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The ARRL Contest Update
October 18, 2017
Editor: Brian Moran, N9ADG
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IN THIS ISSUE
NEW HF OPERATORS - THINGS TO DO

Putting a serious effort into a major HF contest demands being at the rig for a significant number of consecutive hours. Make it easier on your body and improve your scores by making sure the ergonomics of your station are good. You don't want to have a sore neck or back muscles. There are a lot of sources of information on the topic of computer ergonomics, but things that matter include desk height, good posture, monitor viewing angle, and having every control within easy reach.

Station automation can reduce fatigue, which makes operating in the wee hours less error prone. Strive to use the operator to make contacts, and use technology to do everything else, like switching antennas.

CONTEST SUMMARY

19 Oct - 1 Nov 2017

Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section

October 19

October 20

October 21

October 22

October 25

October 26

October 27

October 28

November 1

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NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, AND GENERAL INTEREST

Bart, W9JJ, reminds that there are many frequencies still in use during the hurricane recovery efforts in the Caribbean: "...when selecting your operating frequencies note that 20 and 40 meters continue to have several formal and informal traffic-passing operations between 14.255 and 14.275 MHz - as well as on 7.182 and 7.188 MHz - running throughout the day. Many of these disaster area stations don't have big antennas (many established antennas systems were destroyed by the storms...), and while we on the US mainland may not be able to hear them, they can hear us in the US and Canada with our more capable stations. Please as always "listen first" and if asked to move, or notified of causing interference, please do so."

Some Amateurs are receiving notifications via email that they may commence operating on 2200 and 630 meters. These operators had previously registered on the Utilities Technology Council website. If no notification is received in the 30 days after an application, operation may also commence. Elecraft has published an Application Note describing how to use their K3 and K3S transceivers on the new 630 meter band, and it also contains some good information and additional links of use to anyone thinking about getting on these frequencies.

FT8 mode usage continues to increase! According to a tweet by Michael, G7VJR, operator of Club Log, "In September 2017, the number of FT8 QSOs uploaded to Club Log was the same as CW and SSB combined." (Bengt, K7ADD)

The FT8 mode is comparatively new for everyone. Some DXpeditions are now using it to open bands under marginal conditions, or provide contacts to stations that don't typically chase DX. The E6AG DXpedition published 'HOWTO: Working E6AG on FT8' to help inform operators on where to listen, and how to call them for the greatest success. The article contains general pointers on how to work split using WSJT-X, including screen shots. (via WWDXC reflector)

Google's Pixel Buds are wireless earbuds that claim to be able to translate 40 languages in real time when used in conjunction with a Google Pixel phone. The device connects via Bluetooth, and has a 5 hour operating time between charges when used in translation mode. (Dennis, N6KI)

If you missed the Mid Atlantic States VHF Conference, you can still pick up the proceedings on CD-ROM for $5 per disc + $2.50 shipping and handling. For $10 including shipping they'll also include the 2016 VHF SuperConference proceedings. Email W3KM to order.

The textbook materials from past years' Contest University sessions are now being offered as a set by DX Engineering. In the over 1500 pages of materials you'll find information on all aspects of contesting, from ethics to station building to rate increasing techniques. For a limited time, the set is offered at a reduced price, and includes free shipping.

WORD TO THE WISE

Isotropic radiator - An antenna with the characteristic of radiating equally in all directions.

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

Joel, W5ZN's webinar entitled "Contesting! It's a fun game. Let's do it the right way" is archived and available for viewing on the World Wide Radio Operator Foundation (WWROF) website.

Rudi, DK7PE, captured on video the aurora that occurred on September 17, 2017. It was the largest solar storm in over a decade. (Rudi, DK7PE via Top Band reflector)

The Amateur Radio Society of India (ARSI) has produced "Radio Contesting - Radio Sport for Every Ham" by Kiran, VU2XE. The webinar video is intended to introduce VU hams to Amateur Radio Contesting. Comparison and contrast between US contest stations and VU stations is made around ~5:45, specifically mentioning K3LR and W3LPL being "beacons in VU and Asia" during contests.

KL7L, who also holds the Part 5 authorization WE2XPQ, posted a video that walks through his 630 meter station, talking about the various components that he uses to get a decent signal on this new band. There are some good pointers for some of the equipment one might use, and conditions that could influence operating on this band.

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RESULTS AND RECORDS

The results of the 2016 Stew Perry Topband Distance Challenge have been posted. The 2017 "pre-Stew" will happen October 21 and 22. (Tree, N6TR)

OPERATING TIP

When good cables go bad

To avoid problems during a contest, it pays to check your cables inside the shack periodically. This includes all connectors in the signal chain, such as those to your power/SWR meter, filters, or amplifiers. Coax connectors should be tightened beyond finger-tight using pliers. After tightening, wiggle the cable while listening closely to a signal going through the cable to detect gross problems. Use quality cables for audio connections - a bad audio cable in the RTTY received signal chain can exhibit the same characteristics as selecting the wrong audio input device for your computer. Audio connectors can fail, as well. Is your sub-receiver not working, or did one side of your headphone cable or connector just go bad?

TECHNICAL TOPICS AND INFORMATION

"...by removing audio transformers and low pass filters many 100 watt stereo amps will work at this frequency" -- Quote from an email by KL7UW on suggestions of amplifiers for use on 630 meters. W1VD's website describes the work he and W1TAG did getting Hafler audio gear working on LF and MF.

If there were trading cards with Integrated Circuits, the chips in the IEEE website's Chip Hall of Fame would be on them. From the 555 timer and 741 op amp to the more recent STA2056 GPS receiver, a wide variety of chips are covered. (Ward, N0AX)

Tree, N6TR, noted that there is an 80 meter half-wave dipole being used by a spacecraft orbiting Mars. According to the referenced research paper, it is using 5 watts ERP. Quick, what's the dBd gain of this antenna? (via TopBand reflector)

Dennis, N6KI, reports that in his testing, at least one automobile battery trickle charger did NOT produce RFI when he tested it. "The Schumacher SEM-1562A-CA is available through various on-line websites." It is good practice to test any new pieces of equipment for RFI, as production runs may be different, parts vary, and so on. (Dennis, N6KI)

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CONVERSATION

Earthly Concerns

This week, the world's astronomers are marveling at the first instance of gravitational wave detection correlated with visible-light astronomy. In some circles, that news overshadowed the more earthly concerns of a vulnerability being found in one of the protocols that is used for wireless networking, WPA2. The vulnerability that was found could allow an adversary to decrypt network traffic without the need of the network password, and depending on the protocol settings, to even spoof devices on the network with fake packets. In effect, it is like being on a public wireless networks, or a wireless LAN that doesn't have any security. Most private networks don't find it appealing to let just anyone access the devices on their networks.

Vendors of networking gear are scrambling to release new versions of firmware for their devices that mitigate the multiple issues that have been discovered. The vulnerabilities pertain to access points and to all of the client devices that connect to the access points via WPA2. It's possible that many IoT (Internet of Things) devices with embedded network stacks won't be updated, especially if they're older than a year or two. Many inexpensive consumer devices with a wireless feature were never intended to have with software upgrades.

Networking has crept into much of our Amateur gear, but remember, this particular vulnerability is only applicable to gear using the WPA2 wireless protocol.

What's the shack maintenance to-do item? There's likely a little bit of time before scripts or programs to take advantage to this vulnerability are readily available to those that want to cause mischief. Start watching for firmware and/or wireless setting updates from equipment manufacturers. Make a list of all of the devices you have on your wireless network, and make sure that your networking gear has the latest firmware updates. When you're ready, change your access point's wireless password, and enter that new password into all of the client devices. Watch for devices weren't added to the list on the first go round, and add and update those. You have a tough decision to make about devices that can't be updated - they each represent a potential way in to your secure wireless network. It might be time to replace them with newer devices that are secure.

That's all for this time. Remember to send contesting related pictures, videos, stories, Alexa skills, 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

19 Oct - 1 Nov 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, Oct 18, 1300z to Oct 18, 1400z, Oct 18, 1900z to Oct 18, 2000z, Oct 19, 0300z to Oct 19, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: October 21.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Oct 20, 0145z to Oct 20, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: October 22.

NCCC Sprint, Oct 20, 0230z to Oct 20, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: October 22.

MCG Autumn Sprint, Oct 20, 1600z to Oct 20, 2000z; CW, SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40m; RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: November 4.

JARTS WW RTTY Contest, Oct 21, 0000z to Oct 23, 0000z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + age of operator; Logs due: October 31.

10-10 Int. Fall Contest, CW, Oct 21, 0001z to Oct 22, 2359z; CW; Bands: 10m Only; 10-10 Member: Name + 10-10 number + (state/province/country), Non-Member: Name + 0 + (state/province/country); Logs due: October 30.

RCB XYL Test, Oct 21, 0700z to Oct 21, 2159z; SSB; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RS + Serial No. + OM/YL; Logs due: October 29.

New York QSO Party, Oct 21, 1400z to Oct 22, 0200z; CW, SSB, Digital; Bands: All, except WARC; NY: RS(T) + county, non-NY: RS(T) + (state/province/"DX"); Logs due: November 4.

Stew Perry Topband Challenge, Oct 21, 1500z to Oct 22, 1500z; CW; Bands: 160m Only; 4-Character grid square; Logs due: November 6.

Worked All Germany Contest, Oct 21, 1500z to Oct 22, 1459z; CW, SSB; Bands: (Please observe contest free band segments per the rules), 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; DL, DARC-Member: RS(T) + DOK (local area code), DL, non-DARC: RS(T) + "NM", non-DL: RS(T) + Serial No.; Logs due: November 6.

South Dakota QSO Party, Oct 21, 1800z to Oct 22, 1800z; CW, Phone, Digital; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, 2m; SD: RS(T) + county, non-SD: RS(T) + (state/province/country); Logs due: November 20.

Feld Hell Sprint, Oct 21, 2000z to Oct 21, 2359z; Feld Hell; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; (see rules); Logs due: October 25.

Illinois QSO Party, Oct 22, 1700z to Oct 23, 0100z; CW/digital, Phone; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, 2m; IL: RS(T) + County, non-IL: RS(T) + (state/province/country); Logs due: November 23.

RSGB RoLo CW, Oct 22, 1900z to Oct 22, 2030z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + previous 6-character grid square received; Logs due: October 23.

SKCC Sprint, Oct 25, 0000z to Oct 25, 0200z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + Name + (SKCC No./power); Logs due: October 27.

Phone Fray, Oct 25, 0230z to Oct 25, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: October 27.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Oct 25, 1300z to Oct 25, 1400z, Oct 25, 1900z to Oct 25, 2000z, Oct 26, 0300z to Oct 26, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: October 28.

UKEICC 80m Contest, Oct 25, 2000z to Oct 25, 2100z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; 4-Character grid square; Logs due: October 25.

RSGB 80m Autumn Series, SSB, Oct 26, 1900z to Oct 26, 2030z; SSB; Bands: 80m Only; [other station's call] + [your call] + [serial no.] + [your name]; Logs due: October 28.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Oct 27, 0145z to Oct 27, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: October 29.

NCCC Sprint, Oct 27, 0230z to Oct 27, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: October 29.

CQ Worldwide DX Contest, SSB, Oct 28, 0000z to Oct 30, 0000z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RS + CQ Zone No.; Logs due: November 3.

Phone Fray, Nov 1, 0230z to Nov 1, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: October 20.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Nov 1, 1300z to Nov 1, 1400z, Nov 1, 1900z to Nov 1, 2000z, Nov 2, 0300z to Nov 2, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: October 21.

UKEICC 80m Contest, Nov 1, 2000z to Nov 1, 2100z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; 4-Character grid square; Logs due: October 25.

VHF+ CONTESTS

Araucaria World Wide VHF Contest, Oct 21, 0000z to Oct 22, 1600z; CW, SSB, FM; Bands: 6, 2m; RS(T) + 6-character grid square; Logs due: November 1.

Also see New York QSO Party, South Dakota QSO Party, and Illinois QSO Party, above.

LOG DUE DATES

19 Oct - 1 Nov 2017

October 19, 2017

October 20, 2017

October 21, 2017

October 22, 2017

October 23, 2017

October 29, 2017

October 31, 2017

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

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

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