that CT9.91 and CT9.92 can both use the "new" format country file with '=' in front of full call signs. (Thanks, Jim AD1C)
One month to go for the "shared" 40 meter allocation as 29 March approaches, the date when broadcasters must vacate their 7100-7200 kHz allocation. Will "listening on" no longer be heard during DX phone contests? Who knows! Hams in ITU Regions I and III are busy monitoring the remaining shortwave broadcasters in that band to be sure they do move as required by international treaty.
Tom N1MU has upgraded his Roverlog logging software to support the 10 GHz contests out there. Roverlog is free and supports quite a variety of VHF+ contests. By the way, it's NOT just for rover stations as there are many features for fixed stations, including multi-operator participants.
"Whatever happened to Heathkit?", is an informative article in Electronic Design magazine by Louis Frenzel, W5LEF. After Heath disappeared from the amateur radio market, many assumed the company had disappeared, as well, but they are still alive today. Read up and see what they are doing!
Contester and pilot Dave KM3T is mentioned in this article on the LiveATC system that records aircraft traffic control audio. The article also lauds the professionalism of all involved in the recent Hudson River near-disastrous airplane water landing. (Thanks, Ralph N5RZ)
Microwave Journal and Besser Associates are sponsoring a free Webinar on RF and Microwave Power Amplifiers on March 24, hosted by Allen Podell and David Vye. Topics include, Classes of Operation, Improving Efficiency, Linearization Techniques, and Tradeoffs. Viewing the Webinar does require registration and it is intended for professional engineers. Past Webinars are available in the archives on the same Web site.
Puzzle fans and cartophiles will be glad to know that Rus K2UA has found another challenging online geography game from the folks at Lufthansa.
Logging "invalid" stations, such as those from your own country during DX tests, can be a problem if the logging software is set up to reject them. However, many programs have a "log it anyway" key sequence or combination. For example, the N1MM key combination is Ctrl+Alt+Enter (stay away from that Del key!). You can also use the "Notes" feature available in most loggers to grab information for logging later, too. Check the user manual or Help function to find these lesser-known functions. (Thanks, Bob K0RC)
High Sierra Antennas announces new Mil-Spec RG213 is ready to ship in 18, 50 and 100 foot lengths with professionally-installed coax connectors sealed with adhesive-lined heat shrink.
San Francisco Bay Area hams should be aware of the Amateur Radio Technology Day hosted by the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) facility. Once a month, there is an all-day anything-amateur-radio event. There is no admission charge and visitors can stay as long as they want. This might be a good model for other clubs and organizations that want to publicize ham radio. (Thanks, Paul AA6PZ)
On Feb 18th, John Kanzius K3TUP succumbed to the effects of leukemia that, ironically, led to both his demise and his invention of the RF-excited nanoparticle treatment of cancer. John was a long-time contester (a founder of the North Coast Contesters) and DX-er, visible in the news over the past couple of years as his innovative use of 13.56 MHz RF in cancer treatment began to bear fruit. Also ironic is the appearance of an article on innovative treatments for cancer in the February issue of Scientific American.
Web Site of the Week - The call sign of the late John Krause W8JK is famous in ham radio for the two-element beam he invented many years ago. His larger accomplishments touched many, such as in the field of radio astronomy. The Big Ear antenna on the Ohio State University campus peered deep into space for many years before it was finally dismantled a few years ago. The Big Ear Web site is devoted to the antenna and all the components of the system behind it. (Thanks, Barry W1HFN)
WORD TO THE WISE
Skew - in these times of odd, short-lived, and downright confusing propagation, skew paths can be your best friend! When the direct path between you and the DX isn't open, try beaming closer to the equator where ionospheric tilt and the higher ionization densities can create "bank shot" openings above the MUF on the direct path.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
Here's a long-ish video of W5UN erecting a full-size 160 meter vertical. The "falling derrick" method of getting your vertical vertical is gaining popularity. With careful prep work, the method is safe and effective and does not require a large crew of rope pullers and confusing direction shouters. (Thanks, Pat N9RV)
During last year's ARRL DX Contest, CW, Chris W2PA heard and recorded echoes on 80 meters that he couldn't explain until reading about the phenomena in March 2009 QST Technical Correspondence. Coincidently, he was reading about it during this year's contest. Chris' observations are available online to take a listen yourself.
During THIS year's ARRL DX Contest, Michael G7VJR decided to play "how low can you go" with the K3LR 40 meter signal, succeeding in crossing the pond with only 100 mW of RF output. (His exchange was 5NN TR1!)
Well, excuuuuuuse me! A video simulating the collision of the Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251 satellites is now online and ready for the Play button.
Slightly earlier in the history of flight, this film shows Wilbur Wright at the controls during this 1909 demonstration of flight to an Italian audience. I have never seen film taken from the pilot's seat of one of these early "flying machines". (Thanks, Gil Newcomb)
Also historical, Henryk SM0JHF has posted photos from the 2002 WRTC for your enjoyment. (Thanks, Dick N6AA)
RESULTS AND RECORDS
The 2008 ARRL September VHF QSO Party results are online. The Web version of the results for the 2008 10 GHz And Up and EME Contests are in the pipeline, as well. ARRL HF contest participation is growing, despite poor propagation. ARRL Contest Branch Manager, Sean KX9X says, "We have received 3298 logs for the November SSB and CW Sweeps combined in 2008. That is -- at bare minimum -- a 5 year high. The 2009 RTTY Roundup in January saw 1564 entries, also a 5 year high."
Scores for the recent North American CW Sprint are now available on the NCJ Web site. Congrats to K5TR who edged out W6YI (N6MJ operator) for the top spot. N9CK had the top Low Power score, and KA9FOX the best QRP score. The Northern California Contest Club just edged out the Austin Powers Ditters for top team score. Full results will be in an upcoming NCJ. (Thanks, Tree N6TR)
Results of the 2008 Illinois QSO Party are now available. Competition was close in several of the categories and there is a nice analysis of the contest, as well. (Thanks, Danny NG9R)
Calling all Soapbox! Don't forget that ARRL DX writeup authors Scott W4PA and I will be looking through the comments and photos submitted to the ARRL Soapbox page for the ARRL DX contests. Our goal? Find the best, funniest, excuse-iest entries and photos to grace the writeups. It's easy to submit material and graphics to the Web page and you'll find yourself enjoying the pages of material.
CQ WPX Contest Director, Randy K5ZD, writes in to say, "We are planning a record number of plaques for both modes of the WPX Contest in 2009." There are lots of plaques available - the full list of plaques is available on-line along with contact information for sponsors.
Your ARRL DX 3830 Soapbox comments are also available courtesy of Dink N7WA. Steve N2IC reminds us that contesting.com is also looking for photos on their site - click "Add ARRL DX 2009" to submit yours. Keep those cards and letters coming in, folks!
Continuing with the cut numbers theme...they really aren't necessary on RTTY or any of the digital modes! Except for the modes that use variable-length character encoding (Morse, PSK31), every digital character has the same number of bits and so takes the same length of time on the air. Not only that, but on RTTY to send text followed by '5NN', requires TWO extra shift characters! (Thanks, Peter N5UWY)
TECHNICAL TOPICS AND INFORMATION
With thunderstorm season right around the corner (except where it's already here), some reading about lightning protection is in order. Both ICE Radio Products and Polyphaser are well-known in the ham community and have extensive listings of products and application information. Polyphaser also publishes the book "Lightning Protection and Grounding Solutions for Communications Sites", an excellent reference. (Thanks, Gary N3JPU)
If you are thinking about putting up some competitive VHF antennas, Larry W1DYJ recommends the paper "How to plan the installation of multiple VHF antennas on one mast" by Directive Systems.
Amplifier builders can find the formulas and tables of values to construct pi and pi-L output matching networks in any ARRL Handbook or in Bill Orr W6SAI's Radio Handbook (which is out of print, but still available). This spreadsheet by G3SEK is based on the formulas in the ARRL Handbook. (Thanks, Mike W1NR)
Jeff WA1HCO suggests that you can learn a lot about practical RF network design by using a computerized Smith Chart program. They allow you to play around with values and explore results in seconds. You don't need to actually do any of the computations or Smith Chart construction techniques, just vary the values of components so that the end point of the arcs on the chart go to the origin, representing 50 ohms. Think of it as a "paper tuner".
A new item has appeared on electronic component distributor Jameco's Web site - a quiz by Forrest Mims III of electronic book authorship fame. We just can't get enough puzzles!
The winter weather sure takes a toll on antennas. Tom K1KI sent the photo seen here of a boom-to-mast plate that failed due to metal fatigue from the constant flexing of the boom in the wind. The original plate was 1/4-inch thick aluminum, 8" x 8" in size. Tom plans to double the thickness of the plate and possibly use steel instead of aluminum.
While you're planning that next antenna, you might find this free CAD software useful. You can design the part, then have it fabricated. This is a popular design-and-fab method for printed-circuit boards, now extended to the domain of mechanical parts. (Thanks, Kris N5KM)
And if a two-element, 40 meter Moxon beam is in your plans, Tim K3LR has built, installled, and used two of these antennas. He has made the construction and conversion notes are available in the Moxon Conversion Document on his Web site.
Don N4KC sends a link to the Kinstar antenna system. This is a trademarked system, but it has been getting some discussion in various antenna forums. Low-band enthusiasts may find this reduced-size antenna design of interest.
Technical Web Site of the Week - Some of the math you used to know may have divided by zero, so it's nice to know that there are free and easily available online tutorials on everything from algebra to calculus and everything in between. A good selection is listed on the ARRL's General and Extra class license manual supplement Web sites.
Lucky Number Seven
This issue marks the conclusion of the sixth year of publication for this newsletter! Originally, and still to many, its name was "The Contester's Rate Sheet". The original subscriber base was about 2000 and we were pleased to have every one of you! (Still are, too!) With a face lift and a new title, "The ARRL Contest Update" now reaches the Inboxes of about eleven times that many subscribers and more read the issues posted on the Web site. To all the long-term readers out there, thank you, and to all you new readers, welcome! And, as always, tell your friends about this benefit of ARRL membership!
Things have changed quite a bit since that first issue. In 2002, we were wrestling with the effects of packet spotting, problems caused by the various bits of technology attempting to integrate the computer with the radio, and worrying about whether spending too many hours on 10 meters would hurt our scores. The first two are still very much topics of discussion and the third seems to have resolved on its own.
Today, we not only have the issue of spotting information coming from other operators, but of information coming from automated programs inside and outside our station boundaries. CW Skimmers are in the process of changing multiplier hunting from search-and-pounce to point-and-pounce. More on this in a subsequent issue's Conversation, to be sure.
The technology in a competitive contest shack continues to evolve at an astounding pace. SO2R controllers have as much processing power in them as the radios themselves. SDR architectures are eating away at the analog portions of radios and delivering game-changing performance. For example, the tried-and-true measurements of receiver linearity simply have no meaning in a digitized, DSP world. What new metrics will be devised by those of us chasing that puny weak rare multiplier sandwiched in between a couple of the Titans of Twenty?
While we bemoan the state of the solar flux and watch the chimney for the white smoke signifying a new sunspot cycle, a long-awaited development is creeping up on us. As mentioned elsewhere in this issue, another 100 kHz of 40 meters is being turned into a primary, worldwide amateur allocation at the end of this month. Some countries in Region I have already turned the hamsters loose in the 7100-7200 kHz pasture, but many more will surely follow by the time the 2009-2010 contest season begins. Just in time as the MUF will be frequently flirting with 7 MHz for at least a couple of years to come.
This year will no doubt continue the steady growth of the digital drumbeat as more and more contesters take advantage of inexpensive processing power to try out a RTTY or PSK contest. (Another reason the opening of more 40 meter spectrum is so welcome!) While digital contesting largely follows the human-driven models, what other types of digital contests make sense? Perhaps we'll see something new and exciting this year!
And there seems to be a renewed interest in radiosport and contesting. Competitive events are just plain fun and they are easy to enter. Bands dead all week long suddenly spring to life when 0000Z rolls around and the bells of Big Ben great the new London day. While we certainly have the problems of crowding and propagation, I couldn't be more pleased that so many new call signs are filling the logs and record books of contesters. As the higher bands begin to open - and they surely will (won't they?) - we'll discover more hams all around the world engaging in radiosport, whether on HF or VHF+.
As an editor, this makes me smile, because I know that I'll have lots of new things to tell you about in the newsletter, unearthed by the insatiable readers and posters out there in Radiosport Land. The seventh lucky year of publication is going to be a good one, filled with issues, discoveries, jokes, videos, passings, tips, tricks, and techniques. All aboard! Oh yeah...and tell your friends, would you?
4 March to 17 March
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.
ARRL International DX--Phone, from Mar 7 0000Z to Mar 8 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RS and state, province, or power. Logs due: Apr 1. Rules
Open Ukraine RTTY Championship--Digital, from Mar 7 2200Z to Mar 8 1200Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: Regional abbreviation and serial. Logs due: Apr 4. Rules
Heavy Metal Rally--Phone, CW, from Mar 14 0000Z to Mar 15 2359Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RS(T) and serial, plus V if vintage equip. Logs due: 1 month. Rules
RSGB Commonwealth Contest--CW, from Mar 14 1000Z to Mar 15 1000Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RST and serial (Commonwealth only). Logs due: Apr 15. Rules
AGCW QRP Contest--CW, from Mar 14 1400Z to Mar 14 2000Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RST, serial, class, AGCW number or NM. Logs due: Mar 31. Rules
EA PSK31 Contest--Digital, from Mar 14 1600Z to Mar 15 1600Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RST + serial or EA province. Logs due: 30 days. Rules
Idaho QSO Party--Phone, CW, Digital, from Mar 14 1900Z to Mar 15 1900Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28, 50-440, CW 35 kHz above band edge; Phone 7.260, 14.260, 21.335, 28.470 MHz, plus 50, 144, 440 . Exchange:
RS(T) and S/P/C. Logs due: 7 days. Rules
North American RTTY Sprint--Digital, from Mar 15 0000Z to Mar 15 0400Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-14. Exchange: Both call signs, serial, name, and S/P/C. Logs due: Apr 30. Rules
Wisconsin QSO Party--Phone, CW, Digital, from Mar 15 1800Z to Mar 16 0100Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28, 50+, CW 3.550, 7.050, 14.050; Phone 3.890, 7.230, 14.290, 21.350, 28.400. Exchange: S/P/C or WI county. Logs due: May 1. Rules
CLARA and Family HF Contest --Phone, CW, from Mar 17 1700Z to Mar 18 1700Z and Mar 21 1700Z to Mar 22 1700Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-21. Exchange: RS(T), name, QTH, and CLARA . Logs due: Apr 4. Rules
Idaho QSO Party--Phone,CW,Digital, from Mar 14 1900Z to Mar 15 1900Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28, 50-440, CW 35 kHz above band edge; Phone 7.260, 14.260, 21.335, 28.470 MHz, plus 50, 144, 440 . Exchange:
RS(T) and S/P/C. Logs due: 7 days. Rules
Wisconsin QSO Party--Phone,CW,Digital, from Mar 15 1800Z to Mar 16 0100Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28, 50+, CW 3.550, 7.050, 14.050; Phone 3.890, 7.230, 14.290, 21.350, 28.400. Exchange: S/P/C or WI county. Logs due: May 1. Rules
LOG DUE DATES
4 March to 17 March
March 6 - PODXS 070 Club Valentine Sprint, email logs to: firstname.lastname@example.org, paper logs and diskettes to: Karen Russo, W4KRN, 7720 Willow Pond Lane, Nokesville, VA 20181, USA. Rules
March 8 - FYBO Winter QRP Sprint, email logs to: email@example.com, paper logs and diskettes to: John Stevens, Attn: FYBO, 21547 N 91st Drive, Peoria AZ 85382, USA. Rules
March 8 - Mexico RTTY International Contest, email logs to: firstname.lastname@example.org, paper logs and diskettes to: Daniel Baraggia, XE3RR, Concursos FMRE, Calle Meteoro 5 Mza 4 Lote 5 SM 47, Residencial La Herradura, Cancun, Q.Roo 77505, Mexico. Rules
March 9 - Black Sea Cup International, email logs to: email@example.com, paper logs and diskettes to: BSCI, Box 4, KERCH 98319, UKRAINE. Rules
March 10 - WW PMC Contest, email logs to: firstname.lastname@example.org, paper logs and diskettes to: (none). Rules
March 11 - CQ WW RTTY WPX Contest, email logs to: email@example.com, paper logs and diskettes to: CQ RTTY WPX Contest, 25 Newbridge Road, Suite 405, Hicksville, NY 11801, USA. Rules
March 13 - Delaware QSO Party, email logs to: firstname.lastname@example.org, paper logs and diskettes to: Contest Chairman, FSARC, PO Box 1050, Newark, DE 19715, USA. Rules
March 14 - North American QSO Party, RTTY, email logs to: (see rules, web upload preferred), upload log at: http://www.ncjweb.com/naqplogsubmit.php, paper logs and diskettes to: Shelby Summerville, K4WW, 6506 Lantana Ct., Louisville, KY 40229-1544, USA. Rules
March 15 - Minnesota QSO Party, email logs to: MNQP@ISD.NET, paper logs and diskettes to: MNQP, 4745-170th Lane NE, Ham Lake, MN 55304-5233, USA. Rules
March 15 - Louisiana QSO Party, email logs to: email@example.com, paper logs and diskettes to: LAQSO Party, 508 Hache St Houma, LA 70364, USA. Rules
March 15 - AGCW Semi-Automatic Key Evening, email logs to: firstname.lastname@example.org, paper logs and diskettes to: Manager: Ulf-Dietmar Ernst, DK9KR, Elbstrasse 60, D-28199 Bremen, Germany. Rules
March 15 - ARRL School Club Roundup, email logs to: (none), paper logs and diskettes to: School Club Roundup, c/o Lew Malchick, N2RQ, Brooklyn Technical HS, 29 Fort Greene Place, Brooklyn, NY 11217, USA. Rules
March 15 - KCJ Topband Contest, email logs to: email@example.com, paper logs and diskettes to: M. Namba, 1420-55 Kibara, Sammu-city, Chiba 289-1212, Japan. Rules
March 15 - OMISS QSO Party, email logs to: (none), upload log at: http://www.omiss.net/QSO-Electronic.html, paper logs and diskettes to: OMISS QSO Party, c/o James Main, N8FV, 4427 S Dangl, Muskegon, MI 49444, USA. Rules
March 15 - Russian PSK WW Contest, email logs to: firstname.lastname@example.org, paper logs and diskettes to: (none). Rules
March 16 - Dutch PACC Contest, email logs to: email@example.com, upload log at: http://pacc.veron.nl/logsubmission.html, paper logs and diskettes to: PACC Contest Manager, c/o VERON Central Bureau, PO Box 1166, 6801 BD Arnhem, The Netherlands. Rules
March 16 - FISTS Winter Sprint, email logs to: W8PIG@yahoo.com, paper logs and diskettes to: Dan Shepherd, N8IE, 1900 Pittsfield St Kettering, OH 45420, USA. Rules
March 16 - YLRL YL-OM Contest, email logs to: firstname.lastname@example.org, paper logs and diskettes to: Annette Wood, KC8SQM, 6167 Oakwood Circle, North Ridgeville, OH 44039, USA. Rules
March 16 - SARL Hamnet 40m Simulated Emerg Contest, email logs to: email@example.com, paper logs and diskettes to: Hamnet Eastern Cape, Al Akers, ZS2U, 53 Clarence Street, Westering, Port Elizabeth 6025, South Africa. Rules