November 30, 2016Editor: Brian Moran, N9ADG
IN THIS ISSUE
Take some time to improve your station on 160 through 40 meters. The conditions during last weekend's CQ WW DX CW Contest indicate that 20 meters and up can't be counted on to produce contest points over the next few years. There's always something you can do to hear or transmit better on the lower bands. Even if you're on a city lot, it may be possible to put up a receive-only antenna. Or, if you have a vertical, add more radials. How about a noise source hunt? Seeking out and eliminating sources of interference may result in a new layer of stations you can work. If you have simple wire antennas, you can add directionality using parasitic elements.
The ARRL 160-Meter Contest is one place where low-band improvements can pay off, and it's coming up this weekend. The ARRL 10-Meter Contest the weekend of December 10 may be a little sparse on multipliers this year.
Youthful Amateurs: Write an essay, win a station: Amateurs of Technician class or higher, ages 12 to 18, residing in the continental US, are encouraged to enter a contest to win an Alinco HF radio, Alinco antenna, and coax. Sponsored by Paul, N6PSE, and the co-founders of the Dave Kalter Youth DX Adventure (YDXA), entries must be postmarked or electronically dated not later than December 23, 2016. See the website for more information.
The BARTG (British Amateur Radio Teledata Group), sponsors of popular RTTY contests, has announced some changes to contest rules for 2017. While the complete details are on the BARTG website for the particular BARTG contest, they include limiting of the SOAB class to 100 W, with no SO2R operation permitted. The Multioperator class will be split into Multi-Single and Multi-Multi, to encourage participation from contest groups. Remote operation will be permitted for all classes. For the January 2017 Sprint, and March 2017 HF contests, a QRP category (5 W or less) replaces the SWL category.
The Mexican Districts list and map have been updated for the ARRL 10-meter contest to conform with the changes announced by Mexico in January 2016. It's also recommended that ARRL 10-meter contest participants:
The ARRL's post-contest log checking software will convert DF in any QSO exchange to CMX without penalty for the contest. (Bart Jahnke, W9JJ, ARRL Contest Branch Manager)
The QRP-ARCI Contest calendar for 2017 has been published. With a number of categories and modes, there's sure to be an event that suits your operating style and capabilities. (Jeff, VA3JFF / VE3CW)
The FCC has posted a Field Office Engineering position in the Denver office. The job responsibilities include dealing with interference issues, rules enforcement, and education of spectrum users. (Dennis, N6KI)
EDN recently noted the history of the 1960 change of the name of frequency measuring units from cycles per second to Hertz. Included in the article is a description of the original equipment used by Heinrich Hertz to demonstrate a resonant circuit.
Array Solutions is providing a service to repair Alpha amplifiers, according to a recent post on the Topband Reflector. Note that there are other third-party repair services available for these contest workhorses, some of which can be found with a Google search for "alpha amplifier repair."
In response to last issue's operating tip for calling CQ on phone, Dwaine, K5DC, comments: "I agree with the suggestion about sounding enthusiastic. As one of the 'non-serious or non-contesters' mentioned, I'd like to point out yet another factor. If the contest station does not show to be an LoTW user, I don't bother them." (Dwaine, K5DC)
DX Engineering now carries a number of RM Italy's solid-state HF and VHF amplifiers. For low-power HF radios, the HLA-305V is a wideband compact amplifier for the 160-10 meter bands. When driven with up to 10 watts, it develops a maximum output power of 250 watts. An LCD screen displays amplifier status and a series of switches allow users to control amplifier output. The HLA-305V has six built-in band filters, selected by a front-panel rotary knob. The HLA-305V amplifier boasts dual cooling fans for safe, reliable operation. (Tim, K3LR)
Here's another article on the paucity of sunspot activity. In a follow-up, the same website notes that cosmic ray penetration into the atmosphere is increasing. This may have a negative effect on 160 meter propagation, as absorption may increase at lower altitudes as a result of the increased cosmic rays.
Conductor Migration occurs when the center conductor of a coaxial cable moves away from the desired centered position in the cable geometry. Certain types or qualities of coaxial cable or coaxial connectors can fail to maintain a consistent distance between the inner conductor and the outer shield when subject to mechanical and/or thermal stresses beyond their design ratings. Beyond presenting non-uniform impedance, should the center conductor actually touch the shield, an arc or short could occur. Good practice in using coaxial cable includes paying attention to minimum bend radius specifications, and avoiding foam-filled insulation types for physically demanding applications. For long service life, use good-quality coaxial connectors - some very inexpensive connectors have been found to use plastics that can melt or deform even while soldering.
Robert, M0VFC, found that RF was getting into his coffee maker. Does RTTY brew a better cup?
QRP was working for Dennis, N6KI, in last weekend's CQ WW DX CW Contest - "I got a few hours in over the weekend from the normal NX6T site. Amazing what 5 watts can do hooked to some decent antennas. I got through a pileup last night to Danny, ZF2MJ (N6MJ) on Cayman Island,
and also managed to work EA, HK, HG, XE, and KH6 on Friday night on 40 and 80 meters."
The Remote Ham Radio folks installed a new station recently, W1/Eastport, consisting of two rotating towers chock full of aluminum. You can watch the installation of one of the stacked beams in the YouTube video. The water in the video's background is the Atlantic Ocean. You can also browse a photo album of the entire project. (Ray, W2RE)
Results of the 2015 Stew Perry Topband Distance Competition, aka TBDC, aka "The Stew" have been posted. Over 800 logs were submitted, and over 1,500 call signs appeared in the aggregated logs, representing an uptick in activity. In addition to the more typical categories such as "Top Score, High Power, USA," the TBDC can also include categories at the whimsy of plaque sponsors. In the "Top Score, Base Loaded Vertical < 60 feet tall" category, sponsored by AA6VB, OT6M won with 292 contacts, the longest of which was with Milt, N5IA (SK). The next running of the TBDC will be December 17-18, 2016.
The results of the UK/EI DX SSB Contest, held October 22-23, 2016, are now available. According to the contest sponsor "The provisional results were online within 2 hours of the end of the contest -- thanks Simon, M0VKY - but a number of factors have delayed ... finalising them... The Awards page will take another week or two to sort out." Still seems pretty speedy to this editor! Also according to the sponsor: "In the current crowded HF contesting calendar it is very difficult, if not impossible, to choose a fixed weekend for these events, so we have carefully chosen future event dates until 2022. The dates are on our website."
The DX Results of the ARI International DX Contest have been published. The next ARI International DX Contest will be held May 6, 2017 1200Z to May 7, 2017, 1159Z.
Make sure you're near in frequency when answering a CQ in a contest in a non-pileup situation. In crowded band conditions, and especially when there may be significant receive noise, some operators use very narrow filters. If you're not getting noticed, and the CQer is otherwise not busy, change your frequency just a little bit between unsuccessful calls.
I recently found a number of tantalizingly high-value high-voltage capacitors at a local electronics surplus outlet. Can't these be used to update that old tube amplifier's high voltage power supply? Not so fast! According to Ward, N0AX, capacitors like these are NOT appropriate for amplifier use: "They are not rated for continuous 120 Hz ripple current, and the resulting heat eventually breaks them down internally. Which could really be exciting, in its own kind of way."
Class E amplifiers, credited to Nathan Sokal and Alan Sokal, and described in a QEX article in January/February 2001 by Alan, WA1HQC, feature high efficiency achieved by switching active components under the conditions of zero voltage and current. I recently ran across a web page entitled "VK1SV Class-E design Class for Beginners," which provides a practical design tutorial for these amplifiers. Class E amplifiers by themselves are non-linear, which limit their simple application in amateur service to CW, FM, FSK, and other modes not requiring linearity. AM aficionados use these amplifiers in conjunction with audio modulators.
Nominations are open for the 2017 Dayton Hamvention Technical Achievement Award, given to "a selected amateur radio operator who has achieved technical excellence in the world of Amateur Radio." See the press release for further information. The deadline for nominations is February 1, 2017.
Keeping up with the Joneses, the Donovans, the Duffys, the Thompsons...
To be a competitive contester today, you need good radios, good antennas, and great operator skills. And propagation. Great geography helps, because we all know nobody wins from (insert your favorite black hole area here). Those things might be enough if you're entering single operator, unassisted. Being able to use a panadapter to find holes to run on a crowded band, or get to stations that haven't been spotted yet also could make a difference. Better put that on the list as a requirement now for everyone, as Bob, N6TV, pointed out during a contesting panel a few months ago.
If you're operating in any assisted category, the packet cluster you connect to could make a difference - it has to deliver spots in a timely fashion, maybe subject to some filtering rules you have in place. If you're operating CW or RTTY, you need to be watching skimmer spots. If you're only depending on human spots, you're not even going to know about the multipliers you're missing. Handling all of those spots is going to require a faster computer, or you'll miss some spots. If you're not getting skimmer spots, you're likely not competitive in the assisted categories.
The Multioperator, Multi-Transmitter category is pretty straightforward, with a run position on each band, all the time. And probably at least one multiplier hunting position on each band to complement the run position. But only one transmitted signal on a band at a time. Coordination between band operators occurs when moving multipliers, but that's been happening for years. It's a lot easier to tell a multiplier to go to a private frequency on that other band when you know someone on your team is there, waiting to work them. Multi-Multi has traditionally been seen as the true test of station engineering, keeping five high-powered stations operating and from interfering with one another under contest conditions.
The Multioperator, Single Transmitter class seems "easier" in comparison to Multi-Multi, but don't be fooled by the label. The teams that are consistently winning the Multiop Single Transmitter classes ARE only transmitting a single signal at a time. But they have one or more additional teams of operators simultaneously scanning the run band for multipliers, coordinating with the run radio to stay within the rules. Some contests allow the Multi-Single category to have an additional "multiplier only" position - a position that can't call CQ, but CAN work a station provided it's a multiplier, and on a different band than the run position. But if you have multiple operating positions on ALL of the bands, listening, watching, populating the band maps... On a per-10-minute band-change interval, each band can be evaluated for maximum multiplier points to know where the "multiplier position" goes next. There's arguably more demand for situational awareness, technology, and coordination among operating positions in the Multi-Single category than in the Multi-Multi, and it's mostly hidden behind the innocuous sounding "additional multiplier station." At the mult-hunter position, it's an advantage to be able to simultaneously listen to the pileups of two needed multipliers so you can dump in your call at the appropriate time -- that makes a sub-receiver a requirement. Today, there are contest radios that can allow you to listen to eight simultaneous receivers, with associated waterfall and panadapter displays. Now there's no need to switch antennas when you can use them all simultaneously.
So, keeping up with the Joneses means different things depending on how you operate. Are you staying competitive?
That's all for this time. Remember to send contesting related stories, contester gift ideas, book reviews, tips, techniques, press releases, errata, schematics, club information, pictures, stories, blog links, and predictions to email@example.com.
73, Brian N9ADG
1 Dec - 14 Dec
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, Nov 30, 1300z to Nov 30, 1400z, Nov 30, 1900z to Nov 30, 2000z, Dec 1, 0300z to Dec 1, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: December 3.
December 1, 2016
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