November 25, 2009Editor: Ward Silver, NØAX
IN THIS ISSUE
NEW HF OPERATORS - THINGS TO DO
When one contest stands alone, you know it's a big one and CQ's post-Thanksgiving weekend of CW DXing fills those shoes. Sure, the speeds will be frantic and your ears ringing from the din, but there's no better way to get up to speed than the CQ WW CW. Look high in the band and save the tough ones for Sunday's more relaxed environment. By the end you'll be wondering, "When's the next one?"
No bulletins in this issue.
In the Oct 28 issue, I mistakenly changed W4ZW's call to K4ZW - much to Jon's surprise. (Thanks, Glenn K6NA)
Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section
NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, AND GENERAL INTEREST
Rules changes are afoot for the 2010 CQ WPX Contest! You can review the proposed changes at the CQ WPX Blog administered by WPX Director, Randy K5ZD. The major change under consideration is to the Multi-Single category. The new rules will establish a true single-transmitter category that is limited to 8 band changes per hour. Please send any comments or questions right away to Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org. While you're browsing the site, take a look at the WPX Score Database that Randy has assembled. It includes all scores from the past 15 years!
With Sweepstakes behind us, don't forget that the exchange is reminiscent of a radiogram header as described in this ARRL Traffic Handler's Guide. (Thanks, Phil W7PDZ)
Prasad VU2PTT and ARSI President, Gopal VU2GMN report that VU hams now have access to 7.100 - 7.200 MHz. Requests for access to 10 MHz and 50 MHz allocations are also under consideration. It's great to hear of one of the world's largest populations getting more access to amateur radio!
True or False?
The QST hitting your mailboxes has New Years Eve as the date for the SD QSO Party because that was the only information available when we went to press. The new date of 26 Dec has been incorporated into the PDF version of Contest Corral that should be on the ARRL Contest Branch Web site in a day or two. The SD stations will also be active on New Years Eve, but not as a contest.
You know him as the big signal and fast operator from 8P, but the rest of the world knows him as the President and CEO of NetApp - a big player in the data storage world. Computerworld just ran a nice article on Tom, er, W2SC in their interview column, "The Grill". What Tom's favorite non-network pastime? "Radiosport - competitive amateur radio" Who knew? (Thanks, Tom K1KI)
It is with deepest regret that the Contest Update relays news of Ken Adams K5KA's passing after a prolonged battle with cancer. Serving as the ARRL Sweepstakes Manager in recent years, Ken died on November 22nd while the contest was in full swing. Domestic contests like Sweepstakes were Ken's forte and he led the efforts to reinvigorate Sweepstakes through promotion and modernization. His success was evident to anyone listening on the bands these past few weekends. The many operators that he mentored and hosted, your editor included, are indebted to him for his gifts of wisdom and strength.
"While we swing for home runs, let's not forget the power of singles." Geoffrey Orzak
Web Site of the Week - Jim CN2R/W7EJ has added an interesting new capability to his online log viewing page. Jim has harnessed the power of Google Earth to visualize the path of any QSO in any CN2R log. From the home page, click "Logbook" to open a search page for individual QSOs. You can view contest QSOs by the hour, band, 1st/2nd day on a Google Earth globe. Popup QSO audio snippets are still available by clicking on any call with a yellow background in a logbook lookup or a contest log.
WORD TO THE WISE
Assistance - often confused with its English cousin, "assistance", the radiosport version only applies to receiving information from the spotting networks. It has nothing to do with whether your significant other brings you a sandwich or a friend climbs the tower to free up a frozen rotator. Read the rules for your category of entry and try to follow them in both spirit and letter.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
I've operated with some fellows that could act as power supplies for this transmitter. Watch Mike AA1TJ attempt a voice-powered pond-crossing with his Code Talker transmitter. More on this novel form of alternative power is available in this online story, as well. (Thanks, Rex W1REX, Carl WA1ZCQ, and Jim, W1PID)
Jim K5BZH recommends the 2009 Field Day ARRL Soapbox entry by John AE5B as a humorous note on plans gone awry and the real-time adjustment process. To find the entry, select "2009 Field Day" from the list of contests and enter "AE5B" in the search window.
RESULTS AND RECORDS
Certificates for the 2008 ARRL 10 Meter contest have all been mailed and the Web version of the results for the 2009 ARRL June VHF QSO Party are now online, too. Certificates for the 2009 ARRL RTTY Roundup and plaques for the 2009 RTTY Roundup have been mailed, as well. Next up will be the on-line version of the 2009 August UHF Contest. (Thanks, Sean KX9X)
The 2009 WWSA CW DX Contest PDF final results are ready to download. The GACW Board of Directors also wants to say "Many thanks for your help and support" and hope to see you again in 2010 WWSA. (Thanks, Alberto LU1DZ)
Make it easy - labeling switch and control positions and settings helps avoid misteaks that can hurt your score or hurt your equipment. For example, amplifier tuning has to be changed quickly and accurately when changing bands. Driving it with controls or bandswitching in the wrong position can lead to Big Problems! Arrow-shaped labels can be used to color-code settings, for example, making getting it right a lot easier when you're tired or rushed. (Thanks, Randy K5ZD)
TECHNICAL TOPICS AND INFORMATION
The WRTC-2010 technical committee is busy getting ready for next July's event. To satisfy curiosity about the antennas each team will use, a random sample of the triband Yagi antenna was tested on Monday and its SWR curves were added to the Station Description page. (Thanks, Dmitri RW3FO)
For a lot of interesting suggestions about how to keep your pipe vertical vertical, browse to the Towertalk reflector archives and search for "Guying 3 inch irrigation Pipe". Many of the suggestions can be applied to other similar jobs.
In rebuilding a QSK switch, Paul W9AC noticed that the RCA (phono) jacks used for control switching were loose. Since ground for the control signals of this particular product relies on contact with the metal enclosure (not the best design idea), a loose connector could result in hot-switching and damage to station components. Make sure the connectors are tight or, better yet, use a separate ground lead bonded to the circuit ground. While you're in there, make sure the AC line is filtered, too, to prevent any unwanted switching from RFI.
How to keep tubes of "Super Glue" from solidifying between uses? Richard KN7SFZ contributes the simple trick of simply storing them upside down to keep air away from the glue's "outbound" surface. Keeping the glue cold in a refrigerator also helps.
With regards to the increasing use of 75-ohm coax for receiving and low-power transmitting, Frank W3LPL notes that "75-ohm BNC connectors are specialized connectors used primarily above 100 MHz by in high-definition television production studios, telephone, and satellite communications industries. Unless you work in those industries, you're not likely to need them. 50-ohm BNCs work fine with 75-ohm cables for applications below about 100 MHz where the connector is very short compared to a wavelength. The dielectric in 75-ohm BNCs connectors has a obvious different configuration than the dielectric in 50-ohm connectors. (The dielectric in a 50-ohm BNC is extends along the inner surface of the shield.) The dielectric in a 75-ohm BNC does not extend along the inner surface of the shield." He also notes that there may be mechanical incompatibilities between the 50- and 75-ohm versions, so be careful when mixing them in your antenna system.
You may have visited Paul VE7BZ's Web page on how to attach crimp-style PL-259 connectors. He reports regular requests for information on crimp connectors for LMR-400 and is glad to report that there are now instructions for EZ400 crimp-ons. Ready, set, squeeze!
Just the thing for a holiday gift - it's the various configurations of Leatherman tools. Your editor carries a Leatherman Squirt (except through airport security) for its functional pliers, wire stripper, blisteringly sharp knife (don't ask me how I verified this) and assorted screwdrivers. Others swear by the Juice S2 and Wave models. Whatever your fancy in a multiply-useful gadget, you NEED one!
Buying solder by the spool is definitely the cheapest way to go, but the heavy roll can get tiresome to hold for a big assembly job. Garey K4OAH has a good technique: "[I] Lay one end along a pencil, then over-wrap it (solenoid style) until I have as much as I wanted. You end up with a small "lump" of solder with the end coming out of the center and just pull out what you need." In addition, most of us are very comfortable holding a pencil for long periods of time.
Marcus VE7CA has published some information about his experiments with a coax receiving loop versus a rotatable diamond-shaped low-noise directional receiving antenna. You just can't have enough receiving antennas on the low bands! And for the transmitting antenna side of things, take a look at Thomas NZ4O's Web page about his comparisons of 160 meter 3/8- and ½-wave inverted L and T antennas.
If you need an inexpensive, transmit-capable 12-volt relay, Brad KV5V has done the leg work for you. "I bought the Magnecraft 976XAX97H-12. This is the 12-VDC, 16 Amp version. There are also 24-VDC, 120-VAC versions, and there is a version with 20 Amp contacts. The important thing about these relays for RF use is that the armature and its solder tabs is set between the two stator contacts, and there's no need to have a wire leading from the armature to the contacts, as there is in most other relays." The cost is low (less than $3 by mail order) and the relays are compact at about ½ cubic inch.
For distributing contest audio between operators and visitors (such as referees), at WRTC-2006, Steve N2IC used this ART HeadAMP4 amp. "It provides four individually controlled outputs from a single stereo input. I have used it many times since 2006. [It] works great, and seems to be completely immune to RF.
Technical Web Site of the Week - Specifications for tower sections and hardware are fairly easy to find, but what about anchoring hardware? Tom N4NW discovered that all of the Chance anchor information can be found online. No need to guess!
Be Thankful For Our Invisible World
One recent morning as I picked up the paper from the sidewalk, a continuous rushing, chattering sound reached my ears. It wasn't traffic noise or wind, but a cacophony of tiny voices. Finally, motion from above caught my eye and I looked up into the sunrise to see a river of birds migrating toward the Missouri River, not far to the east. Many thousands were busily flapping, making a channel dozens of wingspans across in a stream that slowly drifted south until I lost sight of it behind the rooftops and through leaf-less November branches. I'm sure tens of thousands passed while I watched and many more both before I noticed and after I could no longer see them. One of the great natural spectacles, migrations of birds along their timeless pathways remind us that we are immersed in a world far bigger than ourselves, yet one with which we often lose our sense of connection.
In recent days, I have noted with interest the unprecedented openings on 160 meters that were broad and strong. Hundreds of QSOs were completed between Europe and the West Coast in a few hours celebration by stations large and small. I also read about meteor scatter openings from the annual Leonids shower, connecting widely separated stations with short bursts of data reflected from the ionized traces. And the long-awaited genesis of solar cycle 24 is beginning to lift the veil of silence from our higher bands, giving us tantalizing glimpses of openings to come.
The HF DXer's annual migration is measured in megahertz as we move down to feed from the upwelling of distant signals on low frequency winter bands, north meeting south as the seasons slide between the hemispheres. Others paddle their signals out into the ever-changing weather systems to catch a wave of the slow breaking surf of warm and cold air washing across the continent, punctuated by storms and temperature inversions. Still others lie in wait along the game trails of the ionosphere waiting for drifting E-layer clouds of metallic ions to collect, reflect, and dissipate into the ephemera, or for Aurora's northern skirts to ripple in the solar wind, collecting our signals in her folds and shaking them free again.
We are privileged to have these windows into visions and experiences in a world rarely traveled by outsiders. Our presence in that world is fleeting, as the passage of friends and colleagues like Ken K5KA all too often reminds us. We share not only friendship, but an appreciation of being able to experience and share these sights and sounds, to learn the tools of our wireless trade, and to exercise the craft with which we wield them. It is a deep and enduring experience, hard to describe and impossible to forget.
This coming weekend, like those wind-faring feathered aviators, thousands of hams will take to the airwaves in search of elusive and distant contacts. Radio eyes will scan the horizon and radio ears will strain to capture the dots and dashes of other explorers coming through the high passes and around distant headlands. From the surface of the Earth to outer space is the domain of radio and we travel within it whenever we desire. Bound by no dictated schedules or required production, we are free to come and go as we fancy, flying free and unfettered in our own invisible oceans. As you fill your log with call signs both strange and familiar, from near and far, don't forget to be thankful for the radio amateur's special connection to the natural world, where new wonders lie just beyond every antenna. I'll see you there!
25 November through 8 December 2009
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 Nov 28, 0000Z to Nov 29, 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RST and CQ zone. Logs due: Jan 15. Rules
ARRL 160 Meter Contest--CW, from Dec 4, 2200Z to Dec 6, 1600Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8. Exchange: RST and ARRL/RAC section if US/VE. Logs due: Jan 5. Rules
Top Band Sprint--CW, from Dec 3, 0000Z to Dec 3, 0600Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8. Exchange: RST, S/P/C, ARCI number or Power. Logs due: 30 days. Rules
TARA RTTY Mêlée--Digital, from Dec 5, 0000Z to Dec 5, 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RST and State/Province or serial. Logs due: Dec 31. Rules
Top Operators Activity Contest--CW, from Dec 5, 1600Z to Dec 6, 1800Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5. Exchange: RST, serial, and TOPS/PRO number. Logs due: Dec 31. Rules
ARRL EME Competition--Phone,CW,Digital, from Dec 5, 0000Z to Dec 6, 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 50-1296. Exchange: Both call signs, sig rpt, acknowledgement. Logs due: Jan 5. Rules
LOG DUE DATES
25 November through 8 December 2009
December 1 - CQ-WE Contest, email logs to: (see rules), paper logs and diskettes to: (see rules). Rules
December 6 - 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. Rules
December 7 - RSGB 2nd 1.8 MHz Contest, CW, upload log at: http://www.rsgbcc.org/cgi-bin/hfenter.pl, paper logs and diskettes to: RSGB-G3UFY, 77 Bensham Manor Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 7AF, England. Rules
December 8 - NA Collegiate ARC Championship, SSB, email logs to: SSPhone@arrl.org, email log summary to: firstname.lastname@example.org, paper logs and diskettes to: November SS Phone, ARRL, 225 Main St., Newington, CT 06111, USA. Rules