April 19, 2017Editor: Brian Moran, N9ADG
IN THIS ISSUE
How's that microphone working out for you? Different audio qualities are needed for different tasks, and you may find that by adjusting your audio chain for the characteristics required for contesting will result in more contacts. Jim, K9YC, published an article last year in NCJ entitled "Clean, Punchy, Competitive Contest Audio Without Splatter" that is also available on his website (PDF).
Like 10 meters, quiet since last time.
In refreshingly candid language, Doug Zwiebel, CQWW Director, posted an entry on the CQWW Contest Facebook Page, regarding disqualifications due to self-spotting and observance of the rule regarding recording the entire contest effort there is an expectation of being a top scorer. According to Doug, over 75 SSB entries were disqualified in 2016 due to self-spotting. The bottom line is self-spotting or mutual spotting collusion between operators or stations is not allowed, and can and will result in "strong sanctioning actions." (via Twitter)
The Amateur Data Interchange Format (ADIF) is 21 years old. Most people will recognize ADIF, and associated "ADI-files" as the means by which contest logs are exported from contest logging programs and into general purpose logging programs, log analyzers, OQRS systems, and the like. ADIF has evolved from a relatively simple way to encode QSO information so that it can be read or written by computer programs to the recent ADIF 3's ADX files that use XML for self-describing data formats. People involved in the standard as producers or consumers of ADIF data participate in the Yahoo ADIF Developers Group, while ADIF standards are published at ADIF.org.
California recent changes to its distracted driving laws targeted towards cellular phone usage are broad enough to impact the use of Amateur mobile radio equipment while under way. Tomasa Dueñas, Chief of Staff for California Assembly Member Bill Quirk (D-20), recently sent an email to constituents regarding the Assemblyman's submittal of language to amend AB 1222, changing Section 23123.5(f) as follows:
For the purposes of this section, "electronic wireless communications device" includes, but is not limited to, a broadband personal communication device, a specialized mobile radio device, a handheld device or laptop computer with mobile data access, or a pager, or a two-way messaging device.
Assemblyman Quirk's staff is also working on a submission to The Assembly Journal, which serves as the official record of the legislative intent of the bills that are passed by the California Legislature. According to Dueñas, "We strongly believe that the legislative history of AB 1785 (Quirk, 2016), the directive issued by CHP recently, our letter to the journal, and this change to the definition of "electronic wireless communications device" makes it very clear that the intent to curtain cellphone/mobile phone related distracted driving." Discussion of this law as it relates to Amateur operation can be found on the Papa System website. (Dennis, N6KI)
Ward, N0AX, has always been well grounded, and now he's bonding by sharing his expertise and experience with others through his new book, Grounding and Bonding for the Radio Amateur. That perpetual question "How many wires are required for that 240v amplifier branch circuit?" and many others are answered in this new publication with regards to the current NEC standards. "Grounding and Bonding for the Radio Amateur shows you how to make sure your station follows current standards for lightning protection and communication systems, not to mention the National Electrical Code." Grounding and bonding for tower and outdoor antennas, fixed, portable, and temporary operations are covered as well.
Get your computer or smart phone calendar loaded with the schedule of the forums available at this year's Hamvention by visiting the forum schedule website. There are over 60 sessions representing all facets of Amateur Radio. While contesters may be interested in attending the Antenna, Contesting, and RTTY Contesting sessions, it's also a great opportunity to dip your toe into a new-to-you aspect of our hobby.
Researchers in Ireland have demonstrated the ability to print working transistors out of nanomaterials. The goal is to be able to inexpensively incorporate working circuitry into objects like food and beverage containers, clothing, paper products, and the like. The effort uses particles including graphene, boron, and tungsten compounds suspended in liquid to construct the active devices.
Overshadowed by the recent news of Radio Shack's bankruptcy woes and liquidation of retail stores was the announcement of the death of Bernie Appel, 'Mr. RadioShack,' at the age of 85. According to the article, "during his 34 years at RadioShack, Appel held every key position, culminating with his tenure at the top from 1984 to 1992, the heyday of the Fort Worth-based retail electronics chain." (Dennis, N6KI)
The fastest computing hardware could be all for play. Project Scorpio, the codename of Microsoft's next XBOX release in 2017, has some impressive specifications, including 6 Teraflops of GPU and the ability to stream game generated video at 4K resolution. This 4K resolution scene is indicative of the kind of immersive experience possible in head-to-head multiplayer gaming. Are we still debating the appeal of color displays and touch screens?
It's not too late to attend the International DX Convention in Visalia, California, April 20-23. In addition to DX oriented activities, the program features a Contest Academy with Basic and Advanced Contesting tracks. There are some associated activities taking place that weekend in Visalia, including the Visalia Contest Dinner, Top band Dinner, and IOTA Dinner.
VHF'ers: Kim, W8GS, is organizing a Dayton area dinner on Friday, May 19, at the Voyager Room - Doubletree Inn in Miamisburg, Ohio, for those interested in chatting about VHF, UHF, weak signal, EME, microwave, and other related topics. The event will be starting at 6 PM with a cash bar, dinner will be served at 7 PM. Cost is $40 per person. The last day to sign up is May 10. Contact Kim via firstname.lastname@example.org.
OQRS - Online QSL Request System
An OQRS system tries to make obtaining QSL confirmations easier by providing a paperless method for requesting them. Typically, a website is set up to gather QSO information by a web form, or by ADIF log upload. That QSO information is matched against a station's logs, and at the requesting station's preference, paper QSL cards or electronic confirmations are generated.
Tim, K3LR, talks about Contest University 2017 at about 58:10 in the Ham Nation 292 video on YouTube. Tim also interviewed Sandy, DL1QQ in his own video when she stopped by DX Engineering. They discuss her recent contest activities, and then focus on WRTC 2018. Notable in the commentary is that WRTC 2018 will include three youth teams among the competitors.
W5KUB's Amateur Radio Roundtable recently featured teen Marty, KC1CWF, commenting on the CQ WPX Contest (27:00). Marty also teams up with Sterling, N0SSC, for their own Phasing Line Podcast that covers all manner of Amateur Radio subjects.
Bud, AA3B, talked about using N1MM for RTTY Contesting at a recent Frankford Radio Club meeting. In addition to addressing N1MM's integration with the MMTTY program, he discussed appropriate macros for RTTY contesting, and compared RTTY frequency usage in general versus during RTTY contests. One encouraging observation made is the doubling of CQ WW RTTY contest participation since 2006.
Sure, a spark can be modulated to play sound, but this cheeky video reinforces how much it's about the performance as well as the instrument. (Dennis, N6KI)
If you have some left over Peeps from Easter, and you know the frequency of your microwave oven, you can measure the speed of light! Well, you have to be a good measurer, too. The key is to measure the average distance between the melted peeps in a dish of Peeps placed into a microwave (do NOT let them rotate!), which represents half of a wavelength at the microwave frequency. C, the speed of light, is frequency times wavelength, so C = F x (Dpeep x 2)... see the video starting at 2:25 or so.
The results of the Spring Stew Perry 160 meter contest have been posted. There were over 250 logs submitted, attesting to the greater awareness of the contest and increasing levels of participation. The Summer Stew will occur June 17-18.
Results of the 2016 CQ World Wide DX SSB Contest have been posted (PDF). If you entered the contest, did you look at your Log Check Report (LCR)?
Thank you for submitting a log in the 2016 CQ WW DX SSB Contest.
Log checking details for CQ WW SSB 2016:
7,573 Logs total
3,458,751 QSOs total
45,296 ( 1.6%) Busted calls
It's impressive that 83% of all QSOs were cross-checked, and the overall error rate was just 2.9%.
The full results for ARRL Phone Sweepstakes,are now on the ARRL website. According to Ward, N0AX: "Without doing an exhaustive history, I believe that this is the earliest the full results for both modes of Sweepstakes have ever been available.Thanks to the authors, log checkers, and log wranglers who made this possible through hard work at their various keyboards. I hope this process of improvement will keep going!" The Sweepstakes CW article on the website was also updated with the sponsored plaque list.
Check those RTTY AGC Settings
RTTY demodulators are designed to extract signals from audio tones that have been received through the ionosphere using HF radios. For those decoders to have their best performance, it's best to limit the action of any radio AGC by using the slowest setting possible, or even turning AGC off if possible, using the RF gain control instead. While RTTY signals typically use a shift of 170 Hz, typically a radio filter bandwidth in the range of 350-400 Hz works well for decoding. It really depends on your radio, and the roll-off characteristics of your filters. Some radios have a dual peak filtering function available, which may help, or could over-process the signal. Different RTTY decoders perform differently, which is why some contesters have more than one RTTY decoder per signal. The best way to find out what works best for you is to experiment with the settings under various conditions outside of a contest period.
Jim, K9YC, will be presenting "Finding and Killing Receive Noise" in Visalia, California on Friday, April 21, as part of the International DX Convention. Jim expects to go long: "It's a long talk, and needs far more than the 45 minutes allotted. The talk is the last one before lunch, and I've been assured that I can run over into the lunch hour. Obviously, attendees can stay for as much (or as little) as they like."
Elektor Magazine describes recent research that has yielded a microwave laser that can be constructed on the same chip as other circuitry. A Josephson junction is used in conjunction with a microwave cavity to obtain a coherent stream of microwave photons.
Square waves are composed of the fundamental frequency, and odd-integer harmonic frequencies. Here's a graphical way of visualizing how sinusoidal frequency components add to create a waveform starting from a point traced on a circle, which may be rotating on a circle, and so on. It turns out that the radii of those circles comprise the Fourier transform of the signal described by the waveform.
The Four States QRP Group has introduced the new BUZZ-KILL kit for removing power-line buzz from an audio channel. The BUZZ-KILL is a comb filter - a notch at 60 Hz and every harmonic of 60 Hz. According to the website, "This is a compact, flexible design that can be used as a stand-alone outboard unit, or it can be easily integrated into an existing receiver (see manual for details). Its onboard audio amp is capable of driving a speaker or headphones. Gain is constant from 100 Hz to 5kHz, so it can be used with any CW, SSB or AM receiver." The circuit uses two analog delay lines to combine the signal with a time-shifted version of the signal, which creates a comb filter.(QRP-L mailing list)
If you're looking for a little more selectivity, you can retrofit an existing radio with an audio DSP filter from SOTABEAMS. Their LASERBEAM-VARI modules need just a single rotary encoder to provide a variable filter bandwidth of 200Hz to 3500Hz. The module is 36mm x 36mm and requires a supply voltage of between 5 and 15 Volts.
"Wow! Has activity really changed this much in the 10-12 years I was absent? In the old days with 1.5 kW I was lucky to work a dozen stations in the Sprint and maybe hear a few more. Last night with 90 watts under what appeared to be poor band conditions I worked 22 and heard at least that many more that I could not work for various reasons. Best DX 510 miles. At times the band sounded almost like 20 meters but with weaker signals. Thanks to the organizers and to everyone for getting on and making it a fun evening." - comments by Paul, N1BUG, on the VHF Contesting reflector regarding the Spring VHF and Up Sprints. The next in the series occurs is 222 MHz on 4/25/17 from 7 - 11 PM local time.
The Internet is My Elmer
We're at the highest number of licensed Amateurs in the U.S., ever. But, if you're on HF on a weekday, the bands seem pretty quiet, and not just because of conditions. According to the licensing statistics, the major growth has been in the Technician license class. So it's easy to rationalize that's the reason we're not seeing people on HF. Yet, most UHF and VHF repeaters don't seem that busy, either, with the exception of some of the DMR talk groups. The UHF/VHF contest participation numbers are not showing growth reflective of those thirty thousand new hams last year. Some recent evidence suggests the growth is coming from those that are using their privileges as part of their interest in emergency preparedness. Whew! Conventional wisdom is that EMCOMM is a "gateway into Amateur Radio" and that a reasonable number of those new hams will eventually discover the fun of other aspects of Amateur Radio, and we'll see them on HF, or in contests, or DX pileups, eventually. But is that really true?
I posit that it's likely that now, people entering Amateur Radio for a particular purpose never will discover all our hobby has to offer - because they don't have to leave the comfort zone of their own special interest, and don't perceive a need for Amateur Radio for anything else.
Back in the old days, AKA pre-Internet, someone entering the hobby likely did so with the assistance of an Elmer, someone with whom they had personal contact. It could have been a schoolteacher, neighbor, relative, someone from a local radio club. That person would have had their own interests, and being a ham, their own opinions, on the kind of Amateur their protégé should become. Sometimes that would help, and sometimes that would hinder someone's journey to getting their ticket... but they'd get exposed to things that their Elmer thought they should know about.
Today, one can realize they need a license to further their goal to say, fly a high-altitude balloon around the globe and track it via the Internet. But, with thousands of information sources available via their web browser on how to quickly get their license, they don't get exposed to anything other than the minimum. They don't even need to talk to anyone except the Volunteer Examiner.
For all of these new specific-use-focused licensees, how are they going to learn about the breadth and depth of opportunity that their license represents?
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
20 Apr - 3 May 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, Apr 19, 1300z to Apr 19, 1400z, Apr 19, 1900z to Apr 19, 2000z, Apr 20, 0300z to Apr 20, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: April 22.
222 MHz Spring Sprint, Apr 25, 1900z to Apr 25, 2300z; (not specified); Bands: 222 Mhz; 4-character grid square; Logs due: May 9.
432 MHz Spring Sprint, May 3, 1900z to May 3, 2300z; (not specified); Bands: 432 Only; 4-character grid square; Logs due: May 17.
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