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The ARRL Contest Update
February 21, 2018
Editor: Brian Moran, N9ADG
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IN THIS ISSUE
NEW HF OPERATORS - THINGS TO DO

The upcoming North American QSO Party (NAQP) RTTY Contest is a great opportunity to try RTTY. One hundred watts is the maximum power in any entry class, and single operators operate for ten hours. A large part of preparing for this contest is making sure that your equipment and logging program are set up to work together correctly. The RTTY Contesting web pages can be helpful, and past presentations regarding RTTY contesting from Contest University can give you a leg up. You can even get some practice on Thursday evening in the NS RTTY session. Don't assume that your particular logging program "out of the box" will have good contesting messages. Time spent improving your macros will save you time and earn you more contacts during the contest. If your exchanges messages are substantially different from others you hear in the contest it's a sign that you should re-examine what you are doing.

The upcoming CQ 160 Meter SSB contest is the last major Top Band contest this Winter season. Some operators are poised to roll up their Beverage antenna wires and put them away for the season.

Last weekend's ARRL International DX CW Contest provided some short but reasonable DX opportunities on 20 and 40 meters for those that were in the right place at the right time. The SSB version of this contest is coming up on March 3 and 4. Various DX bulletins, such as The Daily DX, and the OPDX Bulletin, publish details of planned contest operations. It can be advantageous to be familiar with the calls you might hear during the contest.

CONTEST SUMMARY

22 Feb - 7 Mar 2018

Complete information for all contests follows the Conversation section

February 22

February 23

February 24

February 25

February 28

March 1

March 2

March 3

March 4

March 5

March 6

March 7

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NEWS, PRESS RELEASES, AND GENERAL INTEREST

Aluminum has exhibited new properties when it's crystal structure is modified. Researchers at Purdue University introduced what they're calling 'defects' between layers of the material by displacement of aluminum atoms, or by the introduction of other atoms such as Iron. The result is an increased ability to resist corrosion, and increased strength. (Dennis, N6KI)

Reflecting on a story in the last issue of the Contest Update, Art, K6XT notes that made his own BNC connector wrench a number of years ago: "Completely solder the rotary sleeve on the male portion of a BNC Tee" being careful not to get solder into the connector portion itself, "so that the Tee will engage a BNC just as it is supposed to." Put the chassis female BNC in the now-fixed male connector, hold the assembly by the female arms, and mount, and tighten the chassis nut. Art finds that a silver-plated Tee works best for soldering. (Art, K6XT)

Paul, EI5DI, announces that his HF Contest Logger, SD, will run on the Raspberry Pi 3, if used in conjunction with Exagear's Desktop and the Wine emulation layer. "All of SD's features are supported on the Pi, including rig control and WinKey." (Paul, EI5DI)

Add crypto-currency mining equipment to the list of things which can create RFI. Interference powerful enough to hinder cellular phone coverage was found to be generated by hardware devoted to Bitcoin mining in Brooklyn, New York. Some miners don't bother to enclose high-speed computing hardware in metal cases, since that would just add to their overhead.

Nominations for the CQ Magazine Contest Hall of Fame are open from now until March 1. Now in its 32nd year, the Contest Hall of Fame recognizes Amateurs who have made major contributions to contesting. "Nominations may be made by individual contesters, contesting clubs, and national organizations. The nominee can be any contester located anywhere in the world." For more information, see the Contest Hall of Fame web page.

NTE Electronics Self-Solder Butt Splice Connectors are available, effective immediately, from DX Engineering. These connectors have a solder ring with flux inside a transparent, adhesive-lined heat shrink sleeve. By inserting wires in each end of the connector, then heating the sleeve with an ordinary heat gun, a permanent, waterproof connection is made with no soldering required. The heat shrink sleeves are transparent, allowing easy visual inspection. " NTE Electronics Self-Solder Butt Splice Connectors are available for 10 to 26 AWG wire and are color-coded to industry-standard wire gauges. They come in packs of 50 or 100." (Tim, K3LR)

During last weekend's ARRL International DX Contest, CW, some Puerto Rico Amateurs were sending zero, usually using the cut-number 'T', as their power. Why? To raise overall awareness that significant portions of the island are still without commercial electrical power even now, and that recovery operations are still continuing in the aftermath of September's Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

If you dread moving your ham shack to a new location, imagine what moving a multi-ton 1950s telephone exchange building would have been like while keeping it in operation.

WORD TO THE WISE

Aggregator. A software program written by Dick, W3OA, that accepts DX spots from CW Skimmers or Skimmer Servers and then forwards the spots to the Reverse Beacon Network. For more information about all of the components involved in this aspect of the DX spotting network, see the presentation "CW and RTTY Skimmer and the Reverse Beacon Network" by Bob, N6TV.

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

"The Empire of Noise" is a documentary about radio jamming used during the Cold War era. The producers incorporated jamming noise as part of the audio narration, which amply demonstrates why it can be such a deterrent to listening. (Roger, N1RJ, via RFI mailing list)

"Receiving Antenna Metrics with Examples," a webinar by Jukka, OH6LI, has been posted on the World Wide Radio Operator Foundation (WWROF) website. New metrics, including a Directivity Metric Figure, are described which can provide additional information beyond gain and front to back measures. (Ken, K4ZW)

Remember the good old days, when we had these? This was the Sun just five years ago, February 21, 2013. [ Photo courtesy of the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory ]

"The Empire of Noise" is a documentary about radio jamming used during the Cold War era. The producers incorporated jamming noise as part of the audio narration, which amply demonstrates why it can be such a deterrent to listening. (Roger, N1RJ, via RFI mailing list)

"Receiving Antenna Metrics with Examples," a webinar by Jukka, OH6LI, has been posted on the World Wide Radio Operator Foundation (WWROF) website. New metrics, including a Directivity Metric Figure, are described which can provide additional information beyond gain and front to back measures. (Ken, K4ZW)

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RESULTS AND RECORDS

The preliminary results for the North American Sprint, CW, have been posted to the National Contest Journal website.

Preliminary results for the 2018 CQ WPX RTTY Contest have been posted. According to the Contest Director, Ed, W0YK, "Typically, there is little change in the order-of-finish but the actual scores will all decrease after log check."

For a limited time, the CQ WW Contest Committee has made available a new tool for examining logs in the CQ WW Contest. With this Tableau-based tool, different metrics of various logs can be examined and compared. This is not a 'GO/NO-GO' type of tool. It is a visualization and data exploration tool that can assist in analyses of various aspects of logs to identify areas for further investigation.

OPERATING TIP

Always include a Space at the end of your RTTY messages

It's accepted practice to put a space at the beginning of RTTY messages to separate valid characters from any spurious decodes preceding them, and to take advantage of the Unshift on Space (USOS) feature of many modern RTTY decoders. It's also wise to put a space AFTER each message, so that any subsequent spurious decodes are separated from the messages. This improves readability and makes copying message text by mouse movement or clicking easier for the receiving operator. Bonus: Don't use too many LINEFEEDs which can cause the other operator to chase the text around the screen. (Inspired by Dave, K2YG, and others via the RTTY email reflector)

TECHNICAL TOPICS AND INFORMATION

Dick, W7WKR, suggests that Rudy, N6LF's website be referenced for radial systems for vertical antennas. "He presents a six chapter study of vertical antenna designs with a strong focus on MF and LF (630 and 2200 meter bands.)"

The wireless transfer of power is currently in vogue for powering or charging items that vary in size from cellular telephones to electric cars. At least one company has obtained temporary authorization to use radio spectrum to test its technology, and Amateurs should be suitably wary of any technology that has the potential to put thousands of watts of RF near or on the ham bands. There are other technologies that are also being pursued in the quest to eliminate the charging cable such as this one by Disney Research where the test setup is akin to placing a medium-wave loop antenna inside of a Faraday cage containing the devices to be charged. And then using around 2 kW of RF with radiator currents up to 140 Amperes.

Dave, NK7Z, has added a second chapter on finding and identifying RFI sources using SDRs to his website: "RFI Site Survey - Part II, Interpretation." Dave discusses his setup, and provides real-world examples of certain types of signals that can be found, including over-the-horizon RADAR, switching power supplies, etc. (Jim, K9YC, via RFI mailing list)

Faraday cages block electric fields, and are considered a good way to reduce the thread of electronic eavesdropping. But they don't shield against magnetic fields and in a recent paper researchers describe how an adversary could use regular computer hardware and special software inside a Faraday cage to transmit information via magnetic fields to a receiver located outside the cage.

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CONVERSATION

ISOTA

Incentives and competition have been shown to be strong motivators for spurring human activities of all kinds. In the Amateur Radio sphere, DXCC and the *OTA activities (i.e. IOTA, SOTA, NPOTA) help keep the bands busy throughout the year. On contest weekends, it's miraculous how busy the bands become at 0000z on Saturday, and how the rate goes down precipitously after 2359z on Sunday. Conditions don't improve during operating activities though we'd think so from the abundance of contacts. But what if by participating in an event we COULD, in aggregate, improve our Amateur bands?

I'm just brainstorming here, but what if we had an operating activity like "Interference Sources OFF The Air." The idea of the all-year-long activity is that RFI sources would be identified, cataloged, graded for difficulty and impact, then located and "solved" by being eliminated (that's the "OFF THE AIR" part). Points would be earned by stations involved at all levels in identifying and getting rid of RFI sources that directly affect our bands. There would be room for a wide range of skills in the competition, from technical to diplomatic. At the end of the competition period, there would be recognition of and awards to the winners.

To get an event like this off the ground, there'd have to be an organization willing to sponsor it, develop the rules of the competition, the infrastructure for keeping track of the found sources, progress towards solution, and ultimately publicize progress and the periodic results. Promotion and publicity would be key drivers. Messy details? There would be plenty.

The benefits we might see through this event would include increased awareness of RFI sources, better RFI identification and knowledge sharing, and the development of tools and techniques that will get interfering sources found and fixed sooner. Making analogies to the progression of tools that we have today, perhaps we'd ultimately be able to construct a network of RFI Skimmers to monitor and alert for new RFI types and sources. Those skimmers would compare against the "Super RFI Signature" database, containing signatures of known RFI types. The larger clubs could field Roving teams in their areas to earn points in the competition and also improve the overall capabilities of their membership.

What do you think?

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

22 Feb - 7 Mar 2018

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, Feb 21, 1300z to Feb 21, 1400z, Feb 21, 1900z to Feb 21, 2000z, Feb 22, 0300z to Feb 22, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: February 24.

RSGB 80m Club Championship, CW, Feb 22, 2000z to Feb 22, 2130z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: February 23.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Feb 23, 0145z to Feb 23, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: February 25.

QRP Fox Hunt, Feb 23, 0200z to Feb 23, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: March 1.

NCCC Sprint, Feb 23, 0230z to Feb 23, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: February 25.

CQ 160-Meter Contest, SSB, Feb 23, 2200z to Feb 25, 2200z; SSB; Bands: 160m Only; W/VE: RS + (state/province), DX: RS + CQ Zone; Logs due: March 2.

REF Contest, SSB, Feb 24, 0600z to Feb 25, 1800z; SSB; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; French: RS + Department/Prefix, non-French: RS + Serial No.; Logs due: March 12.

UBA DX Contest, CW, Feb 24, 1300z to Feb 25, 1300z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; ON: RST + Serial No. + province, non-ON: RST + Serial No.; Logs due: March 11.

South Carolina QSO Party, Feb 24, 1500z to Feb 25, 0159z; CW, Digital, Phone; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6m; SC: RS(T) + County, non-SC: RS(T) + (state/province/"DX"); Logs due: March 26.

North American QSO Party, RTTY, Feb 24, 1800z to Feb 25, 0559z; RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; NA: Name + (state/DC/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: March 2.

High Speed Club CW Contest, Feb 25, 0900z to Feb 25, 1100z, Feb 25, 1500z to Feb 25, 1700z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Members: RST + HSC No., non-Members: RST + "NM"; Logs due: March 17.

SARL Digital Contest, Feb 25, 1300z to Feb 25, 1600z; PSK, RTTY; Bands: 80, 40, 20m; RST + QSO No.; Logs due: March 4.

North Carolina QSO Party, Feb 25, 1500z to Feb 26, 0059z; CW, Phone, Digital; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10, 6, 2m; NC: County, non-NC: (state/province/country); Logs due: March 12.

SKCC Sprint, Feb 28, 0000z to Feb 28, 0200z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + Name + (SKCC No./power); Logs due: March 2.

QRP Fox Hunt, Feb 28, 0200z to Feb 28, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: March 1.

Phone Fray, Feb 28, 0230z to Feb 28, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: March 2.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Feb 28, 1300z to Feb 28, 1400z, Feb 28, 1900z to Feb 28, 2000z, Mar 1, 0300z to Mar 1, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: February 24.

UKEICC 80m Contest, Feb 28, 2000z to Feb 28, 2100z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; 4-Character grid square; Logs due: February 28.

NCCC RTTY Sprint, Mar 2, 0145z to Mar 2, 0215z; RTTY; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: February 25.

QRP Fox Hunt, Mar 2, 0200z to Mar 2, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: February 22.

NCCC Sprint, Mar 2, 0230z to Mar 2, 0300z; CW; Bands: (see rules); Serial No. + Name + QTH; Logs due: February 25.

Novice Rig Roundup, Mar 3, 0000z to Mar 11, 0000z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 15, 10, 2m; RST + QTH + Name + Class; Logs due: April 9.

ARRL International DX Contest, SSB, Mar 3, 0000z to Mar 5, 0000z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; W/VE: RS + (state/province), non-W/VE: RS + power; Logs due: March 9.

Wake-Up! QRP Sprint, Mar 3, 0600z to Mar 3, 0629z, Mar 3, 0630z to Mar 3, 0659z, Mar 3, 0700z to Mar 3, 0729z, Mar 3, 0730z to Mar 3, 0800z; CW; Bands: 40, 20m; RST + Serial No. + suffix of previous QSO ("QRP" for 1st QSO); Logs due: March 10.

Open Ukraine RTTY Championship, Mar 3, 1800z to Mar 3, 2059z (Low Band), Mar 3, 2100z to Mar 3, 2359z (Low Band), Mar 4, 0800z to Mar 4, 1059z (High Band), Mar 4, 1100z to Mar 4, 1359z (High Band); RTTY; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; 2-letter regional abbrev. (state/province/canton, etc.) + Serial No.(restart serial no. for high band); Logs due: March 19.

UBA Spring Contest, CW, Mar 4, 0700z to Mar 4, 1100z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; ON: RST + Serial No. + UBA Section, non-ON: RST + Serial No.; Logs due: March 18.

SARL Hamnet 40m Simulated Emerg Contest, Mar 4, 1200z to Mar 4, 1400z; SSB; Bands: 40m Only; Class A: RS + Serial No. (starting with 201), Class B: RS + Serial No. (starting with 401), Class C: RS + Serial No. (starting with 601), Class D: RS + Serial No. (starting with 801), Non-participants: RS + Serial No. (starting with 001); Logs due: March 11.

NSARA Contest, Mar 4, 1200z to Mar 4, 1600z, Mar 4, 1800z to Mar 4, 2200z; CW, SSB, Digital; Bands: 80m Only; Nova Scotia: RS(T) + county, non-NS: RS(T); Logs due: April 3.

RSGB 80m Club Championship, Data, Mar 5, 2000z to Mar 5, 2130z; RTTY, PSK; Bands: 80m Only; RST + Serial No.; Logs due: March 6.

ARS Spartan Sprint, Mar 6, 0200z to Mar 6, 0400z; CW; Bands: 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; RST + (state/province/country) + Power; Logs due: March 8.

AGCW YL-CW Party, Mar 6, 1900z to Mar 6, 2100z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; YL: RST + Serial No. + "/YL/" + name, OM: RST + Serial No. + "/" + name; Logs due: March 31.

QRP Fox Hunt, Mar 7, 0200z to Mar 7, 0330z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; RST + (state/province/country) + name + power output; Logs due: February 22.

Phone Fray, Mar 7, 0230z to Mar 7, 0300z; SSB; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15m; NA: Name + (state/province/country), non-NA: Name; Logs due: February 23.

CWops Mini-CWT Test, Mar 7, 1300z to Mar 7, 1400z, Mar 7, 1900z to Mar 7, 2000z, Mar 8, 0300z to Mar 8, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: February 24.

NRAU 10m Activity Contest, Mar 7, 1800z to Mar 7, 1900z (CW), Mar 7, 1900z to Mar 7, 2000z (SSB), Mar 7, 2000z to Mar 7, 2100z (FM), Mar 7, 2100z to Mar 7, 2200z (Dig); CW, SSB, FM, Digital; Bands: 10m Only; RS(T) + 6-character grid square; Logs due: March 21.

UKEICC 80m Contest, Mar 7, 2000z to Mar 7, 2100z; CW; Bands: 80m Only; 4-Character grid square; Logs due: February 28.

AWA John Rollins Memorial DX Contest, Mar 7, 2300z to Mar 8, 2300z, Mar 10, 2300z to Mar 11, 2300z; CW; Bands: 40, 20m; RST + Eqpt Type + Eqpt Year; Logs due: April 8.

VHF+ CONTESTS

See Novice Rig Roundup, North Carolina QSO Party, and South Carolina QSO Party, above.

LOG DUE DATES

22 Feb - 7 Mar 2018

February 22, 2018

February 23, 2018

February 24, 2018

February 25, 2018

February 28, 2018

March 1, 2018

March 2, 2018

March 3, 2018

March 4, 2018

March 5, 2018

March 6, 2018

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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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