May 11, 2011Editor: Ward Silver, NØAX
IN THIS ISSUE
NEW HF OPERATORS - THINGS TO DO
If you've not participated in the annual Armed Forces Cross-band Communications Test, give it a try! Military stations like AIR and NAV transmit on frequencies near the HF ham bands and listen for stations calling on ham frequencies. Work as many as you can, including a station on the USS Yorktown - most send QSLs, too!
The next issue will be a Dayton Photo Album as your editor mines the miles of aisles for smiles.
This is the link for the complete "Care And Feeding of Power Grid Tubes". (Thanks, Ed N4II) The Double L antenna was actually the design of Don K2KQ, not K2LQ. (Thanks, George W2VJN) Tom K1KI corrects a typo in that many NEQP certificates were headed forth to the fourth district. The ninth? Nein!
Hector XE2K/AD6D reports the creation of a new Spanish-language contest reflector - CQ TEST Radiodeportiva - by EA8AY and EA8CAC. The goal is to make it easier for Spanish-speaking hams to share information and experiences in their native language. It is hope that it will promote and increase the activity from Spanish-speaking countries all over the world. If you want to participate and share experiences but your Spanish is not perfecto, no problem, you are welcome. Please register and share what you think can be good for the contesting community. Several can help to translate if you wish. En español, "Hola Amigos - Quiero anunciar la creacion de un nuevo foro que hace una semana EA8AY y EA8CAC iniciaron que llamaron CQ TEST Radiodeportiva que es un foro en espa?ol, que esta enfocado en hacer mas facil compartir la informacion y experiencias en tu lenguaje, que tambien tiene la idea de promover e incrementar la actividad en paises de habla hispana en mas concursos explicando y apoyando a los miembros en los diferentes temas relacionados a el Radio Deporte dado esto por varios experimentadosy bien conocidos Concurseros no solo de Latin America si no de todo el mundo. Quedan invitados y espero ver mas amigos en el Foro para hacerlo mas rico en conocimiento y experiencias." Please forward this message to your Spanish-speaking ham friends!
Tim K3LR's video presentation on all of the Contesting Activities at the 2011 Dayton Hamvention has been posted to the Potomac Valley Radio Club's web page at under Recorded Webinars. During the Hamvention, two hours of Contest University USA in Dayton (on May 19th) will be available live and online via Webinars courtesy of ConTest University (CTU) and the Potomac Valley Radio Club (PVRC). The first Webinar - the opening welcome and first session "Contesting the Right Way" by K1DG - will run from 8-9 AM Eastern Daylight time (USA EDT). The second Webinar will run from 4-5 PM EDT and presents Rob Sherwood, NCØB delivering "Contest Radio Performance" and the closing remarks for CTU. Registration information will be posted on the PVRC website shortly. Radio-sport also has a new article on the contest goings-on at Dayton. I would ask for permission to reprint the photo of nattily-attired Paul K9PG and Gerry K8GT, but it's just too awful to print!
Central States VHF Society Vice President Kent WA5VJB has issued a call for papers for the CSVHFS Proceedings with a rapidly approaching deadline of May 20. The emphasis is on smaller papers this years such as "Hints and Kinks", roving and contest operations, radio modifications, antenna construction, etc. (from AMSAT bulletin ANS-121)
Dave G3YMC reports that Ukranian hams losing access to several bands is not yet certain and is apparently an administrative error. The Contest Update apologizes for promulgating uncertain information.
How time flies. It was about 25 years ago that Doug KR2Q encouraged and assisted Dick Ross K2MGA with creating the CQ Contest Hall of Fame. For some historic photos, take a look at these shots from Buz K2GL's 80th birthday party and Hall of Fame #1. A summary of K2GL's accomplishments is found at the lower right. (Thanks, Doug KR2Q)
Larry N6NC was working on improving his accuracy at copying number strings - an important part of doing well in the up-coming CQ WPX CW contest - and found Morsecat2 by DK5SCI. This code practice program can be set to blast out number group - just what you need to get WPXed into shape!
CWops will sponsor the first CW OPEN this summer on Aug 20-21. CW OPEN is unique in that it consists of three, 4-hour contests timed to occur under optimal low-band and high-band conditions in at least two out of three of the time periods in ITU regions 1,2 and 3. It is a single-operator contest with QRP, low-power, and high-power categories. The contests will each be separately scored and awarded. Those who participate in two or more of the three contests will have their scores aggregated and can also compete in the combined score category. This looks like fun! (Thanks, Al AD6E)
The June issue of Popular Mechanics ran a great article, "When the First Responder Is You" covering a number of real-world situations that have all been in the news lately. Getting on the radio is not always what needs to happen first!
W1ZM, Gerard "Jerry" Scarano, of Gales Ferry, Connecticut, has become a Silent Key at the age of 96. He was an original member of the Yankee Clipper Contest Club and before that an active Potomac Valley Contest Club member. The list of call signs that operated from his stations reads like a who's-who of contesting. Jeff K1ZM penned a nice reminiscence on the cq-contest reflector.
AN Wireless Tower Co., LLC has relocated its operations to a 43,000 sq. ft. facility in Austintown, Ohio. It's nice to hear of a company outgrowing its manufacturing facility instead of the other way 'round. Aside from improved shipping times, this move places the company closer to their hot dip galvanizing and steel vendors. They'll have easy customer access just 2 miles from I-80 in northeast Ohio, too. (Thanks, AN Wireless founder, Dan KK3AN)
Bob K8IA reports that the Arizona Outlaws Contest Club has elected a new slate of officers for the coming year. Good job!
Steve GW4BLE and Andy MWØMWZ have put together a great website to play back audio of contest activity (mostly SSB) from the last eight years or so. The basic building blocks are from the Writelog contest logging program website, plus SQL log conversion, Smartphone audio, and other features. Steve notes the assistance of the CDXC members during site debugging and development, as well.
Web Site of the Week - At the recent ID State Convention the Friday night speaker, Lisa Spahr, had a very interesting presentation about a WWII-era ham public service of which I was completely unaware. A group of hams was organized to listen to SW broadcasts from Germany and other Axis powers to listen for POW reports and relay the information to their families. Lisa's grandfather was a POW in Germany for 26 months and her great-grandmother found out about his capture this way. All in all, there were quite a number of hams doing this - sending thousands of letters - and she is requesting Congressional recognition of this group, many of whom are still alive.
WORD TO THE WISE
A side trip to the US Air Force Museum is a must-do if you ever attend the Dayton Hamvention. If you're not heading to Dayton, you can take a virtual walk-through of the entire museum, click by click! (Thanks, Sean N3JQ)
The LU Contest Group recently had its 11th anniversary and threw a big party. Diego LU8ADX sent a link to his online photo album of the festivities. Some attended in costume, like "El Gaucho", Martin LU5DX!
Ace ham photographer, Bob N6TV, published his online album of photos from the Visalia International DX Convention - thanks!
Bob KØRC asks, "How much do you REALLY know about the United Kingdom? You've put many (or all) of them in your log, but just how is that Kingdom organized, anyway?" Luckily, he also provides the answer in the form of this 5-minute video!
If dark matter falls on your foot in the dark, is it true that you can't tell? This cartoon from PHDComics refutes the supposition thus. (Thanks, Tree N6TR)
But can this guy balance it up there with a Spiderbeam on it for the entire Field Day period? (Thanks, Tim K3LR)
ARRL Contest Branch Manager, Sean KX9X relates discovering and repairing an issue with the ARRL 160 Meter contest results for the Club Competition, "Numerous members of the Frankford Radio Club were accidentally listed as members of the Yankee Clipper Contest Club. This appears to be the result of an error on my part during the data processing phase. The order of finish was unchanged in the Unlimited Club category; however, Frankford Radio Club is the correct winner of the Medium Club category. The Local Club category was unaffected by this error. The online results database has been corrected."
Also in the ARRL Contest library, results for the 2010 ARRL 160M Contest and the 2011 ARRL RTTY Roundup are now online. Log Checking Reports for these two events are still being processed and Sean hopes to have them online in the next day or so. The April 2011 Rookie Roundup results are also online - thanks to all the OT's that got on and worked the Rookies. The next Rookie Roundup will be held on Sunday, August 21 1800-2400 UTC and will use RTTY!
CQ World-Wide Contest Director, Bob K3EST reports record 2010 log submission levels. "Contesting continues to be at the leading edge of spectrum use and technological advancements. Ken can give you exact numbers. A total of approximately 12,700 logs were received for the 2010 CQ WW contests. In spite of code not required for obtaining an amateur radio license, CW continues to grow in popularity within contests." I'll say! The SSB haul was 6,445 electronic logs and for CW there were 6,079 electronic logs. As Ken K1EA muses, "Imagine if we had 1957-1959 conditions!"
Dave W9ZRX needs your VHF+ contest logs for a late May or early June release of the VHF Super Partial Check and VHF Prefill databases. Because of the nature of VHF propagation, he needs logs from a wide area for the databases to be useful across the country. Please email Dave Cabrillo-formatted logs from any of the 2009-2011 ARRL or CQ VHF contests.
With a little help from Paul, K8PO, the Boring Amateur Radio Club is happy to announce that the results of the 15th running of the Stew Perry event are now available for your viewing pleasure. Don't forget - there will be a Summer Stew coming up in about five weeks. (Thanks, Tree N6TR)
The recent Georgia QSO Party sponsored a special award for contacting seven of the contest's special event 1x1 call signs such that the suffixes spelled G-E-O-R-G-I-A (yes, two "G" stations). The rare vowel "E" turned out to be the difficult letter! (Thanks, Scott KB4KBS)
The claimed scores for the 2011 WPX SSB Contest are now available with a record 5,041 logs and paper logs still arriving in the mail. Claimed scores can be sorted by continent and category. A search function is included so you can quickly locate a particular score. The score calculation process is discussed on CQ WPX Director Randy K5ZD's blog.
Clean audio saves time! Tip #1 - the power meter needle should move in sync with your voice peaks, not go to maximum and stay there because you have the processor maxed out. Tip #2 - yelling makes things worse. Tip #3 - clean audio will cut your QSO time by two-thirds. Why? Because everything doesn't have to be repeated and your call sign gets through correctly more often on the first call. Higher average power does not also mean higher intelligibility - too often quite the opposite!
When is a bus bar not a bus bar? "The Case of the Noisy Bus Bar" - a Sherlock Ohms column the April 2011 issue of "Design News" magazine - takes an interesting turn through antenna theory.
Bill K2TT, Defense Science Board member, writes, "Contesters are heavily dependent on computers coupled to the Internet, and as a consequence, are vulnerable to the increasingly burdensome problem of cyber security. The DoD's National Security Agency (NSA) has published a useful document for consumer-level cyber security, "Best Practices for Keeping Your Home Network Secure." This document could be useful for readers of the Contest Update."
The April issue of Scientific American included an article titled, "Solving the Cocktail Party Problem" about extracting just one voice out of many and how hard that is for computers to do. Any phone contester could have told them that! In a similar vein, "Cognitive-Radio Games" in the same month's IEEE Spectrum speaks to the methods by which radios will share crowded spectrum. That one's easy, too - give your full call, always!
Weather maps are all over the web, but what about maps from the past? You're in luck as NOAA has an online archive of weather maps open to the public. Now you can play back that great tropospheric opening!
An interesting conversation ensued on the Towertalk Reflector about digging a square hole ("Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel", anyone?) with a wide variety of related (and un-related) topics being explored. Just check the archives for the topic "Digging a Hole with a Backhoe". Where to find operators able to make a nice, square hole? Gravediggers and septic-tank installers were mentioned, the point being to hire someone who digs square or rectangular holes for a living.
Scientists at Stanford University have developed a prototype rechargeable battery that runs on water. Nanotechnology is used to extract electricity from the difference in salt content between fresh and salt water. Gee, we can extract electricity from on air, water, and fire...if somebody will just add an earthen battery to complete the quartet, Aristotle would be proud!
Technical Web Site of the Week - Mitch WB9IQQ, Jeff "Mightyohm" KF6PBP, and Andie Nordgren have released a "Soldering Is Easy!" comic book. It's fun, and funny, easy to read, and Mitch hopes it will make it really easy for anyone and everyone to learn to solder, even if they've never built anything before. Previously, they developed a single-page comic reference sheet, now in 6 languages, and all Open Source and free for the downloading! (Thanks, Mert AC7KY)
Ham Hearing Aids
I wear hearing aids in both ears and have for nearly twenty years - even during contests! Here are a few tips and thoughts on hearing aids that might be of interest to those of you who need a little help with your hearing or who aren't getting any younger and thinking about it. Bear in mind that my hearing loss is basically a high-frequency roll-off above a couple of kHz. Your specific need should be evaluated by a professional and may have stronger bearing on what type of hearing aid you need than the following topics.
Digital or Analog? There's not even a question - get digital aids. They use similar signal processing to what we have in our radios, with similar effects on the audio output. This is now the dominant technology and rapidly replacing analog instruments. Your main questions will be about the signal processing features of the signal processing, discussed below. Digital aids act as a multi-band graphic equalizer, very similar to those used in audio systems. In addition, the digital aid will have several "programs" that set up the aid's features in different ways for different environments. The hearing aid technician will explain this to you in detail. It would be a good idea to make it known that you have some technical background so the discussion can take advantage of your expertise.
Behind-the-ear or In-the-ear? I started with behind-the-ear aids because at the time, the smaller in-the-ear aids were too expensive. This has changed, with the new "open ear" style offering a lot of features without the molded housing that goes in the ear canal. I have tried the open-ear style and I do like the sound quality. I changed to in-the-ear aids, however, because placement of the microphone in behind-the-ear aids tends to skew its pattern to above, behind, and to the side of the listener. This may not help with face-to-face conversation and dead-ahead audio sources, such as TV. In-the-ear aids can take advantage of the natural focusing provided by the external ear. Behind-the-ear microphones also don't help as much with most telephone handsets - you have to learn to hold a cell phone farther back so that the speaker is closer to the aid's microphone, for example.
Behind-the-ear aids are also generally quite uncomfortable with earmuff-style headphones that many of us prefer in the radio shack - if they can be worn under earmuffs at all. If you have to take the aids out when wearing headphones, they can't help you with receiver audio. So I wear a mid-sized, in-the-ear aid that has worked out well. Many vendors will let you try open-ear-style aids as way of finding out what features and settings you like whether you buy behind-the-ear or in-the-ear aids.
Signal Processing The first component of audio processing you'll notice is compression or AGC. Compression is good in a hearing aid because it prevents overload and distortion. The price is somewhat increased background noise. In addition, if you are using the aids with a radio the two AGC systems - one in the radio and one in the aid - increase the amount of compression and the interacting time constants of the compressors can actually hurt intelligibility of the received audio. You'll also notice that just like a ham receiver's DSP, some of the features of the hearing aid will color the audio in perceptible ways. For example, feedback cancellation is a nice feature but it will also try to get rid of single-tone signals like CW! The effects of noise reduction in the hearing aid are also similar to a receiver's DSP. You get used to them and the benefit of reducing noise generally outweighs the presence of artifacts. This is where the different programs of the digital aids become really handy.
While the advanced features are great in normal conversation, they get in the way when on the radio, so be sure to have one program in which compression is turned off along with feedback cancellation and other artifact-inducing features. Say to the technician, "I want one program that only has gain and frequency response correction." If you have enough programs, you might even want to try to set one up for CW and one for voice! It would be a good idea to take an audio player with recorded CW and voice signals to use as the aids are set up for you. The gain-and-frequency response program has also turned out to be the right one for me to use when I'm listening to music, as well.
Selecting a Vendor There are number of good hearing aid companies and the mid-range to high-end hearing aids are all very good. I initially selected independent local hearing aid companies with good prices and excellent service, but both struggled and were eventually purchased by a national manufacturer. My current set of aids is of a national brand with offices in shopping malls around the country. Because I travel frequently, I like knowing an office is probably handy and I have had to get a microphone port unplugged while on the road. Your circumstances will dictate your choice but I strongly recommend making service after the sale a primary evaluation criterion.
Do I Need Them How can you tell if you need a hearing aid? Ask your family for their honest opinion and then listen to what they tell you. "Green-bar guys" are an industry legend, referring to the volume control on the TV that they are always turning up and up and up. Meanwhile, they insist that their hearing is just fine and why does everybody mumble? If you're not hearing the phone, if you can hear someone talking but can't understand what they say, if the pileups all sound like mush - you probably need help with your hearing. One way to experiment before trying a hearing aid is a pocket graphic equalizer, such as the Koss three-band Portable Stereo Equalizers that can be found on the Internet for about $20. Wire it up to your radio or audio player and experiment with the settings. You may find that a little boost on the high frequency channel or dropping the low frequencies helps or maybe just some additional gain is what you need. The cost is low and you'll learn something without having to make an office visit.
Summary All of us are getting older and hearing often takes a hit on the way. Younger hams that have grown-up with ear-buds cranked up to 11 are discovering that those fragile hair cells of the cochlea have worn out early. Meanwhile, the perceived stigma of wearing hearing aids is largely non-existent as people are wearing headphones and earpieces everywhere you look. Good hearing matters not only on the radio but in our personal lives, too, especially to the people around you. Take advantage of what is becoming ubiquitous technology to restore your hearing.
11 May - 24 May
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.
CWops Monthly Mini-CWT Test--CW, from May 11, 1300Z to May 12, 0400Z and See Web site, See Web site to , See Web site. Bands (MHz): 3.5-14. Frequencies: Multiple operating periods, twice monthly on 2nd and 4th Wed, 18 to 28 kHz above band edge. Exchange: Name, member number or S/P/C. Logs due: 2 days. Rules
FOC QSO Party--CW, from May 14, 0000Z to May 14, 2359Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: Name, FOC member number. Logs due: 7 days. Rules
EUCW Fraternizing CW QSO Party--CW, from May 14, 1000Z to May 14, 1200Z and May 15, 1800Z to May 15, 2000Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Frequencies: Multiple operating periods. Exchange: RST, name, club, member number. Logs due: Jun 30. Rules
Alessandro Volta RTTY DX Contest--Digital, from May 14, 1200Z to May 15, 1200Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RST, serial, CQ zone. Logs due: Jun 30. Rules
Armed Forces Communications Test--Phone,Digital, from May 14, 1200Z to May 15, 2400Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Frequencies: See Web site for specific station schedules. Exchange: RS(T). Logs due: no logs. Rules
CQ-M International DX Contest--Phone,CW, from May 14, 1200Z to May 15, 1200Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RS(T) and serial. Logs due: 30 days. Rules
Nevada Mustang Roundup--Phone,CW,Digital, from May 14, 1700Z to May 15, 1700Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28, 50. Exchange: RS(T) and S/P/C or NV county. Logs due: Jun 15. Rules
FISTS Spring Sprint--CW, from May 14, 1700Z to May 15, 2100Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RS(T), S/P/C, name, FISTS nr or power. Logs due: 30 days. Rules
Worked All Britain - LF Phone--Phone, from May 15, 1000Z to May 15, 1400Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-7. Exchange: RS, serial, and WAB nr or DXCC entity. Logs due: 21 days. Rules
NAQCC Monthly QRP Sprint--CW, from May 19, 0030Z to May 19, 0230Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-14. Frequencies: Monthly on 2nd Tuesday or 3rd Wednesday (alternating). Exchange: RST, S/P/C, and NAQCC mbr nr or power. Logs due: 4 days. Rules
Feld-Hell Hamvention Sprint--Digital, from May 20, 1500Z to May 20, 1700Z and May 20, 1800Z to May 20, 2000Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Frequencies: Multiple operating periods; Monthly on 3rd Saturday. Exchange: RST, QTH, Feld-Hell number. Logs due: 7 days. Rules
Portuguese Navy Day--CW/SSB, from May 21, 1500Z to May 22, 1500Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RST, serial, CQ zone. Logs due: 20 days. Rules
EU PSK DX Contest--Digital, from May 21, 1200Z to May 22, 1200Z. Bands (MHz): 3.5-28. Exchange: RST and EU area code or serial. Logs due: 30 days. Rules
His Majesty King of Spain Contest--CW, from May 21, 1200Z to May 22, 1200Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28. Exchange: RST and serial or EA province. Logs due: Jun 10. Rules
50 MHz Spring Sprint--Phone,CW,Digital, from May 15, 2300Z to May 15, 0300Z. Bands (MHz): 50. Exchange: Grid Square (6-character preferred). Logs due: 14 days. Rules
Nevada Mustang Roundup--Phone,CW,Digital, from May 14, 1700Z to May 15, 1700Z. Bands (MHz): 1.8-28, 50. Exchange: RS(T) and S/P/C or NV county. Logs due: Jun 15. Rules
LOG DUE DATES
11 May - 24 May
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