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...