January 11, 2017Editor: Brian Moran, N9ADG
IN THIS ISSUE
Welcome to the New Year! If you're just getting started on HF, you can get acquainted with what to expect thanks to the HF101 slide presentation from Ward, N0AX, and Dink, N7WA. It's based on a presentation that they've given at the Communications Academy in Seattle. This year's Communications Academy is April 22-23, 2017.
The North American QSO Party events are a good way to make a lot of contacts, and everyone competing will be using a maximum of 100 W. The CW event is January 14, followed by the Phone event on January 21.
If you're planning on attending the Dayton Hamvention, remember that it's being held in a new location near Xenia, Ohio.
The 2017 North American QSO Parties are starting with the CW event on January 14. For 2016, there are some significant rule changes, including:
Make sure you review the rules, and have updated your logging software appropriately before the contests. NAQP SSB is January 21, and RTTY is February 25. (Chris, KL9A via CQ-Contest reflector)
The 26th NCCC Sprint Ladder competition, NSL XXVI, starts on Thursday evening, January 13 (0230Z January 14, 2017), and continues weekly for seven weeks. In this multi-week, 30-minute CW competition, only your top four weekly scores are ranked against other contesters in your geographical division, so it's life-event friendly. At the end of the series, a prize drawing is held with the number of draw entries weighted by total score. These weekly events are a great way to polish your sprinting skills, meet new people on the air, and have fun. See the website for more information and complete rules.
ARRL Contest Clubs: If you're competing in the Contest Club Gavel Competition, remember to update your club's Member Eligibility Lists based on the new requirements that took effect with 2016 November Sweepstakes. If you have a current Member Eligibility List in place remember that you can make changes to it by just uploading a new one.
The International DX Convention in Visalia, California, will host Contest Academy on Friday, April 21, 2017. Contest University, aka "CTU," will be held May 18, 2017, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dayton, Ohio.
The operator identification in the photo of tower work at PI4COM was incorrect in the last issue. Ronald, PA3EWP, is on the ground and Kees, PA3BWD, is on the tower.
Music sales on vinyl exceeded digital downloads only during the 48th week of 2016, not for the aggregate 48 weeks. Thanks to Paul, EI5DI, for getting us back in the groove.
The 2017 Dayton Contest University registration is now open. In its eleventh year, the event continues to be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dayton, Ohio. Contest University has a full day of presentations and activities, taught by the veteran contesters you're hearing on the air and seeing in the results articles. There's truly something for every level of contester, and the conversations you'll have with other attendees can be invaluable. A grant from the Northern California DX Association allows contesters 25 years of age and younger to apply for a waiver of the registration fee. (Tim, K3LR, via CQ-Contest reflector)
The annual Dayton TopBand Dinner for 2017 has been announced, and registration is open. The Crowne Plaza Presidential Ballroom will once again be the venue for this yearly event on May 19, 2017.
Registration is also open for Four Days In May, the QRP Amateur Radio Club International event held concurrently with Dayton Hamvention. Organizers suggest that you make arrangements early because everyone will be adapting their plans to the new location of the Dayton Hamvention. The Holiday Inn hosting the event has sold out, according to Jeff, KE9V (via Twitter).
If you're planning on attending the Orlando Hamcation February 10-12 in Orlando, Florida, you'll want to think about attending the Florida Contest Group's Contest Dinner, presented by Yaesu. You'll be in good company with other contesters, hear from guest speaker Tim Duffy, K3LR, enjoy a BBQ dinner, and have an opportunity to win raffle prizes.
Dave, N3HE, tried last issue's barrel hitch knot, and found that it can loosen if the bucket bounces vigorously. Dave usually uses rope or aircraft-cable handles, routing through holes made in the pail.
Scott, N3FJP, announces that his NAQP Contest Log 4.4 software is now available, including the new DC (District of Columbia) multiplier for NAQP. Other changes include enhanced playback/recording support, as well as support for FlexRadio gear through the FlexRadio API. Many of his other logging programs have also been recently updated; see the N3FJP website for more information. This is Scott's 20th year of writing and supporting his logging software - congratulations!
Ward, N0AX, suggests this year-end bargain tip for Contest Update readers: "We all know to hit the hardware and tool stores for after-holiday sales. Don't forget about the craft and sporting goods stores! They will be discounting all sorts of small tools, tackle boxes, carrying cases, etc. A fishing rod case makes a good stash for a bundle of mobile whips, for example. Magnifying lamps and visors are a lot less expensive in the craft and sewing stores than they are in the electronics shops, too!"
Radio Garden uses clever visual presentation, great animation, and static to make tuning of Internet-streamed radio stations mysterious, fun, and interesting. Your web browser will need to be reasonably recent for this website to load. You're not using frequency, genre, call sign, or any other type of information to choose stations - give it a try.
A leap second was inserted into world clocks at the very end of the 2016, at 6:59:59 PM Eastern Standard Time. Imagine the reflector discussions we could have had about contacts completed in the extra second if this had coincided with the end of a major contest.
If you're a contest sponsor, or want to try running a contest within a contest, you'll need a way to score log file submissions. Dave, W3KM, offers the Cabrillo Evaluator, a program running on Windows-based computers, for this task. I asked Dave how he got involved in writing log scoring software: "Cabrillo Evaluator is a Visual Basic application originally developed in 2000 to score January VHF SS logs submitted by members of our club, the Mt. Airy VHF Radio Club, aka the Pack Rats. The member contest results were always published in our club newsletter, Cheese Bits, and I wanted to make the scoring and publishing process easier. As I always operated in the ARRL VHF/UHF contests and some state QSO parties, I tried scoring those contests as well. I also write and publish my own logging software packages as freeware, so I decided to also offer Cabrillo Evaluator to hams. It was well received, and soon I was adding scoring options to score of lots of contests. Each year I work with several dozen contest sponsors to incorporate rules changes, but there are many more I never hear from since their contests are well established and their rules don't change. More recently, clubs and individuals thinking about sponsoring a new contest are working with me to ensure their contest rules are conducive to electronic adjudication. The big problem for contest sponsors will be finding a date for their event! After working with major European and Russian contest sponsors, I've learned all about the more comprehensive details of contest log scoring, such as log cross checking, the N-QSO rule and QSO time deltas. Over time, the need for batch scoring of logs and the ability to adjust scoring parameters was apparent. I have even written cross-checking code to identify logs not transmitting the correct exchange. All scoring information is provided in various summary outputs, so sponsors can do what they wish regarding scoring policies and additional penalties, though I personally disagree with additional penalties based on busted calls and NIL."
What goes in Vegas is...a new Amateur Radio store. As the first step in opening a stocked showroom, Gigaparts has established a distribution center in Las Vegas, employing some of the personnel associated with the now-defunct Amateur Elecronic Supply. The retail store, opening in a few months, is approximately 3 miles from the previous AES location, and 5 minutes from the LV strip.
WRTC 2018 has recently received notable generous support from a number of sources, including YASME and the Potomac Valley Radio Club. From the PVRC, a 4000 EU donation was made in the memory of PVRC silent keys, and three operating tents in memory of W3AU, W3GRF and W4KFC and others were secured. YASME's donation will go toward the "Widow's Ball" WRTC social event for non-ham partners of the participants. K5WA, the Frankfort Radio Club, and the South German DX Group have also sponsored tents, and donations at every level from individual contributors continue to be received.
You'll likely not hear SV2/A, Mount Athos, in a contest, since only Monk Apollo, SV2ASP/A, has authorization to operate from the entity. The recent Guardian photo essay on Mount Athos helps to explain the monks' devotion, focus, and lifestyle. (Bill, AI5I)
RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) is one of the greatest existential threats to the continuing viability of the Amateur Service on HF. For AM Broadcasters, RFI also has a direct impact on the bottom line. An article in the Huffington Post by an AM broadcaster laments the current situation, which has been years in the making.
InnovAntennas announces the availability of the third generation of their low-noise Yagi antennas, the LFA-3. The LFA-3 will be available in multiple models and configurations from the InnovAntennas website, with some models licensed for manufacture and sale in the US under the Cushcraft and Hy-Gain brands, according to the company's press release. Six-meter models are available now on the company's website.
As of January 1, Canadian Amateurs can use special CF, CG, CH, and CI prefixes to celebrate their country's sesquicentennial. They may do so throughout 2017.
Some contest sponsors will only score contacts with stations appearing in more than N different logs, where N is typically 2 or 3, if that station does not turn in a log. This rule can sometimes be used to determine a winner in the event of a tie. For example, if a contest is using this rule, and N9ADG only appears in the log of only one contest participant and does not turn in a log to the contest sponsor, N9ADG is not considered "in the contest," and the contact won't count. You'll sometimes hear a contest station encourage a station they've just helped with the exchange to make a few more contacts to ensure that the contact that they made counts.
Looks like drone fishermen can show us a thing or two about precisely dropping a line in this video. This technique could be used to get the ends of a catenary just where you'd like them. (Gary, K9GS, via Towertalk mailing list)
Looking back fondly on 2017's Straight Key Night? Don't forget to send in a e-mail summary of your event participation to the Contest Branch at email@example.com. Be sure to include a list of stations you worked, plus your vote for the best fist you heard (it doesn't have to be one you worked). Please include your nomination for the most interesting QSO you had or heard.
Ken, WM5R, has collected and consolidated ARRL RTTY Roundup record scores for DX stations (those outside the US and Canada). If one is looking to set a record, this page indicates Antarctica may be a good continent to activate. With participants describing 2017's RU as "challenging" and a "slog," it remains to be seen whether new records were made this year. (Hector, XE2K, via Twitter)
The results of the SARTG WW RTTY 2016 contest are available. K1MK and KG6EID won the multiop, world category entering as WK1Q. According to Don, AA5AU, the last time the multiop category has been won from North America was by WB6SCH in 1972. (via the RTTY Reflector)
The final scores for SAC CW / SSB 2016 are available. Participants can check their scores, examine their log checking report, and download a PDF certificate. The dates for the Scandinavian Activity Contest in 2017 are September 16-17 for CW, and October 14-15 for Phone.
Quick Fix for a Dirty Contact
If you find your paddle or key giving you trouble due to an oxidized contact, try using a piece of paper or a dollar bill as a light contact cleaner. You can place the sheet between the contacts, and gently apply pressure to close the contact on the paper. Pull the paper from between the contact, polishing the surfaces. Repeat as necessary.
The BITX40 is a $59 40 Meter SSB transceiver board set designed by Ashhar, VU2ESE and assembled by a women's collective in India. It boasts a SIS531 DDS controlled VFO with Arduino Nano controller, crystal filtering, and a strong following with a Yahoo support group. The project was designed with homebrewing and experimenting in mind, with plenty of room on the circuit board for changes. There's an active Yahoo group devoted to it and the BITX20.
In an interesting bit of detective story, amateurs in the Netherlands tracked down an RFI source that was interfering with weak-signal reception of an antenna pointed over the North Sea to the UK. The source of the interference happened to be right in the path of the antenna, on a ship that was not moving, with a captain that was highly cooperative.
Looking for information on a vacuum tube for your Throwback Thursday radio project? Check out this collection of electron tube data sheets - approximately 8,400 pages of tube data scanned and stored for your perusal. (Brad, AA1P, via QRP-L mailing list)
Pete, K0BAK, describes his acquisition of a used TV van for anticipated UHF/VHF and HF operation in the January 2017 issue of the Mt. Airy Radio Club's Cheese Bits newsletter (PDF). With a 5KW generator and 50-foot pneumatic mast, it has a lot of potential. Using a portable station such as this could be a solution to restrictive CC&Rs or Homeowner Association rules.
If you're involved in analog electronics as an engineer, technician, educator, inventor, or student and are passionate about your work, and interested in an informal networking opportunity, you'll want to check out the annual Analog Aficionados dinner, to be held Sunday, February 5, in Santa Clara, CA. There's no formal program. The organizers publish and distribute placemats featuring the bios of the regular attendees to help stimulate discussions. 2016's regulars included a number of amateurs.
ITURHPROP is a new propagation prediction tool available through the RSGB website. It uses a new prediction engine, said to be more accurate than previous engines. Using the point-to-point mode of the web-browser-based application, it's easy to calculate the path characteristics between two points on the globe to determine projected path MUF and SNR. The RSGB is looking for help in improving the application beyond its initial release.
Non Standard Exchange
In last weekend's ARRL RTTY Roundup, as in past contests, I encountered some non-standard exchanges. A few were benign but rate-wasting variations of macros gone wild. For example: 'THANKS <LICENSEE_NAME_LOOKUP_FROM_DATABASE> 73'. Since I was part of a multi-op, it wasn't even correct 80% of the time. At least one operator was sending the time and date of the contact at the end of their exchange.
A number of times in response to my CQ I received "N9ADG <THEIRCALL> 599 <THEIRSTATE>". This was off-putting the first few times. I treated them as if they'd only sent me their call -- I sent them my exchange, waited for their exchange, and then acknowledged theirs. This happened a few times, and getting the same unexpected message from a number of different callers caused me to consider why those operators were doing this. In that consideration, I've come around to thinking that perhaps these callers are on to something.
If I could make the assumption that the calling station wouldn't send me their exchange unless they were sure of mine, then all I really needed was their information. Implicit in them sending this message type as the response to my CQ is their acknowledgement that they have my information. In response to their information, all I really needed to do was acknowledge theirs. So I tested this theory - the next time I called CQ and got back this exchange, I sent "<THEIRCALL> 599 WA TU N9ADG CQ". The sky didn't fall. The caller didn't seem to get confused. More contacts got logged.
Is there anything in the rules that disallows this? The only thing I could find that was close is in the General Rules for all ARRL Contests "All callsigns and exchange information must be sent, received, acknowledged and logged correctly by each station for a complete QSO." That is certainly occurring. No other rules seem applicable in this situation.
This technique, if executed correctly, could save time and increase the rate for both sides. That description applies to other techniques that are commonly accepted and used, like tail-ending, single-dit QSLs, and call stacking. As reflected in the soapbox comments in the after-contest reports, there are some operators that don't like this development. But perhaps this is the emergence of a new RTTY technique.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
73, Brian N9ADG
12 Jan 2017 - 25 Jan 2017
An expanded, downloadable PDF version of QST's Contest Corral is available. Check the sponsor's website for information on operating time restrictions and other instructions.
CWops Mini-CWT Test, Jan 11, 1300z to Jan 11, 1400z, Jan 11, 1900z to Jan 11, 2000z, Jan 12, 0300z to Jan 12, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: January 14.
ARRL January VHF Contest, Jan 21, 1900z to Jan 23, 0359z; Any; Bands: 50 MHz and up; 4-character grid square; Logs due: February 22.
January 12, 2017
January 13, 2017
January 14, 2017
January 15, 2017
January 16, 2017
January 19, 2017
January 22, 2017
January 23, 2017
January 25, 2017
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