February 8, 2017Editor: Brian Moran, N9ADG
IN THIS ISSUE
Especially in these times of sunspot minima, the best way to make contacts on HF and increase your fun is to use the best performing antennas that you can. Effective antennas don't have to be too expensive -- check out the ARRL website for some HF antenna ideas. Conversely, if you do choose to use 5 Watts and a non-resonant antenna at a low height, make sure your QSO expectations are tempered by your system's capability.
None this time.
The ARRL School Club Roundup is taking place February 13 through February 17. You can encourage future contesters by making contacts with schools during the Roundup next week. If you have additional interest and resources to help develop operators, join the effort to revitalize university and college radio clubs by coordinating through the ARRLCARI Facebook page, or your college/university's radio club.
Scott, N3FJP, has announced the availability of Vermont QSO Party Contest Log 1.0. Its debut was just ahead of last weekend's Vermont QSO Party, and includes versions for both in-state and out-of-state QSO Party participants. Scott has also updated his software supporting the North American CW and RTTY Sprints to reflect multiplier changes.
DogparkSDR is a client for the Flex Radio Systems Signature series SDR Radios running as a native Macintosh OS X application. It provides audio, panadapter and waterfall displays, and provides control and tuning of your Flex Radio 6000 series radio. DogparkSDR has been releasing OS X and IOS-specific software for a number of years, including including MacLoggerDX, MacDoppler, MacLoggerDX for iPad, and iSpectrum Audio Analyzer.
According to an article in Scientific American, learning to send Morse code is made easier when audio is combined with touch. One group of participants in a Georgia Institute of Technology study were equipped with hardware that provided audio tones as well as skin taps as words were spelled out, while another received just the tones. The group that received both types of stimuli was twice as accurate when given a sending test after four one-hour training sessions. (via W7VMI email list)
If you want to keep up with the Dayton Hamvention's news, it appears the Hamvention Twitter feed is the place for it. This week's announcement is that there will be free parking!
Jeff, KE9V, publishes Calling CQ, "1000 words of Amateur Radio news and commentary," every Monday. In last Monday's commentary, he considers the growth of Amateur numbers over the past few years and how it may relate to the elimination of the CW requirement. Current email issues appear in the web archives after a couple of weeks.
A group of Italian Amateurs is presenting Italy as a candidate to host WRTC 2022, and has started an online petition to begin the process. (Dave, K3ZJ, via CQ-Contest)
The VHF/UHF DX Book, 2017 Replica Edition is now a free download courtesy of TRPublishing. According to the publisher, "The VHF/UHF DX Book was written in the early to mid-1990s by a team of experienced VHF/UHF DXers and equipment developers, in an effort to pass on our knowledge and stimulate further developments." A cautionary statement is also provided: "Please do not try to duplicate the construction projects in this book. These designs are over 20 years old and many of the components are no longer available. More modern designs are available today, so seek them out and use those instead." (Ian, GM3SEK via UKSMG via PNWVHFS)
Constellation: As applied to spacecraft like satellites, a constellation is an intentional pattern of satellites in coordinated orbits which provide a desired result, such as continuous ground coverage. Examples of constellations include GPS, GLONASS, and Iridium networks of satellites. A non-space example of a drone constellation includes the pre-recorded sky display during the half-time show of the 2017 Super Bowl.
Dramatic music, real film credits, and color! "How a Teleprinter Works" from 1940 features mechanical models and an explanation of the five level code. (Ward, N0AX)
Teletype nomenclature lives on today in many computer systems, especially those based on a variation of Unix or Linux - here's the story of how TTYs and computers became linked, and how they evolved into terminals, and how operating systems still support terminal functionality.
The World Wide Radio Operator Foundation (WWROF) will present the webinar "Waller Flag RX Antenna 101 - How to Construct a Waller Flag" by JC, N4IS, on February 16. You can also check out past WWROF webinars, including 2016's "High Performance RX Antennas for a Small Lot," also by JC, on the WWROF website. In addition to design and construction, techniques for testing and evaluation of flag performance will be discussed.
Tom, W0IVJ, has created a video of RFI detection while driving through his neighborhood using an SDR receiver and active mobile antenna. His narration of the video of the captured spectrum includes identifying VDSL2 interference, RFI from switching power supplies, and even a periodic ionosphere sounder. See related item below.
"TIP: Don't leave your antennas assembled in the hotel room. It scares housekeeping." (Ken, K2WB/7/R, from February 2017 Mt. Airy VHF Radio Club's Cheese Bits newsletter)
Preliminary results for the 2016 ARRL CW Sweepstakes and the 2016 ARRL Phone Sweepstakes are available on the ARRL website. In the CW Contest, there were a number of ties in the second to seventh positions across a few of the categories. Despite another year's plunge towards the sunspot minimum, winning scores in the Single Op QRP and Multi Op Low Power categories were significantly higher in 2016 than in 2015. Notable in the Phone contest, there were a grand total of sixteen QSOs reported on ten meters.
Use appropriate receive filtering to suit your circumstances. If you're calling CQ and not getting any replies, try increasing your receive filtering bandwidth to better hear any off-frequency callers. If the band is crowded, you may need to take advantage of other functionality your rig may offer such as RIT and pass band shifting to be able to copy your callers while avoiding QRM from adjacent stations.
Managing your local RF environment is essential to be able to continue to hear weak signals. Tracking down and eliminating local neighborhood RFI sources is one aspect of this. On his website, Larry, W0QE, describes a method of using a spectrum display for tracking and identifying RFI sources. Larry developed a broadband high impedance amplifier to be used in conjunction with small whip antennas appropriate for mounting on vehicles. Tom, W0IVJ, used freely available software to make this video of using Larry's hardware for RFI 'war driving' to identify RFI sources, in this case VDSL2 modems. Larry's RF amplifier design is one that is applicable for nearly any SDR using small vertical monopoles while the screen video recording techniques could also be used, for example, in contest logging training. (Tom, W0IVJ, via RFI Reflector)
Identifying man-made signals you might hear or see on your waterfall display might be made easier with the Signal Identification Guide Wiki. Signals of all types, including Over The Horizon (OTH) RADARs, digital data transmissions, and encrypted communication formats, are listed. Descriptions include sample audio as well as waterfall displays. (Dennis, N6KI)
In your contest station-building activities, you might find this "... curated list of awesome resources for electronic engineers and hobbyists" (their description) of use. It's hosted using Github, so contributors can suggest changes through pull requests.
Microwaves & RF's recent article on coaxial cable provides a good overview of cable types and dielectric construction, mostly geared toward higher frequencies and commercial uses. Only 12 more years until the coax centennial! (Tim, K3HX)
Passion and Perseverance
Last weekend's NFL contest spurred a discussion between Ward, N0AX, and his NAQP Phone teammates: "The Patriots come-from-behind win was inspirational, actually, in that if you just 'keep your butt in the chair' you can make things happen. I had a similar situation during the CW Sprint on Saturday - things were kind of slow and I didn't think I would do well. Kept going and the last two hours were a lot better than I expected, especially 80 meters. Looks like a Top Five performance, even though my first hour was 'not world class,' as they say. We just kept going..."
It's easy to lose your motivation due to poor propagation, slow rates, equipment problems, that lunchtime microwave burrito that didn't sit well, or hundreds of other reasons. But that drive that keeps you on the radio and making QSOs despite adversity is a necessary component to improve performance and ultimately win contests. In the mainstream, "grit" is the term that has been used to describe this trait. It's a skill that you can cultivate through practice. If you need some tongue-in-cheek comfort to help get through the next bad time: the worse your experience, the more you are improving.
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 email@example.com
73, Brian N9ADG
9 Feb - 22 Feb 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.
CWops Mini-CWT Test, Feb 8, 1300z to Feb 8, 1400z, Feb 8, 1900z to Feb 8, 2000z, Feb 9, 0300z to Feb 9, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: February 11.
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