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The ARRL Contest Update
July 12, 2017
Editor: Brian Moran, N9ADG
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IN THIS ISSUE
NEW HF OPERATORS - THINGS TO DO

There's a new 1.8.0-rc1 release of WSJT-X available (see below), with a new, quicker-turnaround FT8 mode. Looking at 20 meters right now, a number of people are already using it. Installing WSJT-X versions 1.7.0 and later will also give you the MSK144 mode, designed for meteor scatter contacts. That might be useful if you're entering the upcoming CQ WW VHF Contest.

The NAQP RTTY Contest is a good milestone for getting your RTTY configuration set and tested for the fall contest season. There are always program upgrades to be done, new tips and techniques to practice. For example, if your rig has a 'twin peaking' filter for use with RTTY, did you know if can actually hinder the performance of some computer decoders? Check out the RTTY presentations by Ed, W0YK, on the Contest University website.

CONTEST SUMMARY

13 Jul - 26 Jul 2017

Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section

July 13

July 14

July 15

July 16

July 17

July 19

July 20

July 21

July 22

July 26

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NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, AND GENERAL INTEREST

When you come across an interesting article or picture related to radio contesting, why not send it to contest-update@arrl.org so it can be shared with other readers.

Over the next two weeks, be on the look out for activity from the Boy Scout Jamboree station K2BSA/8. According to Tim, K3LR: "The National Boy Scout Jamboree will be held this month in Glen Jean, West Virginia, from July 15 to July 28. There will be a whole bunch of Radio related activities, and they will be looking for help from area operators to make contacts from their home QTHs in order to make the event a big success for the boys. There will be boys working on Radio Merit Badges during the whole two weeks who need to make QSOs in order to fulfill the requirements of the badge. They will also be holding EchoLink nets, launching high altitude balloons and talking to the International Space Station. The National Jamboree is only held every four years, so if you are able to help make some contacts it could be a once in a lifetime experience for a future Ham!"

The 2017 HAM RADIO event is this weekend in Friedrichshafen, Germany. "Europe's most important amateur radio exhibition" features an extensive line-up of vendor displays, educational sessions, a Maker Faire, flea market, and fox hunt event. Contest University has a six-hour session on Friday, and VEC testing for those seeking US Amateur Radio licenses will also be available on Saturday with advanced registration. Contesting will be an emphasis, as Germany hosts WRTC 2018 next year.

The World Wide Radio Operator Foundation announced the May completion of improvements to contest websites that the organization maintains, including http://cqwpxrtty.com, http://cqwpx.com, and others. The changes include better support for display on devices of varying screen size, as well as the inclusion of historical databases of past contest results.

Mike, W7VO, published an article on eHam.net detailing the history of Amateur Radio call signs. Historical tidbit: Regulation and issuance of official call signs were in part spurred by the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. (Jim, W6YA via Ward, N0AX)

Tracking the history of vanity call signs is made easier through the online availability of some years of Amateur Radio call books. (Dennis, N6KI)

Well-known contester Tom Taormina, K5RC, is the featured Saturday evening speaker for the Pacific Northwest DX Convention to be held August 4 through August 6 in Spokane, Washington. Tom's talk is entitled "Honey, I Want One Like This: The Journey from Hobby to Obsession." The 2017 PNWDXC program features a number of presentations by contesters, for contesters, and about contesting, including:

  • "Remote RTTY Contesting from W4AAW" by Jay, WS7I
  • "Why the 7QP Works" by Dick, K4XU
  • "QRP Dxing and Contesting" by Dan, K7MM
  • "Postcards from PJ2T" by Geoff, W0GC
  • "How to Overcome the Anticipated Low Solar Minimum" by Carl, K9LA

The convention closes on Sunday with notable RTTY contester and long-time Contest University Professor Ed, W0YK, presenting "P49X DXing from the Southern Caribbean"

Ward, N0AX, writes on Facebook: "OK, ham radio folks - I'm sure all of you have family, friends, clubs who are interested in the eclipse. Knowing you're a ham radio operator, maybe they asked how the eclipse will affect radio waves (a.k.a. "RF" for "radio frequency"). Here's an article I wrote in Nuts & Volts magazine presenting several things they can do with radios they already have to hear the effect themselves. There are other articles to read listed in the article and on the HamSCI website, too. Got your goggles yet?"

COSB, or Contest Online Score Board, is a new online score reporting website for use during a contest. Already compatible with Win-Test, N1MM Logger+, Writelog, TR4W, QARLog and DXlog.net logging programs, it also aims to support multiple simultaneous contests. It's already been actively used in recent contests. According to Victor, VA2WA/VA2WDQ, future enhancements will include user-defined contests, and private 'contest rooms' to accommodate friendly competition between club members.

Looking for an food idea for that multi-op, or a dessert for the radio club summer picnic? How about a tower cake, complete with antenna.

MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) are being considered and tested for disaster preparedness drills for some groups such as hospital staff. Internet searches turn up a number of games available featuring these types of scenarios, and Intel built a demonstration disaster simulator a number of years ago. The military and industry have been using simulations for training for years. Where applicable, is Amateur Radio also being incorporated into these simulations?

A new initiative to actively beam radio messages into the cosmos to potentially be received by other life forms is encountering alarm: What if the extra-terrestrial receivers of these messages have better technology, and are not kindly disposed to humans?

WORD TO THE WISE

X-QSO

The word "X-QSO" is used instead of "QSO" at the start of a line in a Cabrillo format log file to denote a QSO that should be ignored for scoring purposes. Check the particular contest's rules -- a contest sponsor can sometimes interpret this rule as not affecting YOUR score, but still counting for the station that worked you. This word might be used in an instance where during the contest you realize you made a mistake in logging the exchange for a contact, but the contact should still count for the station that worked you.

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

In this video, LEGO Mindstorms are used to make a telegraph key transmitter and printing receiver. Code running on a LEGO EV3 interprets Morse from the straight key, and then writes each character each character on a sheet of paper using a regular pen. (Andy, DL3GA/AB8AY)

Ed, N4OC, was interviewed by Tim, K3LR, during the 2017 Contest University. Ed discusses some of his first contest activities during high school, and then during his time at the US Naval Academy's W3ADO station in the late 1960s. Like many, Amateur Radio operating took a back seat during his career, but he kept up by reading radio literature. Upon his retirement in 2007, he renewed his interest in contesting with the help of Scott, W0DQ.

Did you work WK1DS during last weekend's IARU contest? Meet AE4FH and KM4IPF, two of the operators, and hear their impression of the contest. These kids have their own YouTube channel and website http://HamRadio.World.

HAARP is having an open house with tours of the facility on August 19, 2017 in Gakona, Alaska. Click on the picture for a larger version. [Photo courtesy of HAARP, UAF]

The High Frequency Active Aurora Research Program (HAARP) is having an open house, and everyone is invited! The event on August 19, 2017, in Gakona, Alaska, features a facility tour, mobile planetarium, and science talks. See the HAARP Facebook page for more information, or click on the picture for a larger version and details.

Sean, KX9X, received an overview and update on WRTC 2018 from Sandy, DL1QQ during Hamvention 2017.

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RESULTS AND RECORDS

RAC Winter Contest 2016 Results now available online and in the July-August 2017 The Canadian Amateur magazine.

The WRTC 2018 organizers set up and tested fifteen of the stations during ARRL Field Day weekend. With over 100 volunteers involved, four trucks were required to get the right gear to the right places. In addition to tents, antennas, generators, and radios, the score reporting and online media infrastructure were also tested. No critical issues were found, and there were numerous ideas generated by the exercise.

Practice can make a bigger score: according to Bud, AA3B: "John, W2GD, and I were the guests of the DARC OV H20 Piene Club during IARU 2017. They setup a station that was very similar to the design for WRTC 2018. This gave John and I a rare opportunity to assess our readiness for WRTC 2018 under very realistic conditions. We fully exercised our station design and operating plans. We learned a lot about propagation from Europe which was somewhat different than we expected, particularly with respect to the timing of openings to various parts of the world. This was truly an enjoyable learning experience and we are very appreciative of the outstanding support we received from our Hosts."

OPERATING TIP

Don't linger over DX while searching and pouncing. If you're searching and pouncing for multipliers and come across a rare one with a big pileup, remember that you're seeking to maximize the number of points per unit time, and it may not pay make sense to spend a lot of time trying to make the contact. If there are other multipliers available, put the rare one on the second VFO, and look for other stations while keeping the pileup in one ear. Conditions could also change to be more in your favor later in the contest.

TECHNICAL TOPICS AND INFORMATION

Joe, K1JT, and the WSJT team have released a beta version WSJT-X version 1.8.0, which includes a new FT8 mode. FT8 provides "QSOs 4 times faster than JT65 or JT9" among other features. Version 1.8.0 provides other features beyond the new mode, including improved performance for the JT65, QRA64, and MSK144 protocols, and improved CAT (rig) control. Version 1.8.0-rc1 is available from the WSJT-X web page. Make sure you read the Release Notes as you install new versions of WSJT-X.

Squirrels and other climbing animals are a big problem for electric utility companies, and they can also do damage to Amateur Radio coax and rotator cables. Commercial broadcasters have problems too, but their coax is generally larger. A recent RadioWorld article suggested using plastic flowerpots to block animal climbers on coax.

It's good to know that if you need a long-lived small power source for your specialized project, you can get one that uses the decay of Tritium, and is packaged in industry standard package sizes. The betavoltaic NanoTritium power source from City Labs has application in encryption devices, military, and space uses. Another option for power: harvest it from a noisy RF environment, like in this cellular phone proof of concept. (Dennis, N6KI)

Independent researchers examining data from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory's (LIGO) detection of gravitational waves have found some anomalies suggesting further analysis of the data may be needed, and potentially calling into question whether gravitational waves have actually been detected. According to an article in Wired magazine, gravitational waves are detected by looking for correlations of a radio signal between two distinct receiver sites, reasoning that non-signals will not be correlated due to their geographical separation. The independent researchers' analysis of the data may show that the assumption of noise non-correlation may not be correct, or that the original gravitational wave detection was a false-positive due to the Gibbs phenomenon - a type of "ringing" as might be experienced in DSP filters.

The Red Pitaya is a "Test & Measurement applications running on a credit card sized SoC (FPGA+CPU) based Open SW source DAQ platform" with oscilloscope, signal generator, spectrum analyzer, and more, but most importantly for contesting, it can also be an SDR receiver. It's been getting some recent traction for CW and RTTY Skimmer applications with it's ability to simultaneously decode six 192 kHz swaths, and now Bob, N6TV, has succeeded in getting it to simultaneously skim CW and RTTY spots. For 6-meter use, some users report improved performance by using an 9:1 or 14:1 impedance matching transformer.

A company that masters music CDs has published an analysis of the changing 'fashion' of loudness levels used in CD production over the years. It appears the current fad is to increase the measured RMS levels to a graph-filling level, using a combination of compression, limiting, clipping, or digital compression with look-ahead. The result of these techniques when used poorly or with a very heavy hand is distortion and diminished dynamic range, similar to what occurs when transceiver microphone compression or gain settings are set incorrectly.

With modern equipment with switching power supplies, we don't think too much about power line frequency compatibility, seventy years ago, the Los Angeles power grid was 50 Hz!

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CONVERSATION

IARU Observations

Last weekend I was part of a multi-single operation for IARU. Since it's a time where there aren't many of the major contests going, there were some accumulated tasks to complete before the station could even get on the air. The main radio was in the shop for some upgrades, so the secondary radio was moved to the primary position, and a new secondary was installed. It wasn't the same make and model, which required cable changes, and some changes to the logging program. An amplifier was acting up, so some troubleshooting was necessary, a bad rocker switch identified and handled. An antenna switch appeared to have a problem switching between the backup radio and a particular antenna, requiring us to substitute antenna positions since we couldn't repair the switch in time. There's always something that needs attention or improvement.

During the contest, we were pleasantly surprised by openings on 10 and 15 meters, and a persistent opening on 20 meters to Asia. Given the conventional wisdom on band conditions, we could have talked ourselves into a lackluster effort with a 'bands are going to be terrible' attitude, and they could have been if we weren't paying attention - a self-fulfilling prophecy.

One of our operators is a YL. I couldn't help but notice that during her operating time, she was frequently asked for her name, or the other operator would make the comment that she didn't sound like a male station licensee. It was obvious that some of the callers were looking up the station call before they replied to her CQ. More than a few asked for her name. I'd like to think that it was to verify that the operation was on the up and up, but I don't often hear our male contest operators being asked for non-exchange information during a contest. If the call sign was in question, why not ask for the call sign phonetically, instead of the operator name? This is another good time to 'just send the exchange.'

That's all for this time. Remember to send contesting related stories, book reviews, tips, techniques, press releases, errata, schematics, club information, pictures, stories, blog links, and predictions to contest-update@arrl.org

73, Brian N9ADG

CONTESTS

13 Jul - 26 Jul 2017

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.

HF CONTESTS

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jul 12, 1300z to Jul 12, 1400z, Jul 12, 1900z to Jul 12, 2000z, Jul 13, 0300z to Jul 13, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 15.

QRP Fox Hunt, Jul 14, 0100z to Jul 14, 0230z; CW; Bands: 20m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: July 15.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Jul 14, 0145z to Jul 14, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: July 16.

NCCC Sprint, Jul 14, 0230z to Jul 14, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: July 16.

Russian Radio Team Championship, Jul 15, 0700z to Jul 15, 1459z; CW, SSB; Bands: 40, 20, 15, 10m; RRTC: RS(T) + 3-character code, Non-RRTC: RS(T) + ITU Zone No.; Logs due: July 15.

Trans-Tasman Low-Bands Challenge, Jul 15, 0800z to Jul 15, 1400z; CW, Phone, Digital; Bands: 160, 80, 40m; RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: July 22.

DMC RTTY Contest, Jul 15, 1200z to Jul 16, 1200z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: August 16.

Feld Hell Sprint, Jul 15, 1200z to Jul 15, 1359z; Feld Hell; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; (see rules); Logs due: July 19.

North American QSO Party, RTTY, Jul 15, 1800z to Jul 16, 0559z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; NA: Name + (state/DC/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: July 21.

RSGB Low Power Contest, Jul 16, 0900z to Jul 16, 1200z, Jul 16, 1300z to Jul 16, 1600z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; RST + Serial No. + Power; Logs due: July 17.

Run for the Bacon QRP Contest, Jul 17, 0100z to Jul 17, 0300z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + (Member No./power); Logs due: July 23.

Phone Fray, Jul 19, 0230z to Jul 19, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: July 21.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jul 19, 1300z to Jul 19, 1400z, Jul 19, 1900z to Jul 19, 2000z, Jul 20, 0300z to Jul 20, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 22.

NAQCC CW Sprint, Jul 20, 0030z to Jul 20, 0230z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; RST + (state/province/country) + (NAQCC No./power); Logs due: July 24.

QRP Fox Hunt, Jul 21, 0100z to Jul 21, 0230z; CW; Bands: 20m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: July 22.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Jul 21, 0145z to Jul 21, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: July 23.

NCCC Sprint, Jul 21, 0230z to Jul 21, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: July 23.

SA Sprint Contest, Jul 22, 2000z to Jul 23, 0000z; CW, SSB; Bands: 40, 20m; RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: July 28.

SKCC Sprint, Jul 26, 0000z to Jul 26, 0200z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + Name + (SKCC No./power); Logs due: July 28.

Phone Fray, Jul 26, 0230z to Jul 26, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: July 28.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jul 26, 1300z to Jul 26, 1400z, Jul 26, 1900z to Jul 26, 2000z, Jul 27, 0300z to Jul 27, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: July 29.

VHF+ CONTESTS

CQ Worldwide VHF Contest, Jul 15, 1800z to Jul 16, 2100z; Any; Bands: 6, 2m; 4-character grid square; Logs due: July 31.

Also see Feld Hell Sprint, above.

LOG DUE DATES

13 Jul - 26 Jul 2017

July 13, 2017

July 14, 2017

July 15, 2017

July 16, 2017

July 17, 2017

July 18, 2017

July 19, 2017

July 20, 2017

July 21, 2017

July 22, 2017

July 23, 2017

July 24, 2017

July 25, 2017

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ARRL Contest Update wishes to acknowledge information from WA7BNM's Contest Calendar and SM3CER's Contest Calendar.

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