Wednesday, August 16, 2017

WQ6X survives 12 computer crashes to work WAE

The Worked All Europe (WAE) radiosport contest is unique in the way that it operates.
Last year I made a brief attempt to make QSOs in the CW WAE GiG - [CLICK HERE] to read
about my attempt at this contest. Unfortunately, I did not understand how to send what are called QTC messages (described later), so I probably disappointed a lot of European operators.

For the 2017 GiG, I made it a point to study the N1MM+ software documentation describing how to actually send QTC messages. Reading it through a second time it seemed to me that it is really not
as difficult as it initially seemed. After a couple of shaky QTC message transfers I eventually got the hang of it and never looked back.

As it turned out, sending QTC messages
was the least of my problems; frequent station computer crashes (all too often while sending QTC messages) was the biggest challenge of this years WAE CW contest.

Nevertheless, 19 hours of operating time put 231 QSOs and 230 QTC messages in the log resulting in the highest score from W6-land (and about 33rd place for USA) according
to 3830Scores.Com.

Running NX6T remotely, I had access
to an Elecraft K3, and an ACOM 2000a amplifier, along with a C-31 yagi for
the high bands and 2-elements on
40 meters; both 13mh.
Because no QSOs were made on 80 meters (evidently no one heard my calls), the droopy inverted V was
not an issue.

I began the contest @ 01:00 made one QSO and then noticed that the ACOM amplifier display screen was not indicating the output power properly. I stopped operating, lest we had greater problems than expected. With N6KI's assistance we decided that the amp was probably OK but dialed back the input power to 40 watts (resulting in what turned out to be just under 1KW) putting
me back on the air at 03:30z. After midnight another operator checked the hardware configuration
to resolve the display problem. After being assured everything was ok, I ran most of the contest
at the 1.3kw level.

WQ6X spotted on 20 meters
By the time things were up and running smoothly, there wasn't much left in the way of EU stations to work on 40 meters. 80 meters was virtually dead. With 26 40 meter QSOs in the log, I decided it was time to get some sleep. By 13:15z Europe was coming through on 20 meters so I ran a frequency on 14026.26. At 13:51z with 36 QSOs in the log it was time to "cash out" some QTC messages in books of 10. A few minutes later I began another set of 10 QTC messages. Midway through those messages the system CRASHED, requiring an extensive reboot procedure, involving a rebuild of the N1MM.Ini file - YUCK!

Rebooting Station #1
Over the course of the weekend
I counted a DOZEN system CRASHes; over half of them occurring during the sending of QTC messages.

This leads me to wonder if there
is a design flaw in N1MM+, or, as I suspect, the hard drive in Station #1's laptop is failing, one sector at a time.

We will soon know the truth about that.

Throughout the weekend stateside stations would call me after I called "CQ EU".
Several stations persisted so I would then send "EU ONLY" and they would move on. Wassup with that? Do they NoT understand what "CQ EU" means? (They seem to get it when I send "EU ONLY".) Or, do they NoT hear the "EU" in my calling sequence? (Never call a station if you do NoT FULLY understand who their CQ is intended for.) Or, do they just not care? (Poor operating ethics.)

WQ6X Spotted on 40 meters
Some Canadian stations were just WEIRD during WAE. Every couple of hours CG3AT would call me. I would send "EU ONLY" and he would go away. 2 hours later he would again call me and I would AGAIN send "EU ONLY". HuH?
Did you NoT get it the first time?

If so, then you are not listening. If you
DiD get it, then why would you call me a 2nd and 3rd time? Nothing has changed dewd - I'm still ONLY working Europe.

While trying to pull UR5MW thru the noise, a VE3 showed up and started calling him WHILE he was transmitting.  Radio operations 101 teaches us that if we are calling a station WHILE he is transmitting he will not be able to hear us; in fact we will be QRMing him.  I had to ask UR5MW to repeat his info 6 times.

It is POOR operating ethics to try and STEAL a QSO away from the original caller.  When I sent "QRL LID", he sent back "Get an RX".  I HAVE a receiver.

However when another station (the VE3) is transmitting on EXACTLY the same frequency as a weak noise-obliterated signal, NO receiver will be able to pull the weak UR5 station through.

Some operators need to clean up their act. Because Europe was gone on 40 meters by 07:00z
I never had to put up with the usual intentional 40 meter QRM.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, the sending of QTC messages is what sets the WAE contest apart from all others.

In WAE, a QTC message is a piece of traffic detailing one or more QSOs previously made.

For each QSO previously made I send the time-of-day, the callsign of the station I worked and the serial # I received from that station.

Non-EU stations are allowed to send up to 10 QTC messages to any EU station that is willing to receive the info. We BOTH get a QSO point for each QTC message sent/received.

Frequently while running a frequency a station will send "QTC?"; meaning, "do you have QTC traffic for me?". With N1MM+ I press Ctrl-Z and up pops a special sub-screen allowing me to send the QTC messages quickly, one at a time. Were it not for the EXCELLENT design of this facility I would not have been willing to play the QTC game. For the 2017 WAE GiG I made 231 QSOs and sent 230 QTC messages for a combined total of 461 QSO points.

The propagation for WAE was WEIRD. While the K-Index was a 2, on 40-meters the noise level was S-7+; something I would expect from a K-Index of 4.

Overall, 20 meters was relatively quiet noise-wise, altho many of the signals had the usual "polar flutter" which can make copying serial #'s a bit tricky.

On 15 meters, I made numerous CQ EU calls and was immediately spotted by the skimmers. Unfortunately I managed only 1 QSO, with OH0Z. On 10 meters my CQs were also spotted,
but only in N. America - bummer dewd.

WAE Ending Screen - Calling CQ EU on 15 meters
Despite the dozen computer crashes I found the WAE contest a LoT of fun. I now rate WAE in my top 5 radiosport events. Because of the QTC messages, I felt like a player in a poker tournament who had a bounty over his head; except my bounty renewed itself every 10 QSOs I made; right up to the end of the contest.

Did YOU play in the Worked All Europe contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?

Monday, August 7, 2017

WQ6X Teams up for the NAQP CW contest

NX6T (stations #1 & #2) being revamped
During this past week, serendipity has continuously tiptoed thru virtually everything I did. 
As Friday rolled around, serendipity was caught LooKing the other way as a solar storm embedded itself in the upper atmosphere, adding more challenge to an already challenging event: NAQP CW.

WQ6X's remote operation from SF bay area
In between client obligations and a trip with W7AYT to HRO in Oakland, I managed just under 10 hoiurs of OP-
time (the maximum for single-OP entries).

Because all the other NX6T OPs were operating elsewhere, I had access to the entire NX6T station facility;
whether I needed it or not.

With the new air conditioning in the shack, the heat-related computer crashes seem to be a thing of the past; except for a random crash @00:25z.

On Saturday morning I was actually ready 2 hours before the contest; a shocker if you know how
I operate. I managed to snag several unique DX contacts while editing the N1MM keyboard macros. Pointing the C-31 yagi in several directions I noticed the received signals were over 6db stronger
than on the Stepp-IR on tower #2 at the same height.

I began NAQP promptly at 18:00z. In years past I often scrificed the 1st hour. This year I just got
right on with it. After a brief flurry S&P contacts I settled in on 14031.31, quickly filling the log with
contacts from all over North America.

Eventually I worked everything hearable with the C-31 yagi pointed northeast. When it came time
to look in other directions, unfortunately, the rotor seemed to have failed (later confirmed by K6AM & N6KI after a shack inspection on Sunda). Fortunately, I had access to the Stepp-IR yagi (on Tower 2) relegating it to other directions than just northeast.

With the 180 & BI-directional features
of the antenna's control box I was able
to cover all other compass directions.  Because the Stepp-IR is 90 degrees ahead of the 40 meter yagi, to keep track of where to point it, I drew a
chart on the white board.

By 19:15z I was able to take advantage of a 15 meter opening, putting over 2 dozen QSOs into the log before taking time off to join W7AYT to pick out a rotator @ HRO in Oakland and lunch
at the local Sushi King in Alameda.

This took care of the required two hours of single-OP off time; I was free to operate the remainder
of the NAQP thru to it's 06:00z ending.

Restarting @ 22:00z I gave a long CQ NAQP call on 10 meters, to no avail. After putting another bunch of QSOs in the log on 15 meters it was back to 20 running another frequency (14059.59).

This put over 200 QSOs in the log, until 00:00z when running out of new stations prompted me into S&P (Search & Pounce) mode. For 25 minutes I made QSOs from the top of the CW band moving downward until a computer crash ended that action at 00:25z.

After a thorough computer reboot and verification of internet path efficacy I was back in action with only a 15 minute loss. After a few more S&P QSOs, it was down to 40 meters to repeat the 20 meter success (but in reverse). After nearly an hour of top -> bottom S&P activity I settled in on another
run frequency (7020.20). 
40 meter spots for WQ6X

While we are not allowed to use internet spotting networks to make contacts, because I was running frequencies most of the time,
internet spots were not needed.

During the Search & Pounce (S&P) periods, I simply set the VFO up to
60-khz into the band and tuned downward in frequency, working each station as I encountered them. When a station could not hear me for some reason or the pileups were too great, I stored that callsign in the bandmap for later and continued on down the band.

After 90 minutes of filling up the log on 40 meters I made a move to 80 meters (3535.35) giving new stations to work, all over again. With a fixed semi-droopy inverted Vee for 80 meters, I never expect much to happen, however the "free" QSOs and new band-multipliers are worth the CQ time.

80 meter spots for WQ6X
 By 04:00z WQ6X slid right back
into the 7020.20 slot, continuing
the momentum experienced
before the move to 80.

At 05:30z another run on 3535.35 put another 13 QSOs in the log to end the NAQP CW contest.

While I managed several hours of productive runtime, atmospheric noise on 40 (even worse on 80) made signal copy tricky.

That noise, coupled with occasional random, momentary internet drop outs would clip letters from callsigns.

Careful tuning with the outboard Autek QF-1A helped sort out the QRM from multiple calling stations.
However, because of internet clipping, stations that called CQ signing their callsign only once many times required me to sit thru several CQ cycles JUST to get their callsign.

Consider the difference between "CQ NAQP WQ%X" or "CQ NAQP W@6X" versus "CQ NAQP WQ%X WQ6X" and "CQ NAQP "%Q6X WQ6X". I ALWAYS sign WQ6X TWICE on EVERY CQ call
to reduce confusion on the receiving end.  Doing this actually reduces the actual number of CQ
calls per dozen QSOs worked.

An interesting phenomenon I have
been dealing with goes by the callsign
of N5ZO.
In recent contests, Marko loves to work me and then move 200hz off frequency
to call CQ contest. For this NAQP in the last 10 minutes of my running 3535.35
he suddenly appeared on 3535.55
calling CQ.

Sending QRL QSY a bunch of times did no good, so, running split I dialed the TX frequency up 200hz and sent QRL QSY
5 times before he shut up. In looking at the log I didn't even get the benefit of
a QSO with him on 80 meters.
WTF was THAT all about?

Overall, this was one of the better running NAQP events I have participatted in for many a year.
While the Space WX numbers were not encouraging, I managed over 500 QSOs in the log.
Because the GiG ends at 06:00z, I was not subjected to the usual intentional QRM barrage
that usually occurs after 08:00z; N5ZO was as bad as it got.

Submitting the log to the 3830 Scores website, I see that WQ6X took 9th place for W6 - California.

Did YOU work the NAQP CW contest?
Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?

Monday, July 31, 2017

WQ6X Dabbles in RSGB IOTA GiG

[This BLOG entry is dedicated to my late brother-in-law Ken Triplett who recently
left this plane of existence for yet another journey. Wherever you may be my friend, you will always be remembered. 

After your memorial event, during the IOTA contest I searched the radio bands looking for new islands to communicate with. 

Several different times during the wee hours I felt your always curious-presence as you marveled at the thousands of amateur radio stations who struggle to communicate wirelessly across the ether while your presence more-easily makes itself
known, with no struggle at all
May your journey of the spirit


NX6T undergoing a computer & power strip revamp
The last time I made an attempt - and that's all we can say about it - in the RSGB IOTA (Islands On the Air) radiosport contest was way back in 2012, running a portable setup from Alameda hoping it would qualify as an island; it didn't. Wanting to up my 2017 contest entry count, seeing the 2017
IOTA GiG on the WA7BNM contest calendar prompted me to give it another try; this time only
as an island CHASER. [CLICK HERE] to see the RSGB IOTA contest rules.

Because IOTA is an RSGB contest the starting time is 12:00z (5am PDT) for a total 24 hours.
While I was able to make the 12:00z start on Saturday and operate to the 12:00z end on Sunday, funeral attendance and family obligations kept me off the air from 15:00z to 05:55z. However once

I fired up for the evening on 40 meters, I kicked the momentum into higher gear.

Because STN-1 @ NX6T has been recently revamped, N6KI encouraged me to put the entire setup through a remote access "stress test".

Minus a little bit of internet "burbling" Saturday morning, overall the new station changes worked very well.

Space WX wise while we were not up against a K-index of 5 or an A-Index of 50, having a K-Index
of 2 was just bad enough to be an annoyance.

On 40-meters, the noise level was consistently S-6 with fast-fade QSB, requiring many repeats. Typically, when I ask for a repeat of specific piece of information (UR NR AGN?), stations send the WHOLE exchange; which is NoT what I want. Because of quick-fading, when you send the WHOLE exchange, after I beautifully hear "599", the serial-# quickly fades into the noise. The solution is to do what I do - define a SINGLE function key SPECIFICALLY for EACH piece of information. Then when asked, press the function for JUST that information.

To make things easier I ran the Elecraft K3 barefoot. Running it into the ACOM 2000a amplifier would have entailed engaging the shack's newly installed A/C system; another variable that would have required my side-attention.

When I run remote, I have enough different things to be aware of.  If this were a multi-OP operation, having other operators there would allow the A/C to be properly configured at all times, making an HP entry the way to go.

For this operation, it was not a matter of whether or not other stations could hear my signal; if I could hear them, I could eventually work them.  All operations were conducted from antennas supported by Tower #2; a 3-el Stepp-IR for the high bands, 2-elements on 40 and a droopy Inverted Vee on 80, yielding 2 Texas stations and P40X in Aruba.

The RSGB IOTA contest is unique in that we don't transmit locational zones (as in the CQ WW and IARU contests), nor do we transmit state locations or power levels (as in the ARRL DX contest). Instead, the sought after stations (islands) transmit 599, a serial # and an island designator, while
the rest of us simply transmit 599 and a serial #. The island designator consists of a continental abbreviation (NA, SA, EU, AF, AS & OC) followed by a number specifying the specific island. 

This year there were no AF stations and only one SA entry in the WQ6X Log.
Because I started late on Saturday evening, 20 was open only to OC; for Europe, 40 meters
yielded only CR2 & CR5. Because contacts with island stations are worth 15 points (non-island stations only 2 points), operating from the "Pacific Rim" certainly has it's advantages. By definition, Japan is considered an island (AS-007) as is Hokkaido-JA8 (AS-077). While JA stations were plentiful I was hoping for more; especially on 80 meters. Unfortunately, many Japanese stations did not know to send the AS-007 designator, which was initially confusing. If I hadn't entered those as AS-007 anyway, N1MM would have scored the QSO as a 2-pointer, not 15.

To make remote operation easier,
I PURPOSELY chose to run as an Assisted station. Surprisingly, all the spots I clicked on were valid; both in callsign AND frequency.

In some contests, unscrupulous operators purposefully MIS-SPOT stations; which has happened to me. Because I chose to run frequencies during much of the OP time, the CW skimmers quickly picked up on my CQ's. One advantage of the skimmers is their accuracy. While someone may accidently
(or purposefully) mis-spot me, because there are so many skimmer radios scouring the bands,
incorrect spots are often corrected within minutes.

As in previous remote operations, inserting an old-school Autek QF-1A filter between the laptop audio and the headphones made a BiG difference.

Running the Elecraft radio remotely via the RCForb software, doesn't not make it easily to switch in the different DSP filters in the K3.
Depending on the different noise characteristics, the NR-DSP yields wide-varying results;
making the QF-1A an absolute MUST for running CW contests remotely.

QRM-wise, CW contest activities on 40 meters almost always attract intentional QRM IDIOTS.
While I don't like it, I have somewhat gotten used to the daily influx of Indonesian SSB stations
around 7.022 (SSB operations in Regional 1 are not allowed below 7.050). However I DO NOT expect SSB activity on 7009.09. Unfortunately, @ 08:13z I was barraged by an Asian voice doing what seemed like some sort of religious chanting. SSB heard thru the tight filtering of the QF-1A sounds unnervingly HORRIBLE. Because the station was EXACTLY on frequency, I knew his frequency-choice was NO ACCIDENT; it was INTENTIONAL. Luckily (unlike other contests)
this SSB QRM did not follow me when I moved up to 7012.12.

Additionally, typical to most CW contests, there is always at least ONE IDIOT who makes a QSO
with me and then IMMEDIATELY moves barely 200-hz away to start calling CQ. This contest, the BONE-HEAD award goes to KZ5D @ 11:53z; just before the contest end. I temporarily shifted up 200-hz and sent "QRL QSY"; which he ignored several times.
When I sent "QSY LID" he disappeared.

While I bitch about the operation of Russian military beacons on 7.039+, like the NCDXF propagation beacons on the upper bands, they DO serve a bit of a purpose - they give me a sense of the propagation characteristics between California and various locations in Asia. For this IOTA
contest, only the "M" beacon (Magadan) was heard; altho not very loud.

A situation unique to IOTA were stations that qualified as islands (such as V73NS) who were evidently NoT in the contest. The IARU rules state that if a station does not send a serial # to
put in 0 for that entry. While I did that, the N1MM+ software would issue a warning message
when I attempted to actually log the contact. Telling the software to log the contact anyway
yielded the 15 points ONLY if the island designator were entered.

Overall I found the 2017 IOTA contest a unique challenge. My only real disappointment is that I was unable to get on 40 meters during the 02:00z - 05:00z, when European signals typically make their way to the San Diego area. Because I would like to be a sought-after island station, look for WQ6X next year with an "NA" island designator in the IOTA contest.

RSGB IOTA ending screen for WQ6X

Did YOU work the RSGB IOTA contest?

How many Island stations did YOU work?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The world of SO2V - some thoughts by a newbie operator.

 In the last 20 years or so I have taken quite a fancy to radio amateur competitions; known in Europe as radio sport. While I have won numerous section awards and even a few 1st place plaques, with the kinds of operations (mostly portable) that
I run, there has been a limit to my success.  To resolve this, in the last year I have been learning and perfecting the art of SO2-V (Single-OP 2 VFO's). 

I recently wrote a BLOG entry entitled:
[CLICK HERE] to read this article.
You may have heard about SO2-R (Single-OP 2 Radios).  Altho similar in concept SO2-R requires two radios and 2 amplifiers, along with a number of control units to allocate the antennas and other units between the two radios. In addition to being quite expensive, there is a significant increase in the number of things that can go wrong at any moment.

With SO2-V only one radio and one amplifier is needed. This reduces the cost
and the complexity
of the station setup significantly. It is also considerably easier to learn the art of SO2-V in contrast to the more complicated SO2-R method.

In 2014 I joined up with  George N6GEO to run the RTTY RU contest from Radio Reef (KP2M) on St. Croix using
the WP2/WQ6X callsign. 
For that contest we brought our own equipment to run:  a FLEX-1500 SDR radio and a Tokyo HY-Power 45b amp running the onsite Alpha 87 amplifier at a
cool 149 watts, qualifying as
a low power (LP) station. 
Before and after that contest I made use of the onsite Yaesu FT-1000mp transceiver to work CW & SSB contacts, instead of the Elecraft K3 which
(thanks to guest OP'ing @NX6T) I have become bored with operating. 
The FT-1000mp has more knobs to twiddle and is more fun to operate.

I was so taken with the Yaesu transceiver that a couple of years ago, I brought a fully-filtered FT-1000mp radio into my operating world, replacing the cherished Yaesu FT-920. Amongst all its advanced features (such as an incredible eDSP facility), the 1000mp is equipped with in-band dual receive capabilities. 

Most radios sport dual VFOs, but it is another world altogether having access to dual-receive capability.  With the 1000mp, SO2V (Single OP 2 VFOs) became
an operating possibility for WQ6X.

SO2-V in N1MM+ Logging Software
The major "rice box" manufacturers all offer radios sporting dual receive. 
With Kenwood, while the TS-950SDX is no longer made, the TS-2000 is still
being offered.  With ICOM, the retired 756 PRO III, along with the current 7600 & 7800 series provide dual receive. Yaesu weighs in with the FT-1000mp and the
MK-V, as well as the FT-2000 and FTDX-5000 radios. 

In the USA, Ten Tec offers the Orion II and of course the Elecraft K3 can be upgraded for dual-receive. Each manufacturer's approach to dual-receive
have their pluses and minuses.
Before I switched over to the FT-1000mp, I had the incredible FT-920 at the operating helm. Unfortunately, from the true dual-receive perspective, the
920's "DualWatch" is incapable of operating in a true SO2V fashion. 
The 920 DualWatch utilizes a "polling" mechanism between VFOs A & B.
As such, VFO-A & VFO-B cannot receive simultaneously.
It's either one or the other.

In contrast, the FT-1000mp utilizes two separate receive line circuits which can be
active simultaneously. 
(Of course during transmit BOTH receivers are silenced.). 

I configured WQ6X's 1000mp to split the audio between left/right ears, with independent volume control in each ear. 
Unfortunately, the eDSP operates ONLY with VFO-A's receiver.  My solution to this shortcoming was simply to route the VFO-B's receive audio to an outboard MFJ 752-C Signal shaper and/or JPS NIR-12 DSP unit (depending on my "mood"); units which have been languishing on the shelf after acquiring the FT-1000mp.
MFJ 752-C
While both of these units are well over 20 years old, sometimes it is the older technology which makes the difference.  In the early 1980's, many of the more expensive radios had Audio Peak Filters (APF) built-in. 

For the lower-end radios, the MFJ and JPS filters essentially accomplished
the same thing.


Even the inexpensive Radio Shack outboard audio DSP filter made quite a difference
in most radios.

Because the FT-1000mp has no SUB-Rx shift/width/notch filters, the MFJ/JPS filters more-or-less accomplish the same thing.

One day I would like to test an old Radio Shack DSP filter on the FT-1000mp SUB-Rx.  This year during Field Day I test-drove running the FT-1000mp's
sub receiver audio thru the classic Autek QF-1A audio filter. 
I was surprisingly disappointed.

While the QF-1A is correctly a MONO device, not being able
to bypass it mid-contest (by flicking a switch) limited its possibilities.  
However the QF-1A is still the filter of choice when I run CW contests remotely from NX6T
in Fallbrook.
In the ideal world, dual receive allows me several possibilities:
  1. In a single mode contest, I can run a frequency (VFO-A) while
    tuning the band (VFO-B) looking for multipliers.
  2. In multi-mode contests such as state QSO parties or the 10 meter contest and Field Day, one VFO can tune the CW portion of the band while the
    other tunes the SSB segments. Either mode can be a RUN frequency
    while S&P'ing using the other mode.
  3. DX stations running "split" can use VFO-B to tune for stations while using and monitoring the RUN frequency. As mentioned earlier, in 2014, I spent
    10 days as WP2/WQ6X at Radio Reef on the island of St. Croix.
    Outside of the contest period WP2/WQ6X put over 2,000 QSOs into the log. In retrospect, running the CW and SSB pileups should have been done split, using VFO-B. Unfortunately the newness of dual-receive (and the nightly enjoyment of some island grog) kept the use of dual receive out of my reach.
  4. Dual receive also allows a technique known as "diversity reception",
    a methodology described briefly in the FT-1000mp operator's manual.
    Search the internet for "diversity reception" to discover what interesting things this approach can provide.  To help you with this I ran a web-search and came up with a lot of interesting items.
    CLICK HERE] to see that search.

To accomplish SO2-V using the
FT-1000mp, I configured the radio to direct most of VOF-A's audio to the left ear and most of VFO-B's audio to the right ear. 
The Yaesu FT-1000mp is equipped with firmware menu settings allowing custom-configuration of the split audio.
The menu settings I use for the FT-1000mp allow both AF gain controls to act like gain controls. 
In contrast, with the old ICOM 756-PRO (about the same age as the 1000mp), those controls are labeled: AF Gain & BALANCE.

If you've never run split audio before, it might seem a little daunting at first. 
Before jumping into actual SO2-V contesting using dual receive, I spent a couple of weeks practicing using both VFO's together until I felt comfortable with the method.  Like SO2-R, SO2-V is largely an ART, employing radio technology.
Being one of the first transceivers to offer up dual-receive, the FT-1000mp was
well designed to locate the most used controls (for VFO-A) in the center of the radio and to the left of center. This correlates with the left ear.

The VFO-B knob is more to the right, correlating with the right ear. 
When running a frequency with VFO-A,
I LOCK that VFO on the run frequency so I don't inadvertently shift frequency when
I really mean to turn the VFO-B as I S&P elsewhere on the band.

In the contest world, properly taking advantage of dual-receive requires
CAT (Computer-Aided Transceive) software designed for this purpose. 
While WinTest and WriteLog can probably do the job, since N1MM has become N1MM+, I have found their approach to be the most effective
match to my way of operating.

To be most effective, I recommend the use of dual computer monitors. 
When I run portable @W7AYT the WIN-7 Toshiba laptop I use for contest operating has an HDMI port making this an easy configuration. 
Somehow, the Toshiba laptop even "remembers" the different monitors
I plug into it. Configuring the external monitor as the MAIN screen, leaves
the laptop to display things that do not need my immediate attention.

Then again, as you can see from the above photo, for the 2016 SSB Sweepstakes portable setup @ W7AYT I managed to fit everything (N1MM+ related) on the LARGE video monitor. Both methods have their advantages. 
To get used to the frantic nature of SO2-V using the contest pile-up trainer can help you work through the confusion before the actual contest weekend arrives.

Sometime ago, someone sent me a document with a detailed write up on running SO2V using N1MM. It is from this document that I learned the fundamentals of SO2-V contesting. From there, it was just practice, practice, practice. I searched the internet for this document and could not find it. Therefore, to make things easier, I uploaded a copy of it onto the WQ6X.Info web server. [CLICK HERE]
to read this document.

In summary, while a more complex method for running radiosport contests,
SO2-V can certainly increase your operating efficiency if you take the time to
learn the ins-and-outs of this method. I don't wish you luck with SO2-V.
Instead, I wish you SUCCESS.

Listen carefully for me during my next portable contest operation from
W7AYT - I may well be running SO2-V.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


NX6T Web Cam watching STN-1 boot up
Typical to WQ6X last-minute remote operations from NX6T, this weekend was full of surprises.

The original plan was to run as a Multi-2 operation with one operator physically  in the chair @ NX6T

Station #2 while I remoted in from the
SF bay area  running Station #1.

By Friday evening the Multi-2 idea changed into my running Single-OP remotely with the score becoming one of the 5 stations in SCCC (Southern Calif. Contest Club) team #1 submission.

To make listening easier on the ears,
as I have done for several remote operations lately, I ran the laptop
audio through a classic Autek
Research QF-1A audio filter.

Doing this was WAY MORE effective than the DSP-NR circuits in the K3.

For RTTY, the QF-1A's PEAK filter is almost too good; switching to the HP (High-pass) mode allowed JUST the right setting to make the tones properly audible. Even tho I was running a frequency, hearing the tones allowed me to gauge the quality of signal conditions for marginal stations.

After some experimentation, the radio configuration became running the K3-radio at 4-watts in order to drive an ACOM-2000a amplifier to a perfect 100 watt level (qualifying as an LP operation for BOTH contests); all this into a C-31 Yagi for 15/20, a 2-element yagi for 40-meters, along with a droopy Inverted Vee for 80.

Using RCForb as the control software gave plenty of flexibility in changing radio settings when things need to
be done out of the ordinary.

While not exact by any means, the radio displayed in the RCForb software looks not unlike the Elecraft K3.
The only thing I have yet to figure
out is how to invoke the R.I.T. from
the RCForb software.

Part of my plan was to "warm up" by operating the 1st 6 hours of the DMC RTTY contest that began at 12:00z (NAQP contests start at 18:00z and end at 06:00z the following day). After the NAQP is over I would finish the last 6 hours of the DMC RTTY contest; convenient because the DMC
GiG has a special 12 hour category.  While the initial DMC activity followed by NAQP worked
out rather well, after 06:00z I was literally exhausted and went straight to bed, leaving the rest
of DMC to wait for another year.

Surprisingly, Space WX was in good form for this contest weekend. The SFI was UP and the A & K indices were
way down. It wouldn't remain that way, but for the NAQP portion of the
weekend everything was fine.

Setting up N1MM the night before, I encountered numerous occurrences
of the FLDIGI taking out the system (sometimes requiring a remote reboot, which is a BiG hassle).

Out of frustration I eventually downloaded the latest copy of the MMTTY decoder software configuring it to run as the default RTTY program under N1MM+. That computer problem was the first of many more to occur before the weekend's operation was over.

Out of bed early (early for ME anyway), I was ready to begin at 12:00z, hoping for the usual morning opening to Asia. I was disappointed to make only ONE Qso (W8AC), so after an hour I made the move up to 20 meters.

Not knowing which direction to point the C-31 yagi, I started N-E, shifting approx. 30 degrees every 5 minutes if the QSO rate dropped.

As 20 meters opened to the e. coast I received a bunch of calls from stations sending me an NAQP exchange
(Name and QTH).

I guess they thought "CQ DMC Test" had something to do with NAQP.
That simply means that they did not
PAY ATTENTION to my CQ call.

If they ACTUALLY thought this was part of the NAQP GiG then it's clear that they never read
the NAQP rules indicating the contest start time of 18:00z.  (It pays to check the WA7BNM
contest calendar before EVERY contest so you will know what OTHER events are happening simultaneously.)

Receiving an NAQP exchange I would press F6 to send "UR NR? AGN?". Then after a lengthy confused pause they would send back "001". The 1st rule for ALL radiosport contests is to READ THE RULES for that contest. The 2nd rule is to LISTEN (in this case READ) to what the other operator is sending. If you don't understand what was sent then DON'T TRANSMIT. KP3CO
went so far as to send me a LENGTHY diatribe describing his equipment, antennas, laptop configuration and QSL info; all in ONE transmission no less.

WQ6X 15-Meter Spots on DXMaps

At 16:00z I put out a "CQ DMC Test" call on 15 meters. WQ6X was immediately spotted; bringing
the one-and-only 15-meter QSO 8 minutes later. I read many reports of good 15-meter propagation during this contest weekend, however that must've been later in the day.

Just before the 18:00z NAQP start time I made DMC QSO #68 and then switched the RTTY
macros from DMC to NAQP, just in time for the first NAQP RTTY contest CQ. As I was running remote, I found it easier to RUN frequencies than S&P (no use of spotting assistance is allowed in NAQP). Because I have yet to figure out how to invoke the radio's R.I.T. function remotely I used SPLIT mode and tuned VFO-A for stations that were way off frequency; which turned out to be
RARE for this contest event.

WQ6X 20-Meter Spots on DXMaps

From the beginning 20-meters was wide-open for NAQP. While I usually run a frequency ABOVE 14.100 (the NCDXF Beacon frequency), for this GiG 14084.84 was the gateway to working WQ6X.

By the time 20 was worked out, there were over 200 QSOs in the log.

Something I have encountered occasionally in CW contests that is even more frustrating in RTTY events is people trying to "muscle in" on my frequency. I will be calling CQ and some station "say
a W5" calls me. Immediately a VE7 station calls the W5 (QRMing the QSO WE are trying to make). Then, hearing no response from the W5 (because he was transmitting the same time as the W5)
the VE7 then starts calling CQ Test. HuH?

For all these IDIOTS I have a specially designed FUNC key that sends "VE7 - QRL QSY";
and if they STILL don't get it "VE7 - QRL QSY LID!" - that almost ALWAYS works. In a way, RTTY brings us MORE options than on CW; allowing more creativity in our communications with the rest of the world. After all, in RTTY contests, QUALITY of communications takes priority over anything else.

I also encountered NUMEROUS stations who would BLINDLY start calling CQ EXACTLY on my run frequency. Because I choose oddball run frequencies, the fact that their CQ is PERFECTLY decoded means that they SPECIFICALLY chose my run frequency, it didn't happen by accident. On CW, being in the frequency vicinity is not uncommon; with RTTY it is purposeful - wassup with THAT?

NAQP Run screen

Another difficult in RTTY contests (especially NAQP) many stations get creative in what they
report and how they report it. On station (N3CR) sent his section as "Northeast PA" Just send "PA". 
Imagine if I sent "Northern CA"; that would be very confusing. Name-wise, the wildest one I heard
was "Rumplestiltskin" - HuH? One station reporting in on the 3830 Scores website complained that "Rumplestiltskin" would not completely fit in the name field of his logging program and hoped
he won't get DINGED for not typing the entire name.

A strange thing occurred on the run frequency when NT9E began calling "CQ FD" and then disappears. 2 minutes later he calls me, I send him the exchange and he disappears only to
call me and disappear once again. Once I sent "LID" he worked me no problem. HuH?

Throughout the afternoon, 20-meters kept stations coming to me so I kept running on 14084.84. Unfortunately, not having a SUB receiver in station-1's K3 radio I couldn't automatically keep an
eye on 15 meters while running a frequency on 20, so I relied on DXMaps.Com to give me
an idea of when to finally make the switch to 15. At 23:00z I switched to 15-meters to look
around.  Within a few minutes station-1's computer froze.

Bringing up the WEB cam showed that when the computer was rebooted it stopped partway into
the Windoze startup procedure, hanging on an error message. It took several text messages and telephone calls dispatching a resident at the Nashville QTH to enter the shack and give us error message text in order to resolve the problem.

For me, the most difficult part of single-OP NAQP is deciding which 2 hour segment to sacrifice. Unlike previous NAQP GiGs, I decided to gopherit
right from the 18:00z start.

Considering that the computer failure kept me off the air for 2+ hours, that turned out to be a good choice.

I wasn't back on the air until 01:35z on 40-meters. (Unfortunately, I missed out on whatever
opening existed on 15-meters.)

As the number of calling stations increased, I found use of the specially defined "NOW" key (F10 under N1MM+) was very handy. NOW, does the equivalent of pressing F3 ("TU QRZ?), logging
the QSO, sending "NOW", popping the top callsign off the callstack and sending an NAQP
exchange.  When it works it is WONderful. During this contest the few times I needed the
feature it worked great; although sometimes stations don't wait around.

WQ6X 40-Meter Spots on DXMaps

Overall, band conditions were quite good, altho I noticed a rapid signal flutter on many 40-meter signals which would DIP the signal below the MMTY demodulation capability. This is yet ANOTHER REASON to ONLY repeat information asked for, not the ENTIRE exchange; which is why I use
pre-defined function keys to send specific PARTS of the exchange information.

Usually during 40-meter contest operations I suffer lots of intentional QRM. Because NAQP ends
at 06:00z the intentional QRMers have not yet awaken from their nappy-POO. Not operating in the vicinity of 7.040, I was spared encountering the Russian military "Letter" beacons.

Because NAQP is about contacting N. American stations (which includes
the Caribbean and Central America) I was disappointed to hear so FEW
NA stations outside of USA & Canada.

Other than an XE1 & CM8 station, the only other NA country was from my friends Gayle & Mike at ZF1A.  In virtually EVERY QSO party I bitch about poor participation from the target contest areas; NAQP is no different - BUMMER Dewd!

On 40 meters, altho I am not used to working above 7.100, 7.103.03 was an attractive clear frequency that put 109 QSOs in the log. After a brief stint on 80 meters (starting @03:55z to work N6GEO) I was soon back on 40; this time on 7.101.01 and then 7.102.02 after a final run on 80 meters.

By the time NAQP was over there were 391 QSOs in the log;
taking 3rd place within the 5-person SCCC #1 contest team.

Overall, Space WX was quite reasonable for a change. Usually poor solar conditions happen JUST BE-4
a contest event.

For the DMC/NAQP weekend the disaster didn't set in until AFTER NAQP was over, with a CME devastating the HF shortwave spectrum. As I write this (on Monday July 17) the forecast is STILL Horrible.

Blaming poor operating performance on poor Space WX is an easy excuse. In this case however, success (or lack of) was ALL operator-based.

While my goal was to make 400 QSOs during the 2017 NAQP RTTY GiG, I came very close to that number.

It could be argued that were it not for
the 2.5 hour computer failure I might have made it well beyond 400.

As I mentioned earlier, for running frequencies during this RTTY weekend
I chose to synchronize both VFOs and then run in split mode; my emulation
of a typical R.I.T. control.

Altho I didn't need to use it much, a couple of stations were WAY OFF, requiring more precise tuning.

The downside to this method is that when I switch to S&P mode I must remember to turn off the
split in order to transmit on the frequency I am listening to, lest I end up calling stations on MY
run frequency - Ooops. If STN-1's K3 radio had the SUB receiver installed I could have configured N1MM+ to run SO2-V; allowing me to S&P on VFO-B while continuing to run a frequency.
I guess I have become spoiled by the FT-1000mp with dual-receive already built in.

NAQP ENDing Screen

At 06:00z the NAQP RTTY contest came to an exhaustive end.
Looking ahead to the 12:00z ending for the DMC contest, I could not manage to visualize continuing operations for another 6 hours. Instead, STAT screen shots were made and Cabrillo log files were generated before calling it a night at 07:00.

On Sunday I made contest submissions to the 3830 Scores website for the DMC RTTY
contest and the NAQP RTTY contest. Material from those submissions became the
basis for some of the text in this BLOG entry.

Did you work the DMC and NAQP RTTY contests?

Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?