dinsdag 25 december 2012

And so it is Christmas...

Finally, a free day in this very busy qrl-time.  Ok it has been foreseen in our 2008 business plan that the most crazy time would be dec/2012-jan/2013,  but when working >100hrs a week and still have the feeling that so many things have to be done, this isn't funny anymore.

It's about the same feeling as the Lotw processes : the more you do, the more files arrive and the more delays occur.
Of course this has consequences on both family (the xyl does the same business so there are no misunderstandings) and hobby.   My only qso the last weeks was with oh9scl, with both children listening to Santa Claus up in the north.  It is a dream for years to go to Rovaniemi around Christmas time, but with all grand-parents in good healthy shape, we prefer to stay at home and collect good rememberings for later.

The results of the on-contest are published.  I win the shorted (elections day) on-contest in cw with very few differences in the top-3 results.  In the ssb part with more participants a third place is the result.  And this is as always with a 50€ G5RV and about 400W.

Weeks after the cqww contests a mixed feeling keeps playing in my mind.  On SSB the mood was changed because of the emi problem,  on cw I lost hundreds of qso's due to my absence at the start.

The positive side of the game is on dxcc-level.  Many new bandslots on all bands are confirmed via Lotw.  I only need zone 31 (Kh6) on 40m to achieve a 40/20/15/10 WAZ.  I need 5 States confirmed to achieve a 40/20/15/10 WAS.

Rbn analysis learns that being there at the right time is much more important than antennas and power.  This was surprising to me.  I conclude that yagi arrays are the way to go to have a bigger result range.

Merry Christmas to all !

dinsdag 27 november 2012

CQWWDX CW contest part 1

Ouf, the contest season 2012 stops here for me.  No ARRL 10m nor other smaller ct in december.
With more than 10.000 qso in only 6 months, it's enough (the family complaints achieved the yellow stadium, so it's time for a break).

Before the contest :
I wasn't at home last week, so I pulled out the tower one week before the start.  I normally don't do this, but now there was no other possibility.  Because in Belgium they are not able to perform a good weather forecast for some days, and certainly not for a complete week, I decided to keep some reserve in height.  One the height is chosen I can't change it due to the two wire antennas installed for the lowest bands.

CQWW contests always remember me the famous edition of 2002 where we had the hardest hurricane I've ever seen.  With 140 kmh wind speeds the tower was dancing in the dark and we even lost our chimney.  This will never happen again, I've learnt my lesson.

Also a predictable problem : I had a business event with after-party at Friday in the center of our capital Brussels.  To avoid car problems, we decided to form a team of 5 people in a single car.   Wrong combination : apparently there is a life outside the contest, and the majority of our "team" decided to stay until midnight.   To make a longer story short : I missed the contest start, was so tired that I had to sleep in our 2nd qth and I started the contest at about 7 AM utc.   OQ5M reached 700 K points had several hundreds of contacts in the log.  One to one competion finished.

OK, let's start : S&P on 80m on the inverted L made for 160m.  I've tested this, my autotuner was able to tune so no problem... except...  when I turned on the Acom1000 I was warmly welcomed by an arc-error, and another and another,...   Sh***t !   I suspect a too high voltage and the basepoint of the wire causing an arc to the metal (earth) part of the MFJ-998RT.  This is a failure in the contruction concept of this box.  The wire antenna must pass a hole made in the metal part.  When there is wind in combination with high energy on the wire, arcs are possible.  I've to find a solution to have a better isolation.  On eham.net I wrote this small piece of text about it.

So no 80m on Saterday (the tuner box had to bere-attached from the 160m wire to the 80m wire) .

While speaking about Murphy (the arc problem isn't really Murphy, I had to test this with high power in advance) I've survived some other problems.  Too much problems to be good.
3x computer crash with the really blue Windows screen dumping memory,
my manual keyer refused work and this could by solved by a power off/on of the TX.  Here I suspect the Microham box.
2 times I suffered a non-stop cq-calling.  This is  really annoying : people are answering and the pc starts to call cq over and over.

But the biggest challenge was the fight against fatigue.  This is the first time ever I had this issue.  The last week was very hard on qrl and the so needed rest before a contest was absent.  This costs my some extra hours so there was an activity degree of "only" 34 hrs.  Normally I can reach easily 40 hrs.

Final score >2900 Q's, 3.7 M points.   Not bad in a mode that costs me more energy  and concentration than SSB.

I've encourtered a few new things :

- for the first time I've occupied a frequency at the lower part of the band, i.e. 21.015 Mhz.  Very difficult to keep the frequency because many stations want to play around this point.  The pile-up was very high and I've had difficulties to handle it.  It's the first time that my Yaesu MKV with roofing filter installed was at its reception limits. 
Normally I use the 250 Hz CW filter and if single calls come and go (and they are answering at the correct freq) I can handle this very well.  But with such a pile-up this was not the case.  Everybody seemed the same.  I could only pick out slower of faster ones, or some chars that are sent at the end.
Better roofing filters and a 300-400Hz CW filter is the solution. 

Some weeks ago I had a visu conversation with ON4CT, Dirk, owner of a FT5000.  He was convinced that with this filter system he gains +10% QSO's.
I really have to agree.  I lost several QSO's in the pile-up because of the reception part.
So Santa Claus : pse a FT3000 or - if possible - a FT5000 for Christmas !

On 15m I ended with 809 Q's.

- big party at 80m : although my 405 Q's due to my absence, I made 78 Q's with the USA/Canada.  This surpises me because I had only 6 radials at the ground and about 800W power.  No reception antenna(s).
It seems that my signal was rather strong at States site.  To be confirmed by RBN statistics.
On 160m I made 7 Q's outside Europe on a total of 45. 

- the biggest surprise was on 40m where the dipole was able to contact 84 countries (more then on 20m) and where I worked most multipliers on all continent at first call.  Very strange because I ran on Sunday evening at a very low rate.  From time to time I received an answer, not from Europe but from VK, ZL, JA, ZS.  Only later at the evening the pile-up came from the US as expected.
633 Q's on 40m.

Due to my absence the battle with Mr. F - OQ5M - took not place.  He wins this without any problem. 

But during the contest I've put the focus on performance between our stations.  With Reverse Beacon Network we can easely compare our bands. 
It seems that on 20/15/10 we stayed very close to each other both on contacts as multipliers.  This looks good for future battles.  The biggest difference seems to be the 80m band although at first sight my signal arrives stronger in the US.

So Santa Claus : pse my long asked 80m vertical (Titanex or DXE is ok) for Christmas.
Pse xyl : give me some free time to install the K9AY loop that resides in my shack for several months.

On 160, I made to few Q's in order to compare.

Thanks to all of you for giving the points and the patience to copy ur call correctly !
Thank you D4C and RRDXA friends from CR3L for contacts on the 6 bands.

And to the LYxxx and UR0xx stations that disturbed my JA run on 20m and my US run at 40m without qrl? and without qsy'ing when asked : I keep your calls in mind.    We meet again one day !

vrijdag 23 november 2012

Not for dummies

Just a few hours to go before the start of the biggest morse in the world.  My final Morserunner session ended in a one-hour single call exercice at 40wpm.  It's the first time I copy this speed with almost no errors.  Before there was always a battle to copy the difference between S-H, D-B and U-V.
Now this is over.  Somewhere in the brains a connexion is finally established to take the right char.

In my beginning years this was the weekend where I closed the shack and didn't make one single contact.  Too difficult and too high cw speeds.  Exercice during years is the only way to survive this fear.

See you the coming hours/days on the band !

maandag 19 november 2012

I'm ready for CQWW CW

A short message to all competitors in SOAB assisted :  I'm ready !

Even on 160m this time, but still with limited < 1 KW power on both 80m and 160m.

I can't sleep on Friday because of a business event, so this will cost some hours of extra sleep in the weekend, but the motivation is high.
A few new countries on 80m and 160m are always welcome.

zondag 18 november 2012

Listening up : 21285 to 21360...

Yes, finally I worked PT0S.  A hell of a job !
They were only active in SSB today, and I'm not at home the coming days, so this was the unique day to work them.
The experienced operator was running split over almost the entire 15m band.  And like always there were southern EU stations calling all the time in the complete band segment of 75 Khz... and like always, they were not listening at all.
If you intend to participate an DXpedition, and if you intend to go to a rare one, please be prepared and do some exercice in advance ! 

And please : do it in CW !

Hurray on 17 meter !

On Friday I received a direct QSL : Cuba on 4 bands, including 18 Mhz.

Finally I have enough countries for a DXCC on 17m.  Hurrah on 17 meter !!

Nothing to boast on the other WARC bands : only 50 confirmations on 24Mhz, and even worse, 27 countries on 10 Mhz.  This is the disadvantage of using the same Optibeam connection for both 40m or 30m.  During the contest season there is simply no 30m antenna... and between the contests I don't have the time to play...

MFJ-998RT and 80/160m antenna

After the bad experience with the 30m wire terminated by the MFJ998RT autotuner in order to have a dualband 80/160m antenna, I did a new test :  This time I used a 42m wired folded as an inverted L with the highest point at 24m.

Both 80m and 160m can be tuned on this wire. So much better then before.
This doesn't mean the antenna is working fine, but it's allready a better result then last month !  I only use 42m long radials and will keep the 20m radials to connect to my full size 80m wire antenna.

I will certainly switch between the two antennas on 80m during the CW contest..

In the mean time I uninstalled the current balun and 90 degrees PL-connector on the 40m antenna.  No traces of smoke nor other failures.  Nevertheless I had two sparks so there must have been something wrong.
I don't expect any more sparks followed by amplifier protection and a temporary (strange, why is this occuring only during a few minutes ?!) very bad swr on this Optibeam... I hope...

donderdag 1 november 2012

EMI solution found

continued from the previous blog...

Sunday around 16h Z, we're all about 38 hours in the air, a small letter takes the xyl's attention.  A neighbour is complaining the inability of viewing TV.  (note : house numbers chance quickly due to new buildings in the neighbourhood).
We are convinced that this is about our latest arrived neighbour.  Very bizar, because he lives in my beaming direction to SA, a direction that I almost never use and also an almost dead angle if I'm beaming to the US.
I don't want police at my door on Sunday and decide to decrease power on all bands to 700W with the Acom1000.  This has an immediate impact on running and S&P, but I don't care.
On Monday morning - after some refreshing sleep - I determine that I'm handling with the wrong neighbour.
The complaint comes from a house 100m further, exactly in the direction to the States.
Strange, because we're living together without problems since more than 10 years.

I go knocking on the door.  The om and his xyl explain the problem : they are looking TV with an simple antenna under the roof - something that is very exceptional in Belgium where cable and satellite are the mostly used for TV reception - .

I explain my case and also add the comment that this type of RFI is unavoidable and that there isn't a direct technical solution.  There is a straight radiation right to his reception antenna.  This can't be solved with filters and ferrite.

We agree that I will report if there is a big contest so they can take precautions and do something else.  Only pointing to the USA causes problems so I can take this into account while planning the contest strategy.

Ouf !  Big problem solved !

woensdag 31 oktober 2012

CQ WW DX contest 2012 : debriefing

First of all : I qualify my station as a sturdy "Little Pistol".
I've more power, antenna height and ground quality than a normal little pistol.

The difference between my station and  a small "Big Gun" is the absence of a 4th element on the 3 higher bands, the absence of directivity on 40m and too small antennas for 80m and 160m.
Furthermore I need a receiving system.
My goal for the coming years is to upgrade my setup to a small big gun...

With this in mind, I'm very happy with the result in the contest.  Over 3000 contacts and nearby the 4M points limit. For the first time I can live with the number of multipliers.  Normally this is always my weakest point (I like running too much and dislike S&P).

For the first time I participated the online scoring system, with a special focus on the OQ5M score.  I experienced this as a very stressy subcontest in the contest.  I prefer to exchange scores at the end of a contest in stead of realtime scoring.

I've read the very thoroughgoing analysis of my friend Franki OQ5M about the difference in our results.   
Here is my humble opinion : I'm just a better SSB operator.

Since the day I started to participate in contests, I've had always this sickness : the search for new bandslots for my DXCC/WAZ/WAS program.  Also this year I worked new slots and I even got my 40th zone on 10 meters (zone 23).  
I didn't yet analyse the log for new country slots, but there are certainly new adds.  Yessss !

My hour record has been broken.  During the 2001 ARRL contest on 10m I was able to make 186 Q's in one hour.  This weekend I did better : 188 Q's, also on 10m and also the the States.

This was my best long run : 14h42 - 17h40 on  28596 kHz : 455 Qs, (average 153,3/hr )
The complete log analysis can be found here.

Per band :
160m : I made some contacts on dummy-load style.  Just enough to have some multipliers.  Difficult without antenna.
80m : good job, I didn't expect more on SSB on that band.  Zone 2 added to my WAZ (I hope that VE2IM confirms).
40m : nice runs but at a certain moment I had a heavy arc.  I suspect the 90 degrees PL block at the balun.  To be reviewed and repaired !
20m : super FB.  Although I had expect more about the rate direction USA.
15m : super on Saterday, difficult on Sunday due to Russian QRM stations
10m.  superb.  I worked a 10m DXCC.

140 countries and 39 zones were contacted. 

On Sunday afternoon I had to lower power on all bands to 700 W.  This due to a very demotivation letter that was put under the door : a neighbour couldn't view TV anymore...
This message took away all motivation for the last hours of the contest.

More about this contest, EMI problems and the behaviour of the MJF-998RT autotuner in the coming days...

vrijdag 26 oktober 2012

Many things has fallen only to rise higher...

The old roman filosopher Seneca - who knew nothing about antennas I suppose - spoke out these wise words.

Words that give me some hope after a very disappointing day : CQWW preparation day.

Nothing much to prepare : you just buy a remote tuner, hang a wire on it and it works.

Let's see how to make an antenna for 80 and 160m in a few minutes.  Take 30m of wire (just in the middle between the two wavelenghts), cut some radials and hang it up.  Terminate with the MFJ998RT and you can start the contest. 

Maybe a quick test before starting to be sure ?  No problem on 40m (no need, but nice to see it works),  no problem on 160m, and on 80m...   no tune.   Aaargh !!!  Why is this system not tuning on 80m ?!.   OK, wrong wire length:  let's cut of 5m.  Tune on 40m, no more tune on 160m, no tune on 80m.

This is not fun a few hours before the biggest contest of the year.  Call the antenna  help-desk (same number as Franki, ON5ZO).  Sure, he has suffered the same problems.  It doesn't work with 30m of wire.  Radials must be cut on the exact length, etc, etc...

Finally at 15h00 local time I finished (in the rain of course) a simple 80m full size vertical with radials on the ground.  A very poor solution on 80m and no antenna on 160m.

Direct consequence on the number of multipliers.  So I just fight for the number of QSO's :-)

But remembering Seneca, It will be better next month !

maandag 22 oktober 2012

X-QSO, SDR and splatter detection

Yesterday evening, the CQWW webseminar attracted more than 500 listeners from 70 countries.   Perfect quality, super FB  !

The content was rather predictable : no more inter-friend logchecking possible due to a quicker log submission and also much more quicker result communications (April in stead of August).

Some items has been explained in detail :

- the committee is able to record the complete contest on all bands with the help of 7 RX-stations worldwide. 
They are now in the possibility to check multi-signals on air and also to detect splatter stations. 
Let's hope they have foreseen enough yellow cards to give to all splatter stations !  I'm curious if there will be a difference on the bands.

- the idea of an x-qso.  This means that you log a station without points (nor penalties) for yourself, but the other one can use it as a valid contact.  Nice feature if you have doubts about a correct callsign, or not sure about the 10 minute rule for M/S stations.  However, most logging programs don't use this cabrillo feature yet.

- Big attention also for the power levels 5W, 100W and 1500W.  To be continued how they will handle this.

Solar conditions seem to be a good compromise for both higher and low bands and the local weather will also be a bonus. 

The CQWW counter says : 4 days and 16 hours...

zondag 21 oktober 2012

Final countdown for CQ WW DX SSB contest

This afternoon the G5RV wire went back into its box to make place for the vertical.  It's time for the serious work !
As always - it will never change - there is still some work to do.  Especially the vertical antenna with elevated radials must be assembled and tested.   Thursday the 4 radials for 160m and 8 radials for 80m will be put on place about 3m above the ground.  On Friday morning the 30m vertical terminated by the mfj998rt is the final work to perform.
I keep the manual tuner as a backup solution... I can't take the risk to have a non-performing vertical at Friday noon just a few hours before the start of the contest.  
Friday afternoon is sleeping time till around 22h utc.

This evening there is a web-event organised by the cqww team to explain the new rules.  I wonder if they are going to talk about sdr-checks during the contest...

The WAG was a nice event.  There was a nice run in CW on 40m but the general interest seemed rather low (or most guys were playing in ssb).

maandag 15 oktober 2012

On contest - cw part

A smaller version this year : due to the elections day where everyone had to make a vote, the contest committee decided to shorten the ON CW contest.  3 hours instead of 4.  Good idea because normally  during the last hour there is not that much to do.

Thanks to all DL, G and PA stations who gave some points, because the belgian operators were not present this year.  With 92 qsos and 30 multis, I think that this will be a top score, but it wasn't that difficult.
I was a multiplier, so the normal thing you think is that all others will make a contact while scrolling the band.  Not so, some stations kept running all the time and missed me as a multi.
I did a selective S&P : if a station was a multi for me, I made the qso; if not, I didn't call and turned further on the band.
In a contest like this, every  single multi can make the difference.  Most of the leading stations will make about the same number of qso.

Next contest : Worked All Germany.  I'll be active only on 40m CW and only during the night.  On Sunday the preparation for the CQ WW DX will start with the assembling of the low band radials.

zondag 7 oktober 2012

ON SSB contest 2012

In 2002 my xyl was the first  (and maybe the last) xyl winning the ON SSB contest.  
In 2005 I obtained a first place in both the SSB and CW part of this contest.
After this the motivation was gone for years.

A winner score in the ON contest means about 170 QSO's in 4 hours.  In a major contest this can be done during one super hour of operation.

This Sunday I took some time to participate.  With the same setup as always : a G5RV as inverted V , tuned in the shack.  Power output around 500W (the Acom1000 has no problems with swr >3) because I'm sure there is a risk for EMI with this setup.

After the first relative busy hour, the contest becomes boring.  The rate is simply too low.  Also the importance is too low : I was playing on a frequency where a weekly raw chewing occurs, so the OM asked friendly to qsy.  No problem, but this will never happen during a WW contest...

I hope to be in a top 3 position...

After the contest I investigated the dxcluster.  Incredible ...  the self spotting (or friend-spotting) rate is higher than I ever expected.  This isn't normal anymore.  

The top moment occured at 9h30 utc :

on3axu remembers pa3geo via a spot (!) : selfspotting is for children

One minute later pa3geo replies again via a spot (!) : I decide myself what I have to do...

To be continued next week in the CW part (shortened by one hour because every ON-ham has to go vote for the local elections.  In ON this is mandatory :-(  )...

Package arrived : mfj-998rt

Ordered Tuesday at dx-engineering, the package arrived on Friday.
As always,super-speed delivery without any problem.

I ordered a few little items like some clamps that I couldn't find in Belgium and of course the MFJ-998RT tuner.  Most of the negative reviews indicate bad quality of the soldering, so the first thing I did was opening the tuner.
To be honest, I was surprised about the high quality of the placement and solderings.  The quality check stamps were date 2012/August, so it must be a recent box.

I did a small test with the box in the shack connected to the G5RV.  The manual indicates the use of a 4:1 balun with this antenna, but I did it without.
On most cases the tuner tuned very fastly to a good matching on 80m and 40m.
While changing in the band the tuner starts an auto-tune "most" of the time.  Sometimes it does nothing and this has to be resolved be a power reset.
On 10 Mhz there was no matching although the tuner in the tx fixed it without problems;  Maybe the impedance was out of the range (no 4:1 balun remember).

Anyway it seems to work.  During the WW DX it has to match a vertical wire.  This must be performed without problems as the manuals indicates.

One minor point detected : in error mode the tuner starts to send CW code.  OK, nice, but who will hear this with the remote machine placed 50m from the shack ?

donderdag 20 september 2012

Alea jacta est : OJ0 here we come

From 30/06/2013 till 7/07/2013 Market Reef will be activated by this quartet : ON8VP, ON6QO, ON5JT and myself.
As we are all CW operators, this will be our primary mode.

dinsdag 18 september 2012

Shopping at MFJ : customer king ?!

I know, the economic situation isn't good.
I know : customer is king at this moment.
Every company tries to get the most out of the customer... The more he buys, the better.

However,there are some exceptions who let you buy, but don't let you pay. Yes, I have the right example :
MFJ Enterprises, Mississippi, USA, probably the only company in the world that doesn't want the customer to let pay an order.

 I explain : since a few months I'm looking around to achieve a MFJ-998RT remote high power automatic tuner. There is only one problem : when looking at the comments on eham.net, several hams have had troubles with this box. I've had contacts with some of these guys and it seems that there is a problem with the pic and/or the resistance to static around the pic circuit. This seems a real problem with a series of boxes that were distributed by European dealers. There is also a small piece of text in the QST-magazine review indicating that there has been a workaround to solve these known problems

. So, this made me decide to order directly in the USA. Where can you buy an MFJ box : at MFJ of course... Yes, until you have to pay. On the site there are icons of Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, but if you order, the following message appears : payment only via wired transfer. 
 Ok, you pay at your home bank, for credit to Regions Bank in the USA via Bank of America, for credit to bank 3 in Mississippi, for account of MFJ with your order number. 
Simple, until you arrive at the bank to perform the payment. Swift number 1+2, aba number 1+2, what is the account number of bank 3 sir ? Uhhhh ? .... 

Mail to mfj (ok, there is possitive news : they give an answer on a question quickly): sorry sir, we do not accept international orders via credit card and the given bank data must be sufficient. Ok, there you are. Back to the bank. I didn't tell that I work in a bank, so this step is easy for me... 

Final solution : cancel the order. 
No revival of the economic crisis at MFJ, they don't want customers ! This afternoon I entered the same order at DX-engineering, the payment is done via Mastercard and the box is allready sent to the transport company. 

Happy 40th anniversary MFJ !

woensdag 12 september 2012

They have read my blog !

For all hams who are addicted to the dxcluster, who just take over the indicated info and start calling the dx station : good news !

NH8S is now indicated as Swains Island and no more as American Samoa.

So, if you have allready worked American Samoa, but you still miss Swains Island, turn on the machine and work this station !

Thank you dxsummit.fi for helping us to turn the beam into the right direction.

maandag 10 september 2012

Swains in Samoa

Back in town.
Three weeks ago I was active in the 80 miles marching event organised by the Belgian army, remembering all those who died during WW I while defending our freedom.   Just great to have 4 days of free time close with nature, history and other walkers and fight against your own limits (the last miles were similar with a WW contest after 40 hours).
This weekend we spend some more time in the same region, visiting the daily last post event with our children. Although this event repeats every day since 1928, it quite impressive to be there and see how many people are present too.

Yesterday afternoon, time to take a quick shack-visit.  Dxsummit was showing American Samoa all the time on my gsm, and I miss this DXCC.
Turned the antennas to 10 degrees and worked NH8S after a few calls... very weak signal and problems with my OMpower ampli.  I couldn't get more than 1 KW output and the drain current was going into red.  I tuned, retuned, changed band, went back, etc... nothing helped. Until I had the idea to check to power lines... damn ! A phase was not turned on.  I use a power connector with a small control lamp, but with the sun shining I hadn't seen it wasn't turned on.
Problem solved.
Second disappointment : NH8S is not American Samoa but Swains Island.  So not a new one for me.... and also in another direction.  This explained also the weak signal, I was beaming to a wrong direction.
Another disadvantage of having too much faith in the dx cluster.

I wasn't that active on the air the last weeks due to all other activities and I finally took the time to clear my big QSL backlog.  All QSL cards are now written/answered and will leave next Friday.

My RTTY project is now in standby mode : I'm waiting to see the possibilities of the new Yaesu FT3000DX in accordance to RTTY (I seems that it contains an encoder/decoder as an option, but I couldn't find more info on the net).  If this isn't ok, I go for the Icom7600 as planned.
I hope that this can be terminated before the WW RTTY contest.

Oh yes, on 15m DXCC 200 has been achieved thanks to KH6.
Next nearby achievement is on 17m where the counter shows 93...

zondag 19 augustus 2012

Contest categories

I see many ongoing discussions on the net that handle about the subcategories in contests.
In my opinion - of course I've also an opinion on this item -, keep it as simple as possible and make a difference in human behaviour in stead of splitting up technical situations.
There is a big difference between single operator and multi operator.  Especially after several hours of contesting, a replacement by another operator is a big advantage.
So keep it simple : SO, M/S, M2 (needed ?),  MM.  
Although this simplicity the IARU contest doesn't comply with this; no they find that an assisted single operator equals a multi-single station.  Uhhh ???  I've not enough brains to find the logic on it...

On the technical categories, I agree with QRP (10W), low power (why not <200W with all the new transceivers giving 200W output) and high power - no, correction,  better said : higher power.
And here the discussion starts with the question what is the limit high power : 1KW, 1.5KW, 5KW, 10KW ?  Does it make sense to categorize high power ?  I see many US stations crying that the limit is 1,5KW. 
Of course, the FCC doesn't allow higher power.  If FCC agrees with 2KW, are we going to change the opinion and go to 2KW ?   And what with countries that are limited to 500W ?

I see many of these guys thinking : the high power limit is what I can handle in my station/country.  And as many big contests are controlled by US hams, this means 1500 W.
On the other side, the same guys are promoting stacked yagis and multi-tower setups.  
Not that difficult if you have 100 acres in the middle of nowhere.  Where I live, I can place many towers and stacked yagis too, but my neighbours wouldn't appreciate it, so no possibility.

Keep it simple : 10W, 200W and an open category.
Open category : no power restrictions, no antenna restrictions, SO2R allowed, assistance allowed.  But : one operator and only one signal in the air.

Big respect for the teams that can handle 10KW in an M/M environment, foresee enough electricity, avoid antenna and coax burnings in the complete chain, and live in peace with the neighbours when it comes to EMI problems...


zondag 12 augustus 2012

Alternative for WAE

After two weeks of handling with the dark side of live (hospitals, funeral, etc.) I've found back the way to the shack.
Last week I could only make some contacts within the EU HF champ. but I can still remember R3/EA8CAC.  This station had such a 9+++++ signal that my tx was pointing at the far end of the needle.  Never seen such a signal.   Even with a dummyload, I could hear it.

Yesterday I found an alternative for those who do not like exchanging QTC's...  :  the WAE WARC contest, category SO HP mixed mode - no QTC.
I was active on 12m CW beaming JA and later in the afternoon on 17m ssb beaming NA.  I made about 200 QSOs in a contest-like style with 13 new DXCC bandslots and without one QTC-exchange.
Some stations were telling that I was the only strong signal on the band.  Not that difficult, all the other stations were in the contest, hi.

Especially 12m had a nice opening to Asia.  I tried to analyse it afterwards on reverse beacon, but only the non-warc bands are taken into account.  So a small excel sheet helps also.  JE1SGH reported a relative stable signal during the one hour activity.

This week some DX stations were very active.  I could increase the dxcc counter to 287 with PJ5 on air.  CY9M confirmed 3 bands, but 20m is missing.  Apparently they've had some troubles with the log and the PC clock.  I've to resend my 20m QSO's to get it confirmed.
D64K is not for me this time.  I worked D68C on every band except on 80/160m.  Until now D64K wasn't active on the low bands...

Although my absence in the shack during the first half of the year, my degree of activity is going up faster than expected.  I've now >3000 qso's in the log during the last weeks and this makes 2012 allready a good year comparing to the past.  
With both CQWW contests to come, 2012 will end in a top-3 position  together with 2006 and 2007.

I seems that there will be a small club expedition next year in July.  Market Reef will probably be the target...

vrijdag 27 juli 2012

Summer fun and other stuff

Today I had my first test with the new equipment and a real expedition on air : CY9M.

How stupid can you be : I was convinced that this had something to do with Chile, or even better, the CE base on Antartica.  So this morning I was beaming SA and  I heard him calling but he was weak.... of course he was almost at the null-point of my beam...  This afternoon I tried again, this time with the laptop in the shack and N1MM running.   N1MM informed me that the good location was the other way up to Canada.  I turned the antenna, tuned to full power and the first call was a good one.  Indeed Saint-Paul Isl. is near to Canada and not an antartic base....   Stupid boy !  Thank you N1MM...  DXCC 285 is in the log.

A little remark : the lids + police heard on the band coming from Europe and Russia was incredible.  The poor operator was able to work only 1 QSO/minute and this also resulted in a cluster post : poor op, only 1 qso/minute...

This afternoon I continued to play in the shack.  Antennas to JA on 18 mhz and calling CQ with N1MM.
60  Japanese stations, some DU & HL and a few European stations were put in the log.  I've learned my lesson since Monday evening...

On Monday evening, we had only one laptop in the house and the XYL - also a licensed operator but not that interested anymore - wanted to surf on the internet.  So I went to the shack to do some holiday-style QSO'ing to the States.  With my qsl cards near to me, the plan was to make some contacts directly filling in the card.  No paper log, no pc.

Oh my God ! After two contacts a US station put me in the cluster and I had a pile-up.  I had just enough time to fill in the call, give 599 and take another card.  I worked 100 stations on this 'holiday'-style, but I'll never do it again without PC.  Sorry for all mistakes in the CW... even a 73 was like 74 and a few times I've sent OT1R instead of OT1A... too busy with writing my QSL cards...

This evening I was programming in VB in order to automate the process of the QSO flow.  Now I take the QSO's from N1MM and put them into my own logging program, send it to lotw and upload it to clublog.
During the last weeks this process took too much time and wasn't error-free.  Now it seems OK.

This week was also a good week for DX :  P29, A25, EL, ZS, ZL, T6, TO2D, FP and CY9 were added to the log.



zaterdag 21 juli 2012

new DXCC and logbook of the world

One week after the IARU contest and 4 new countries (of the 13 new ones) are confirmed by LoTW : YS on 20m, GJ and CW on 15m, YA on 10m
31% confirmation within a week without sending any card, IRC or green stamp.  Nice tool !

woensdag 18 juli 2012

Doubts about contest results part II

I just remembered that there is a very nice presentation on the webseminars of the PVRC given by K1DG.

Indeed, if you really want a famous contest award, make it your own,  but put an asterisk :-)

Doubts about contest results

A few days after a big contest, it's time to analyse the things that happened.  
During my own log analysis it's clear that running gets more QSO's with less multis, and S&P get more multis with less QSO's.  Nothing new, all seems very evident.
I also know myself : in ssb I can make contacts very fast - I had ratings of 6 Q's/minute ) so making faster QSO's is possible but there are limits.  At a top speed hour I make 180-190 Q's with HIGH power.

Now the reality : claimed scores of "top-performers"
I look closely to SO HP Mixed (non assisted) because I suppose that there are assisted stations between it who will no declare it and so some of these guys were direct competitors for me.

I see single operators non assisted stations making >150 Q/hour and this hour after hour during 24h.  No problem, but in the mean time they are capable to have >300 mulipliers. 
OK, it's simple, they are SO2R playing. 
But with this high Q-rate they have even almost no free time to listen to a second radio.  With such a rate you almost never have to call CQ...
Conclusion : I can't see a possibility that a single operator - normal station, not at a special location - can do both run 150 Q/hr during 24hrs and make such an amount of multipliers non-assisted with only one transmission signal in the air. 
Even in assisted mode I've serious doubts.    Possible reasons :  Multi two ? Multi four ?

As a control : looking further than the top 5 result, everything becomes normal : special location stations make more contacts, stations with less contacts make more multis.

I'm not playing for a top position, certainly not.  Without stacks and arrays this will - in my opinion -  never be possible.  If I want a trophy for a special personal performance, I'll buy one for myself.

Nevertheless, I may hope that the contest committee will look very closely to some superhuman results.  It is nice to see some other stations perform better;  this will give power to improve your own capabilities. 
But with such differences, it becomes frustating...

dinsdag 17 juli 2012

IARU contest 2012

IARU contest 2012 : what a nice contest !

I had some clear objectives this time :
- (re)become familiar with strategy during the test.  What band, mode, running or S&P
- test the new amplifier
- test the 80m antenna in order to make a technical choice for the coming winter
- make a least 2000 QSO's, something I never did before during a 24h game

The decision was made to go assisted, which means reclassification to M/S.  Not fair, but who cares...  However, there is a survey going on contesting.com about this subject.   The cluster didn't help me
much, so next year no more assisted for me.

I started on 15m, went to 10m, came back to 15m and finally went to 20m where I stayed until 0h UTC.
After a slow start with 86 and 60 qso/hr, I ran two hours at 134 Q/hr.

At midnight I received a message from OQ5M indicating that there were more bands than only 20m :-)
During the night I was very active on 40m with many 5 pts QSO's, a bit afraid to go to 80m.  
I didn't had found the time to install a K9AY array and I feared the qrm on the vertical antenna.
Not so ! I still regret that I went too late to 80m...
Made only 100 Q's all runs in CW, with about 30% outside Europe.
Very happy with this setup at only 800W output : 25x W, 2x VE, CX, 2 LU, 2PY

This confirms my first opinion to install a vertical wire antenna tuned by the new MFJ998RT.
After consulting the reviews on eham.net it became all a bit confusing.  This month the tuner was tested
by QST magazine, and it seems to fill in my demands.
IMO the basic point is to put only 10W at the tuner to let it tune.  More power will attack the RF detector.

After the 80m success, the fatigue started to play and I made a mistake : in stead of going back to 40m, I went to 20m to work Asia.  This was the worst decision during the contest.  I lost time and became frustated.
I bit later I received a new message from Franki, OQ5M : 1600 Q's in the first 16 hrs.  I had only 1450 Q's.
Damn !  Although he had much more experience and played SO2R, this wasn't looking good because I was in mixed mode and had more possibilities to work stations two times on the same band..

I took up my courage and restarted on 40m for another 240 QSO's in CW.
Then I went to 20m for a nice run in SSB : 281 QSO's within only 2 hours.
Finally I did a quick tour on 10m, with the same result as on Saterday : poor conditions, not many stations on the band.   I'm very surprised that other stations did work much more on 10m...

The last hour the weather changed and a thunderstorm came close. New message from Franki : QRT due to nearby lightnings.
I decided to continue and made 65 QSO's in the last 30 minutes on 20m CW.  Ten minutes before the end VK6DXI called me, a nice final event.   2145 Q's was the final report.  Ouf ! 

S&P was and is not my best point.  Even with the clear purpose that multipliers were not a personal goal, I feel that I must be much more quicker to turn on the band to search for multis.  
For sure I lost time with tuning tests on the amplifier.  OMpower seems to be very sensible to incorrect
matchings, but during this test not one fault occurred.  Ig2 is sometimes too high.  I'll do more dummy load tests on this item to see where it goes wrong.
Another fear was EMI problems in the shack:  not one problem detected.
Also no negative reports from the neighbours.  Even the electronic horse fence of the neighbours gave no problems on reception.

After every contest I look always if there are new ones for my DXCC program.
The crop looks good : EK and BA on 40m; YS and CO on 20m; CX, EI, GJ, TA, YS, CO, TI on 15m and YA + 9Y on 10m.
After all, I worked 86 DXCC countries and 30 WAZ in only 24h.

So, new goals are defined : A complete low band wired TX and RX setup for the CQWWDX with a nice money save by not buying vertical alu antennas.

vrijdag 13 juli 2012

Ready for the IARU contest

Ready for the biggest summer contest - correction :  big contest but no summer in ON -with almost everyting as wanted.
Only the installation of a k9ay could not be done due to the incredible bad weather.  Non-stop rain, wet grass, strong winds and this day after day...
On 160m I don't have an antenna.  Franki, on5zo convinced me that in this contest 160m is very poor.  So, no time spending for a useless antenna.

On 80m a vertical wire is put on place with only one elevated radial to the States.  I used a fiber of about 10m and then I connected the wire to the tower.  This gives more vertical pattern comparing to an inv-L but isn't really a vertical antenna like the commercial ones.
SWR is ok (1.5) in the CW part, but the antenna needs a tuner in the SSB part of the band.  About 800W will be put on it, something the A1000 and the MFJ tuner can easily handle.  I didn't look for the impedance, which will be around 50 Ohm due to the lack of a good grounding system, but I don't care.  80m will be just used for the multipliers, not for real dx running purposes.
On 40m I've the optibeam dipole
On the higher bands the 3el steppir is now about 24m above the ground.

The only thing I really miss at this moment is good propagation.
I was listening to Asia on 15m and higher : signals were very poor.
I called cq to the USA on 17m.  Also here reports were 559 till 579.

I inspected my cq'ing on the reverse beacon system : http://www.reversebeacon.net/dxsd1/dxsd1.php?f=0&c=ot1a&t=dx
Interesting to see how much different there is between the receiving reports.  W3LPL outperforms the other US stations with almost 20dB.

Tommorow I'll be active in mixed mode assisted, so there'll be a requalification to the multi-op single transmitter category.  Who cares, I just want to have some fun and prepare the station for the CQWWDX contests.

See you on the bands !

Steppir after 7 years - general maintenance

Last week I did a complete check of the tower and the antennas on it.  Especially the steppir always takes my attention because of the risks that go with it : 12 control cables, many parts in plastic or rubber.
The bad news : one of the six rubber connectors shows a fault line.
Steppir rubber connector attacked by the sun
Steppir rubber connector after taping in
The good news : this has not been changed since two years.  I detected this for the first time two years ago and since then,  I taped all rubber blocks.  No more bad changes in the structure were found.  This wear is mainly caused by UV light.  Now with the tape on it, the sun can't attack the rubber anymore.
No problems detected on the 12 conductor control cable.  Ouf...

Second change : reform the 30m optibeam dipole to a 40m dipole.  Simple job : just change some tubing.  I also added a 1:1 balun to avoid mantle currents.  Installation on the typical on4ccp method : tape and plastic bindings.  Certainly not following the correct mechanical rules of attaching things, nor using the special stuff provided by dxengineering, but it works (since 17 years I used almost only plastic tape and bindings).

The only thing that concers me is the 90 degree connector that I had to put on the bottom of the balun in order to obtain a sufficient coax loop for the rotor.  The space under the balun became to limited to connect the coax directly. I had no other option unless reinstall both antennas higher on the tube.  With all the rain, this seemed too much work, so the extra connector was used.

Third change : replace all RG213 by Ecoflex10.   The complete coax chain exists now of Ecoflex10 and 7/8" hardline, both for power handling and low loss reasons.  Replacing the connectors took a lot time i.e. connecting a N-connector to Ecoflex (same as Aircom) is very easy and can be done without soldering and in a very short time.  But connecting a PL connector to Ecoflex was a hard long job.  I've experienced many problems to conduct the core cupper into the connector.  The 7 cupper wires must exactly fit into the connector hole.  A bit too much force and there is always one wire bending.  Restart from 0...

Finally, one of the main reasons why I'm such a supporter of the steppir antenne : turning over the tower is very easy with the fiber tubes.  On one side I can insert the 3 fibers so to tower can hit the ground without the need of a ladder.

woensdag 4 juli 2012

A new award arrived.

This evening I received a new certificate.  No, not a new ARRL award, nor the 5BWAZ... but the certificate of real estate broker. 
Nothing to do with amateur radio ?
Oh yes sure it is.  This certificate took me away from the bands during the past 3 years.   780 hours of courses and 23 exams to pass. 
Just to say it with ham-talk :  This stuff is now qrt forever, the qrx time is over and I'll be qro for the next coming years !
Cu in the IARU...

dinsdag 26 juni 2012

OT1A in the CW 2012 WPX contest

The claimed scores of the CW WPX contest are published on the net.

I just took part during a couple of hours to test my station with a new laptop and the updated version of N1MM.  Even this was enough to end somewhere in the lower end of the middle of the worldgroup.
And a first place in ON !   ... not that difficult with only 1 participant.  

With only 13 single ON operator stations in the contest, only 3 in high power, the national competion is very poor.  It seems that CW has become too difficult to most of the new licensed operators...

At this moment, only my friend Franki, OQ5M,  seems to be able to perform very well in SOAB contests.  All the others (myself inclusive during this one) prefer to stay in bed during the night or are happy with 100W.
Hopely, there'll be more competition during the IARU contest !

vrijdag 22 juni 2012

Let's have a drink on the 20m band

YJ0VK confimed our last week QSO and upgrades my 20 meter DXCC counter to 200 !

Let's have a small drink to celebrate this new milestone on the primary HF band.
Other upgrades are nearby : on 15m : 195 confirmations, on 17m : 88 cfd, on mixed mode 284 cfd.

dinsdag 19 juni 2012

A new milestone : DXCC Challenge achieved

Yesterday evening the ARRL Lotw confirmation counter finally achieved 1000 !

T6MO confirmed our AA-contest QSO and now I can order the DXCC Challenge plaque.  I've more than 1000 countries confirmed, but my 160m QSL cards aren't sent yet to the ARRL.

My everyday morse training continues.  I'm now able to work 100 QSO's within 30 minutes on Morserunner.  The speed increased to 35 WPM and the error rate is about 2%, which is still too high.
I'm still having some problems with fast D-B and S-H combinations.  With about 3 weeks to go before the IARU contest, this looks good.

zaterdag 16 juni 2012

All Asia and 12m openings

This afternoon I started with a complete clean up of the shack, and the first preparations to finish the QSLing.  This will take more time than expected, but I still want to have the QSLing ready before the end of July.

I worked some Asian stations on 15m and 20m in the All Asia contest.  Pretty good conditions ! T6 is a new one on 15m.

On 12m, big fun with wide openings to the Carribean en South-America.  I worked my first PY, LU, FG, 6Y, A6, SV on 12m this evening.  With only 36 countries confirmed, this is almost 15% of all worked 12m countries in a few hours.  So very happy with it.

So is everything so great ?  No : my OMpower ampli didn't arrive yet although it was shipped last Monday...    Hopely it will be delivered next week !

donderdag 14 juni 2012

Clublog and WAZ

After writing a piece of code in order to translate and include QSL information from my own log to Adif-format, I've uploaded my complete log to Clublog (www.clublog.com).

The tool is nice and, although most DXCC information can be found in Lotw, the zone-analysis was surprising for me.  I have not confirmed zone 2 on 20m ! 
This means nobody of the worked VE stations uses lotw nor send cards by the buro.  Very disappointing...
I also never had a contact with zone 23 on 10m and no confirmation of zone 32 on that band.  This is also a surprise.  
On 15m all zones confirmed, on 40m 33 confirmations and on 80m 25 zones.  The new stations design will quickly change those results on the low bands.

So at this moment I can order the WAZ award with at least 150 zones confirmed.  Because this will take of lot of work to search all QSLs, I just will wait until this is included in Lotw.

dinsdag 12 juni 2012

Let's begin

Within a few months I'll be licensed for 18 years as radio-amateur.   After 3 years of allmost no activity, everything is ready to prepare a comeback.
I just received my 5BDXCC plaque from the ARRL, and I need only 3 band/country slots to achieve the DXCC Challenge. So enough motivation to go on.

Next steps :
- a daily morse training with morserunner to (re-)achieve at least 30 WPM receiving skills
- installation of a new high power amplifier which will arrive within a few days
- arrival of a voice keyer for SSB-contesting
- ordering a 80m and 40m vertical to start with, as a preparation for my highly wanted 4squares.

Goal : be ready for the IARU HF contest on the higher bands in mixed mode.  On the lower bands it will be difficult to have all antennas installed...

Everything has to be ready for the CQWW-SSB contest by the end of October.

maandag 11 juni 2012

a new start for OT1A

Just to announce that a new blog will be started tomorrow...  ON4CCP/OT1A is back in town for the next coming years !