October 28, 2009Editor: Ward Silver, NØAX
IN THIS ISSUE
NEW HF OPERATORS - THINGS TO DO
With CQ WW SSB in the rear-view mirror, that can only mean one thing - ARRL Sweepstakes is a-comin'! I'm hitchin' up the ponies and heading off to the wild west territory of Wyoming for the CW weekend on Nov 7th and 8th. (SSB follows two weeks later.) This is the biggest (and oldest) of the domestic contests. If you're new to the contesting cattle drive, here's a short article on how to join the fun!
The split Oct-Nov weekend has pretty much wiped the contest calendar clean this coming weekend! Thanks to Dean W9WGV for noticing this "blue moon" of radiosport.
Don't forget that the deadline for submitting ARRL Sweepstakes logs is now 15 days - 0300Z on Nov 24th for CW logs! While paper logs will always be accepted, this would be a good time to start using the Cabrillo format. Clubs are encouraged to help your members convert paper logs. The handy Cabrillo Converter Web pages by WA7BNM can simplify the job tremendously.
A "golden issue" last time - well, until the log checkers get hold of it.
Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section
Oct 31-Nov 1
Nov 7-Nov 8
NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, AND GENERAL INTEREST
Young Ham Contest Program sponsor David KY1V reports that, "Having received dozens of essays from five continents we discovered we had a rich pool of excellent young CW operators from which to choose. [Isn't that good news? - Ed] Thanks to my partner, Krassy K1LZ, and a generous donation from a Texas amateur (whom we'll announce later with permission), we decided to select four young hams to comprise the base team for 6Y1V's CQWW CW operation." The winners of the competition are: Cal KØDXC, Roger EA3ALZ, Alex OZ7AM, and Alexander RV9LM. Cal stood by an earlier commitment to operate from K3LR, so another winner will be announced later. Congratulations to all!
Would a Super Bertha's bust your budget? Scott W3TX announces a line of "Budget Bertha's" that are less harsh on the family finances. The products include towers and monoband beam antennas that cover 40 meters through 6 meters. Another new product, the Create Rotator and Mast Clamp, is a product upgrade specially designed by K3LR.
With the current version of International Reply Coupons (IRCs) being phased out, hams are baling them up and hauling them in to the Post Office for redemption. This leads to some puzzlement on the part of clerks unfamiliar with IRCs. Bernie W3UR relayed the following advice from a postal service employee in a recent Daily DX newsletter. These are the selections to be made on the clerk's point-of-sale terminal:
A new release of the Super Check Partial (SCP) database files is now available with 45,552 call signs from 3,706 contest logs. SCP admin Bob WA1Z says, "As always, if you'd like to contribute your Cabrillo format logs for the SCP database, please send them at any time. The easiest thing to do is to add the address email@example.com on the cc: line of your email at the same time you submit your log to the sponsor's robot after each contest. If you want to check the version of the SCP files you are using, look for a call beginning with "VER". Every SCP file includes the version number in the list of calls in the format VERYYYYMMDD. Please let me know if you find any bad calls in the files." Don't forget that you still have to copy what the station sends!
Denis K7GK has been developing a graphical log analysis since logs have been made public by CQ WW. While it's not 100% finished, "I think it's in decent enough shape where it may be useful to other contesters." Denis has placed a zipped archive file of RateCompare on the Williamette Valley DX Club's Web site in the "Contest Links" list at the left of the page. The archive contains just two files - the executable and an old version of CTY.DAT compatible with the program. The menu items should be fairly self-explanatory.
Version 4.4 of Jim AD1C's ADIF County Conversion tool is now available. This program takes an ADIF file from a contest logger like WriteLog or N1MM and converts the contest-specific county abbreviations into real ADIF field values which can be imported into a general-purpose logging program. With the increased activity from the ARRL's Year of the State QSO Party, this will help get those contacts properly logged for county-hunting awards. While you're harvesting the fruits of Jim's labors, be sure to update your CTY.DAT file used to link call signs to countries. The latest version was released on 27 October.
Is there any rule that prohibits operators at a multioperator station from also operating with their own call from another station? Not in ARRL HF contests, as long as the General rules in Section 3 are met. CQ WW Committee member Doug KR2Q responds that there is no such limitations according to the CQ WW rules. But don't work the multioperator station with your own call - it's definitely unsporting.
Words of wisdom from the days of yore, proven timeless during this past weekend's CQ WW Phone contest - "A clear frequency is where the needle comes off the right-hand pin a little bit." This was never more true than on 40 meters in this past weekend's CQ WW Phone contest. One unexpected new strategy - Region 1 stations transmitting between 7125 and 7200 kHz and listening between 7200 and 7300 kHz. What's up with that? First, the practice occupies TWO channels in the US phone allocation - doubling QRM - and by transmitting where other stations operating split from below 7100 kHz are listening, the likelihood of QRM from that pileup is greatly increased. All in all, it seems like we are still working out the bugs with the new 40 meter allocation realignment.
Web Site of the Week - Contest Club Finland (CCF) and the OH DX Foundation proudly announce that the 15th CCF/OHDXF Contest and DX Conference will be held on January 22-24, 2010. This growing event attracts operators from all over to the top of the world for a very enjoyable weekend.
WORD TO THE WISE
Power - This may be news to many casual and new contest operators - CQ or ARRL contests do NOT recognize power classes (QRP/LP/HP) in the Assisted category. (There are no power categories in Single Band categories for ARRL DX, either.) The upper limit for Low Power entries varies quite a bit, too - 100, 150, and 200 watts are all on the books. It's always a good idea to check the rules for any contest so that you have reasonable expectations about your entry.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
This video of a KG2RG making QSOs in the recent New York QSO Party and enjoying himself would be a good one to recommend to someone just getting started in HF contesting. It's not an instructional video, per se, but typical of what goes on in a domestic contest. (Thanks, Scott, K2ZS)
Enjoy yourself, but hopefully you won't recognize yourself in this humorous example of tool-using desperation. (Thanks, Hector XE2K)
You'll have no trouble getting the line pulled line back down through the tree with this powerful and explosive technique for antenna launching! (Thanks, Tree N6TR)
At a recent DX lunch, the subject came up of the operation by ZS8MI several years back. When I got home, what do you think popped up in my Earth Observatory email? These great International Space Station photos of Marion and Prince Edward Islands. (Download the full-sized photo to see both islands. Zoom in to see the scientific station on the upper right.) If those volcanic cones look like anthills, I wouldn't want to meet those ants! While you're on the EO site, check out this great visual of a recent solar prominence.
RESULTS AND RECORDS
Do you want to know who holds the Albanian SOLP record in the ARRL 160 Meter contest? Well, how about the record holders in your division, section, or province? Alright, then! Tree N6TR reports that all of the ARRL 160 Meter contest records have been updated and they're available right now. Certificates for the 2008 ARRL 160 Meter Contest have been shipped by the merry band of envelope stuffers at ARRL HQ. They should be hitting the mailboxes in the next few days. (Thanks, ARRL Contest Branch Manager, Sean KX9X)
Watch the ARRL Contest Branch Web page for an upcoming compilation of Sweepstakes QSOs from various sections over the past few years. Which is the rarest? Draw your own conclusions and prepare to be surprised in some cases!
Dink N7WA has opened a Web page compiling all of the CQ WW SSB soapbox comments from the 3830 Web page. Doug KR2Q also notes that Claimed Scores have also been added to the CQ WW Logs Received page. Logs are streaming in - at 1020Z on 27 October, 2057 electronic logs had been received! Enjoy!
Claimed Scores for the WAE DX contest are available on-line. Look in Results 2009 -> SSB -> Logs Received / Claimed Scores. Contest Manager Joerg DL8WPX suggests that the menu might still need an update. If you have any questions, contact Joerg directly.
Read the robot report! After you send your log to a contest email "robot", it will respond with a message either accepting your log or listing formatting problems it encountered. If you got an acceptance message, read it carefully! Make sure any statistics it reports, such as the number of QSOs, are reasonable and agree with what your logging software reports. Make a note of any tracking number the message contains or save the message in a special email folder. If there are any errors, now would be the time to get them fixed.
TECHNICAL TOPICS AND INFORMATION
The recent antenna-raising accident in Florida is a warning to us all to be very, very aware of power lines. There have been many reflector postings about the use of cranes and boom trucks and man-lifts to do tower and antenna work. While the lifting power of these machines makes the work aloft go a lot smoother, their height can result in new safety issues. Check out this OSHA Web page on crane and derrick safety. There are many preventable accidents every year - don't be one of them!
With copper prices low once again, it may be time to stock up on antenna and radial wire. Where to find bargains? Perhaps by not buying it as wire! Herb W7ZF watches for good deals on three-wire home wiring cable (known by the brand name "Romex") containing three #12 or #14 AWG wires. When you buy the wire, get a "Romex knife" stripping tool. Remove the outer plastic sheath and you have three solid wires, often at a price lower than buying individual lengths of wire. The soft copper wire should be stretched before using it aloft, but for radials, it's ready to go!
Some vertical antennas, like the Cushcraft R5 and R7, mount directly on top of a mast with a hollow tube and a set-screw. Over time, if the set-screw loosens, the antenna can work its way down such that the mast contacts the top of the tube. Depending on the antenna's design, this can result in electrical contact between the mast and a piece of the antenna. It can be mighty hard to troubleshoot! Jon K4ZW found a cure, though - put a golf ball in the tube before installing it on the mast.
Here's a good article appearing in High Frequency Electronics magazine - "Practical Developments Using Today's Fractional Synthesizers" by Jim Carlini covers noise reduction, loop filtering, and delta-sigma designs.
No, that's not a giant contest food cookie in the photo at right - it's the business end (side?) of a no-slip CW paddle base sent in by Larry N6NC. His paddle, a Begali, wandered all over until this base was attached. But did he drill holes (horrors!) in the Begali? No way! He attached disc magnets to the underside of the paddle and those grabbed tightly to a steel disk. (with 46 pounds of force!) Larry glued cork - shown here - to the underside of the steel disk with carpet adhesive and now everything stays in place, no matter how excited he gets!
If you think you have trouble soldering surface-mount parts now, how about a one-molecule diode as described in this Physorg article?
If ice storms bedevil you and your antennas, Julius N2WN has some potential good news for those aluminum farms - superhydrophobic powders that can be made into paint-like coatings. Perhaps the days of seeing devastation like that of the KC1XX station last year will be gone forever? By the way, it was nice to see Matt's crew back on the air in the CQ WW after months of hard work!
Technical Web Site of the Week - We all like to think we're great bug chasers, but here's a story about a bug chaser-squared! Read and learn! (Thanks, Tim K3LR)
Past, Present, and Future
At times, it's hard to know what to say. As has been widely reported, the C6APR team members headed for CQ WW SSB were all killed when their private plane crashed on takeoff. Pete W2GJ, Ed K3IXD, Randy K4QO, and Dallas W3PP - we're going to miss you guys. Just a week before, the tragic electrocution of three family members erecting an antenna made the ham headlines. It's been a time of bad news and I hope the families of all those involved eventually find peace.
Every year about this time, I think about the exotic travel many undertake before contests large and small. I've stood on the tarmac as travel cases are crammed into a tiny airplane and the pilot totals up the weight before piloting us from one little island to another. I'm flying cross-country for Sweepstakes and will do so to make an appearance at K3LR again next year. My sailing experiences on the K7C Kure Island DXpedition are burned into my memory. Driving long distances has its own hazards and we've all had our close calls there. So I think about all the travelers as the days get shorter up here above the equator and the bands open longer.
Tom N9NC contributed a few thoughts on the magic of contesting (and by extension, ham radio) that inspires us so. "It has parts of that which we do crave, but adds the challenge and intrigue of propagation sunspots, QRM, competition, etc, and more important, it connects us in ways that maybe only us participants can understand (experience): It's time-limited yet timeless, its frame of reference being this contest, along with all the ones before. It's borderless yet borders matter (mults)."
After news of the plane crash spread across ham radio I observed that perhaps we could take the opportunity to appreciate each other a little more, even in the competitive frenzy, because we never know when a log will be closed, a voice or key silenced for good. When I heard far-flung stations and the big pileups, I did think about the loss of our friends. Their absence was felt in the here and now, although they were very much present in the history we all share and in the common experience described so well by Tom.
Yes, I think we do feel ourselves part of history, yet tuned in to the moment. Contesting is about now - not before and not later - now. Who is calling - now? Where is the band open - now? And at the same time, we are using all of our memories and knowledge, that shared experience Tom evokes, to guide us in what we listen for and where we point the beams and change bands. Every QSO of every operation is a potential part of our history and by participating, we become part of every other operator's history, as well. This shared past, present, and future are what makes us a strong, diverse community of which I'm very proud to be a member. Here's to those that have gone before and here's to us and here's to those that will follow.
28 October to 10 November
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.
SKCC Monthly Straight Key Sprint--CW, from Oct 28, 0000Z to Oct 28, 0200Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RST, S/P/C, SKCC nr or power. Rules
IPA Contest--Phone,CW, from Nov 7, 0600Z to Nov 7, 1800Z and Nov 8, 0600Z to Nov 8, 1800Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RST and serial or "IPA" and state. Logs due: Dec 31. Rules
Ukranian DX Contest--Phone,CW, from Nov 7, 1200Z to Nov 8, 1200Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RST and serial or Ukraine oblast. Logs due: 30 days. Rules
Radio Club of America QSO Party--Phone, from Nov 7, 1700Z to Nov 8, 0500Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-21. Exchange: RST, QTH, name, equipment. Rules
ARRL November Sweepstakes--CW, from Nov 7, 2100Z to Nov 9, 0300Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: Serial, category, call, check, ARRL sec. Logs due: Dec 3. Rules
Collegiate ARC Championship--CW, from Nov 7, 2100Z to Nov 9, 0300Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: See ARRL Sweepstakes. Logs due: Dec 3. Rules
High Speed Club CW Contest--CW, from Nov 8, 0900Z to Nov 8, 1100Z and Nov 8, 1500Z to Nov 8, 1700Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RST and MSC member nr or "NM". Logs due: 6 weeks. Rules
DARC 10-Meter Digital "Corona"--Digital, from Nov 8, 1100Z to Nov 8, 1700Z. Bands (MHz): 28. Exchange: RST and serial. Rules
ARRL EME Contest--Phone,CW,Digital, from Nov 7, 0000Z to Nov 8, 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 2.3G+. Exchange: Both call signs, sig rpt, acknowledgement. Logs due: Dec 16. Rules
LOG DUE DATES
28 October to 10 November
October 31 - Scandinavian Activity Contest, CW, email logs to: firstname.lastname@example.org, upload log at: http://www.sactest.net/hflogupload.php, paper logs and diskettes to: SACCW, Liv Johansen, LA4YW, Kolstadtunet 4 C, NO-7098 Saupstad, Norway. Rules
October 31 - Scandinavian Activity Contest, SSB, email logs to: email@example.com, upload log at: http://www.sactest.net/hflogupload.php, paper logs and diskettes to: SACSSB, Liv Johansen, LA4YW, Kolstadtunet 4 C, NO-7098 Saupstad, Norway. Rules
October 31 - TARA PSK Rumble Contest, email logs to: (none), post log summary at: http://www.n2ty.org/seasons/tara_rumble_score.html, paper logs and diskettes to: (none). Rules
November 9 - Oceania DX Contest, Phone, email logs to: firstname.lastname@example.org, paper logs and diskettes to: Oceania DX Contest, c/o Wellington Amateur Radio Club Inc., PO Box 6464, Wellington 6030, New Zealand. Rules
November 9 - Oceania DX Contest, CW, email logs to: email@example.com, paper logs and diskettes to: Oceania DX Contest, c/o Wellington Amateur Radio Club Inc., PO Box 6464, Wellington 6030, New Zealand. Rules