February 22, 2017Editor: Brian Moran, N9ADG
IN THIS ISSUE
The ARRL International DX Contest, SSB is coming up - a great opportunity to put some DX stations into your log. The Daily DX, NG3K, and others publish information on some of the DX entities that will be active. Guidelines and pointers published for the CW version of the contest that occurred last weekend are relevant.
Now might also be a good time to better understand your antenna system, especially how efficient it really is. Your antenna tuner may make your radio happy, but a modestly high shack-measured SWR combined with lossy coax cable might indicate you are radiating less of your signal than you think. Check out this technical note regarding SWR, keeping in mind that fractions-of-dB losses distributed through your system can add up.
Attention Contest Clubs: if you are participating in the ARRL Contest Club Competition, remember that you can change your eligibility list before each ARRL contest. See the Contest Club Tools web page for more information. To compete in Club Competition events, clubs must now supply their Eligibility Lists before the running of the event in which they intend to participate.
The New Hampshire QSO Party was listed incorrectly in the last issue. This year's NHQP is September 17 - September 18, 2017.
FlexRadio Systems is pleased to announce that their PowerGenius XL Amplifier recently passed FCC certification. While the official filing process will take another couple of weeks, FlexRadio is accepting reservations for delivery in the US effective immediately. A YouTube video featuring the amplifier is available.
WRTC 2018 has announced a February 21, 2017 deadline for application of Sponsored Teams. Sponsored Teams allow "...dedicated contesters who cannot qualify because of other serious commitments the chance to take part in the WRTC." As of February 19, there are only two Sponsored Team slots remaining. See the WRTC 2018 website for more information.
Elecraft has a "K3 to K3S Migration" service that helps current K3 owners easily move their filters and other compatible options to a new K3S/100. For one flat fee, the current K3 is sent to Elecraft, where the existing options are tested, updated to current firmware and mod revisions, and then installed in a new K3S. Of course, additional K3S options can be purchased and added at the same time. The K3 and K3S are both returned in seven to ten business days, according to the Elecraft website.
Gary, ZL2IFB, writes about last issue's Conversation: "The comments about not giving up even if things are going slow reminded me of this quote by Dwight D. Eisenhower: '...when you are in any contest you should work as if there is always to the very last minute a chance to lose it.' I'm not sure where I found it, nor whether it is accurate, and I rather doubt he was talking about Amateur Radio contesting but still it struck a chord with me." (Ed. Note: Gary is spot on, President Eisenhower's quote can be found on the website of the Eisenhower Presidential Library.)
Bob, N7WY, provides some additional considerations for putting up a tower: "When selecting a tower brand, first you'll need to know what IBC was used in completing the structural analysis. I got bitten from one year to the next by the county moving from IBC 2006 to IBC 2009. The supplier may not have an analysis to the current requirements. Furthermore, the supplier may not be able to supply drawings and/or analysis with a local state professional engineer's "wet-stamp." If the supplier does not have a current analysis or a PE marking for your state, you may need to hire a professional engineer to review the analysis the supplier has and update it, or review a current analysis and then apply his "wet-stamp" upon his completing the review. In some areas, like here in Greene County, MO, you will likely need to have a soils engineer drill a test hole to see if the soil has the stability needed to allow you to use the footing design supplied by the tower supplier. One ham nearby found that the soil was so shallow that he'd either have to move, or have a truss built to keep the tower upright under 90 MPH winds. I was surprised that even though my two towers are only 150 feet apart, the county wanted a test hole at each proposed footing location. The other effect of moving from IBC 2006 to IBC 2009 was that the analysis required the supplier to drastically reduce the allowable wind load requiring me to move to a higher strength tower to placate the county. If your property has been platted to allow for future sub-division, the county may forbid you from placing a tower to close to the subdivision boundaries, or to consolidate the property so that encroachment by a fallen tower is no longer an issue."
The Dayton 2017 Contest University class outline has been posted. 2017's Professors include:
CTU will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dayton, Ohio, May 18, 2017, from 7:00am to 5:00pm.
Your radio or contest club can promote unity and interest by helping members to get to know one another better. The Northern California Contest Club (NCCC) monthly newsletter, the Jug, includes a "Point Generator Profile," a profile of a club member. Check out KA6BIM's PGP in the January, 2017 issue.
Propagation during the ARRL International DX Contest last weekend was noted as "weird" by a number of participants. Sunday's Space Weather News noted a "large gash in the sun's atmosphere" - a coronal hole. Solar wind emanating from the hole can cause geomagnetic storms and affect radio wave propagation. Analysts have forecast potential G1 and G2 storms on February 27 and 28.
WORD TO THE WISE
DMR: Digital Mobile Radio
A set of standards for digital voice and data communication via radio and published by ETSI for professional (commercial) mobile radio users. Following an age-old tradition, commercial UHF and VHF DMR gear has been and continues to be repurposed for the amateur bands. As interest has grown, amateur-specific gear has become available. DMR appears to be quickly growing, and is attracting the attention of many newer amateurs because of its novelty, rapid innovation in hardware and services, utility of various networks and system operators, and inexpensive entry level radios. For experimenters, DMR building blocks (e.g. encoder/decoder modules, software, digital radios) are available from a number of sources and are being combined with inexpensive computing hardware. There are even DMR hotspots in a USB form factor.
Mike, VE3GFN, submits: "The Board of Trustees has announced the appointment of Phil Anderson, VE3FAS, to the Canadian Amateur Radio Hall of Fame for 2016. Prior to 2016, 19 other outstanding amateurs have been appointed to the Hall of Fame, including Farrell (Hoppy) Hopwood, VE7RD; Jim Dean, VE3IQ; Earl Smith, VE7EM; Ken Pulfer, VE3PU; Fred Hammond, VE3HC; Don Dashney, VE3RM and Bob Nash, VE3KZ. The Constitution for the Hall of Fame states that the appointment is made "for outstanding achievement and excellence of the highest degree, for serious and sustained service to Amateur Radio in Canada, or to Amateur Radio at large." The Board of Trustees determined that Anderson is "most worthy of this honour." Licensed in 1961 at age 16, Anderson had a distinguished engineering career in defense research and aerospace design, after which he became an instructor at Humber College in close association with Bob, VE3KZ. His Amateur Radio involvement includes 50 years of service with the National Traffic System. He was awarded the prestigious Brass Pounders League Medallion for outstanding achievement in passing third-party traffic. "He was one of the best Eastern Area Net controllers we have ever had", according to Bud Hippisley, W2RU. "He not only served the National Traffic System Eastern Area, but also was manager of the Eastern Canadian Net and Transcontinental Corps. Phil was also a QSL bureau volunteer for 20 years with the QSL bureau for Ontario, the ARRL, the CRRL and then RAC. He continues to mentor and inspire new amateurs through on the air activities."
Some radios have an "audio peaking filter" feature that maximizes audio response (volume) at a particular frequency. Another way to accomplish a similar feature is to design a speaker enclosure that is tuned to respond at desired frequency - a mechanical solution. This YouTube video by Steve, N4LQ, describes how a 70's Sky Tec speaker is constructed, and pointers on how to construct your own out of PVC pipe and other plastic odds and ends. (John, AE5X, via Elecraft mailing list)
If you left your starship in suspended animation, what would your beacon message be? (Dennis, N6KI)
Dennis, N6KI also suggests this website to help identify signals you might hear on the air. It features audio snippets and waterfall displays of the digital signals you're most likely to encounter.
Dick, W7WKR, notes that there's a CW message buried in the theme song of the PBS TV-series titled "Morse."
"A few years ago I heard this person on 144.200. He was running about 50 watts. I was running 100 watts, on my horizontal loop. He was having trouble hearing me. He was using a vertical that had a 4:1 SWR on 144.200. I told him that a horizontal antenna resonant at the low end of the band would make a huge difference. He didn't think it would make any difference. Further into the conversation, I found that he did not have the preamp on his radio turned on. He said that wouldn't make any difference, either. I told him I had to go." Buddy, WB4OMG
The September ARRL VHF Contest Full Results are now available. The total number of logs submitted was only slightly down from 2015. The 2-meter band had the highest number of contacts, as six meter openings were scarce to nonexistent.
Team W4AAW's Multi-operator Multi-transmitter (MOMT) entry in the JARTS (Japan Amateur Radio Teleprinter Society) contest last October succeeded in winning 2nd place overall in the world in their category, demolishing the previous JARTS North American multi-operator record held by NK7U's 2012 entry. This effort was accomplished from the East coast of the US, with no operators physically present at the station - a totally remote operation. The 2016 W4AAW team consisted of AA5AU in Louisiana; K4XD in North Carolina; MM0LID in Scotland; N1MGO in Massachusetts; ND3D in Maryland; W4TMO in North Carolina; W6IHG in Virginia; WS7I in Washington, and W4AAW in Virginia. The 2017 JARTS contest takes place October 21-22.
Calling CQ for a State QSO Party
QSO Parties are normally based upon stations inside the state working stations inside and outside the state, and stations outside the state working in-state stations only. Calling CQ is different for each group. For example, a CQ message sent by a station inside the state of Illinois for the Illinois QSO Party would go something like this: "CQ ILQP DE KX9XXX." Stations outside of Illinois are looking for any stations inside of Illinois, so they'd use "CQ IL DE W7DX." In today's licensing regime, any prefix can be located practically anywhere, and don't forget about potential reciprocal operation: In another example, during 2016's Washington State Salmon Run, RN6LHF/W7 was located inside Washington state, looking for Washington counties and non-Washington stations.
When Microsoft Windows boots, it interrogates serial ports connected to your system to look for peripherals like mice. Unfortunately, this may have the side effect of switching some lines, such as DTR, that are connected to radios or other devices. There were various techniques in previous Windows versions to prevent this, but those techniques don't work with Windows 10. However, if you're using FTDI-based USB to Serial port hardware, Tom, VA2FSQ, suggests: "If you open the device manager in Microsoft Windows and double-click on the serial port, you can select Port Settings, and then Advanced. In this page, there are two options. One is 'Serial Enumerator' which should not be checked, and the other is 'Disable modem ctrl at startup' which should be checked. This solves the issue at least for the FTDI chipset." (Tom, VA2FSQ, via Elecraft mailing list)
How low can you go with your HF antennas? If you're space constrained, for 160 meters try this "No excuses" vertical by K6MM. At only 25 feet tall, and painted green, perhaps your neighbors won't notice this in your backyard. John originally presented this as a joint Northern California Contest Club / Potomac Valley Radio Club webinar in 2009.
NXP Semiconductor has a new LDMOS transistor that should be appealing to solid-state amplifier builders -- the MRF1K50. According to the NXP data sheet, the reference design is capable of 1500 Watts CW output power at 27 MHz, with a drain efficiency of 78%. To increase the potential for incorporation into long-lived equipment, NXP is promising to manufacture the device until at least 2031.
Elecraft K3 Users - Here's a technique to eliminate any PTT tail delay in your CW Macros with modern K3 firmware versions, as described by Bob, N6TV, in a recent e-mail to the Elecraft reflector: "The problem of unwanted PTT delay when using the internal keyer with VOX, and computer-generated CW/PTT, was already addressed by the improvements to the RX; command in K3 firmware 5.46 and later. Sending an RX; command at the end of all computer-generated CW messages will immediately open the PTT line no matter how long you set the VOX delay, so there will be no delay in receiving when the computer-generated message terminates. You will still get the programmed CW VOX delay when hand sending, and the PTT will be held closed for the duration of all computer-generated messages, if you follow all of the steps outlined below." Bob goes on to describe the macros to use with Win-Test, and provides guidelines for other contest logging software.
WRTC 2018 site details require months of preparation activities. Recent 15-meter Spiderbeam reflector and director element construction required preparation of 120 Spiderbeam elements, nearly a kilometer of wire, 480 insulators, and tying 1920 knots. The three Saturdays required were described as "hard and boring." Three Amateurs from the Uetersen Radioclub, Malte, DE7LMS, Olaf, DK2LO and Karl-Heinz, DB7BN, tackled the tasks.
Much of what makes a radio contest a contest is the shared goal of exchanging information as quickly and efficiently as possible with other stations. Contest sponsors usually provide an example of a successful contact, which involves the exchange. The sending of the exchange is NOT a time to stand out from the pack. For maximum success, send the exchange that the contest sponsors suggest, and what other stations are sending. Nothing more, nothing less. If you're sending different information than other stations, please make sure your exchange is correct. It's okay to ask someone if your exchange is appropriate if you're unfamiliar with the exchange. Stations that you work want your exchange to be correct, too.
Most people use contest logging software, so the exchange formats for CW and RTTY contests are determined by the logger's message macros. Using the default or contest-specific macros supplied by your logging program may not be enough -- you can't always assume that the version of the logging program you're using has the messages right, either!
That's all for this time. Remember to send contesting related stories, book reviews, tips, techniques, press releases, errata, schematics, club newsletters, pictures, stories, blog links, and predictions to email@example.com
73, Brian N9ADG
23 Feb - 3 Mar 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, Feb 22, 1300z to Feb 22, 1400z, Feb 22, 1900z to Feb 22, 2000z, Feb 23, 0300z to Feb 23, 0400z; CW; Bands: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m; Member: Name + Member No., non-Member: Name + (state/province/country); Logs due: February 25.
23 Feb - 3 Mar 2017
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