Monday, April 24, 2017

CQMM Sets the Stage Weirdly for WQ6X



Just when I think it can't get any weirder that the last 3 remote operations from NX6T (previously documented in the WQ6X Contest Blog), along comes Easter weekend with 7 global contests (as well as a regional contest in Russia,
but heard around the world).

A couple of the events (such as the Holy Land GiG) I
stumbled onto as the weekend progressed, encouraging
me to internet search them as they were encountered.


An e-mail from N6KI (Dennis) suggested we assemble a team of NX6T's motley crew OPs for the upcoming CQMM (Manchester Mineira) contest. I had heard of this GiG but never played around in it before. I'm usually up for a new contest experience and decided this weekend would be no exception.

This being Easter weekend found WQ6X the only one up for the challenge. With Dennis' help and encouragement (during internet outages) I entered as SOAB-HP along with what turned out to be thousands of other CQMM'ers around the globe. Considering there were 7+ contests happening
Easter weekend I had no idea what I was really in for. Surprises can be Good, RIGHT?


In the days leading up to Easter weekend I engaged in one of my favorite contesting pastimes: browsing the WA7BNM Contest Calendar to see what is happening on upcoming contest weekends.





For this Easter weekend, there were 7 contests (of various "flavors" and complexities) spread across
the HF spectrum; not to mention several regional GiGs like the Russian "Essex" contest. I find it amazing that in the CW spectrum, overall, we managed to conduct these different events with
minimal "bumping into each other".

The contests which garnered my operating time included:

  • The CQMM Dx Contest- making 434 QSOs
  • The YU-DX Contest- making 11 QSOs
  • ONQP - the Ontario QSO Party- making 10 QSOs
  • MIQP - the Michigan QSO Party- making 34 QSOs
  • NDQP - the North Dakota QSO Party- making 1 QSO
  • The Holy Land Contest - making 2 QSOs

  • There was also the WAPC (Worked All Provinces of China) happening concurrently with the CQMM. When running a frequency on 20 meters, several Chinese stations "blindly" called me but not in the CQMM contest. If I could secure an "AS" (Asian continent) exchange from them I added them to
    the log. Unfortunately, due to a provision in the CQMM rules, if they don't appear in 5 or more participant logs, then they will be deducted from my score - Bummer dewd.

    Over the years there have been debates over how to conduct multiple contests with one logging program. While I have played around with ideas in the past, for this year I chose to make it "simple" by declaring a log for each of the above-mentioned contests on Friday evening. Before searching
    the bands for Michigan, ND or Ontario stations I would switch over to that log.



    ONQP Results
    While running a frequency, if someone from one of the QSO parties called me and gave me a county, I would press
    F3 to send "TU QRZ",while quickly switching to that QP log, enter the contact and then press
    F1 ("CQ MM Test...").
    While N1MM+ is sending the code, I could switch back to the CQMM log just in time; like I had always been there.



    When I heard a number of European stations handing out QSO numbers I switched over to the YU-DX contest log setup for that purpose.  Anytime I heard stations handing out continents, I switched back to the CQMM log.
    This approach, while certainly inelegant, DiD accomplish
    the goal of working multiple contests. It's a good thing I
    was NoT running SO2-V (Single OP 2-VFO's);
    I had ENOUGH to deal with as it was.

    Friday evening, in addition to log creation, a lot of tricky fiddling was needed to ensure Station #1
    was compatibly in-synch with my remote setup in the SF bay area. Once I was confident

    that both ends of the connection were in synch my head hit the pillow @06:30z.

    Ready to go EXACTLY at 12:00z, I immediately pressed the F1-CQ key for WQ6X's 1st CQ MM call. (I hate it when N1MM+ evaluates me as starting late; by CQ'ing in the 1st minute I should

    be marked as being on time.)  The YU-DX contest also began at 12:00z.
    As the morning continued, all QSO parties were underway by 18:00z.


    The space WX forecasts suggested that geomagnetic storms were all but gone; except that at NX6T the leftover noise was often S-9.

    For this contest the K3's NR-DSP circuit only clipped the peaks off the noise (like the diode noise limiters featured in the old tube radios used to do), leaving the rest of the noise component to compete with weaker signals. Bummer dewd!


    A word of information about multi-contest weekends: even though you may not be participating in a particular event you may well receive calls "out of the blue" from stations that are participating in a contest other than the one you are calling CQ for; in my case, CQMM. I received calls from
    several Chinese stations thinking my CQ call was for their WATC contest - HuH?
    A call from one VA3 station eventually resulted in an "NA" exchange, altho the
    contact will probably be invalid if the VA3 didn't work 4 more CQMM stations.


    MEQP Results
    I had forgotten that the Holy land DX contest happens during Easter weekend until greyline propagation wafted a 4X6 and 4Z4 station into my headphones requiring a separate
    Holy land DX contest log.  Even though I only made 2 QSOs (worth 4 points), I made sure to submit the log; more as
    a show of respect, but also because
    I have won operating awards submitting 2 - 3 QSO logs.



    While the RCForb display looks similar to the Elecraft K3, I have yet to figure out how to leverage the radio's RIT
    and manual notch features; another
    reason that when possible I prefer a real radio that weighs a few pounds and is equipped with REAL knobs to twiddle.

    Compared to the Yaesu FT-1000mp,
    I found the K3's Shift/Width controls (at least via RCForb) to be counter-intuitive.


    After nearly 2 years using RCForb, I have
    yet to discover how to invoke the K3's
    manual notch facility. With the high number
    of tuner uppers during the CQMM contest, I lamented not having the FT-1000mp's manual notch (one of the best in the business) available to me.

    During the weekend, a number of stations called me WAY OFF FREQUENCY preventing me from tuning them in. I expect this in RTTY contests not CW GiGs. In the future I am going to synch the VFO's and
    then run SPLIT, tuning for calling stations
    with VFO-A while transmitting with VFO-B.

    It's a shame I didn't think of this idea until AFTER the contest weekend was over.

    A number of frustrating yet memorable things occurred during the CQMM GiG.
    For starters, while running a frequency for about 90 minutes, I worked VE3NRG (a very
    memorable callsign). Once in the log, he proceeded to call me every 20 minutes. If I just
    ignored him, he kept calling. Once I sent him "QSO B4" he would go away, only to call
    me about 20 minutes later.  Is this guy an IDIOT? Or, am I missing something?

    Shortly after working me, K5LN went down 200hz and began calling CQ - HuH?

    The real CLASSIC was when W9RAS said I was "a dupe from the SS contest" - a Dupe from
    the WHUT contest? Checking the WQ6X Sweepstakes logs for both CW & SSB from
    2015-2016 yielded NO entry for W9RAS - WEIRD.



    WQ6X spotted on 15-meters

    There were fortunate occurrences as well; such as working LU6UO followed by V31MA on Saturday (both via long path) on 15 meters around 21:10z followed
    by PY4VG & ZM2B.
     
    On Sunday, PY2EX, YV5KG, Hk3O, LU5FF, V51YJ, JE1NVD, HC2AO, PY5UB, F5PRH, JK1NSR, DS5USH, UA0LCZ, CE3DNP, HS3XVP & KH6CW


    were all worked during one particular 1/2 hour period (not to mention over a dozen interspersed stateside QSOs) - all these stations WITHOUT ever turning the C-31 yagi. wOw!  Considering

    that the specs for C-31 boast some serious front/back action, this somehow surprises me. 
    Maybe it was the coax radiating instead of the C-31 - NoT!

    According to DXMaps.Com, I was being spotted all over.  Now you know why I like to run frequencies.


    Intrusive QRM-wise a lot of different things occurred beginning with OTH radar from Asia on 14.050 (zero-beat) @ 05:00z. Moving to 40-meters, I encountered a buzzy-sounding YV4ABR. I couldn't tell
    if it was "junk" in the signal or the weird space weather distorting his signal. Recent weeks have
    found many weird signal effects caused by solar storms.

    At 10:30z while running a frequency (7018.18) some weird SSB noises set-in. At 10:55z I shifted to 7022.22 to escape the SSB crap, only to have it follow me 7 minutes later.  By 11:10z I bailed from the SSB junk to take refuge on 3518.18. Within minutes, SSB QRM showed up yet again.



    Additionally, as I pointed the antenna towards UA0 and then Asia, several Russian Letter beacon stations
    quickly faded in on 7039.82.

    Why is it that we have to share spectrum space with government-sponsored military operations? We already put up with illegal SSB stations below 7.025.

    It's one thing to "accidently" transmit on a random frequency. It's another thing to transmit daily inside the amateur bands for so long that your operational frequencies become documented
    all over the internet.

    (The above list of beacons was excerpted from a Wiki-pedia page on the Russian Beacons).



    When it was all over 434 legitimate QSOs ended up in the CQMM log
    (the reason why I got involved in this mess in the first place, remember?)

    Did YOU play in the CQMM contest or any of the the state QSO parties?

    Is WQ6X in YOUR Log.


    Monday, April 10, 2017

    JIDX - 2017 --- The Contest QRM made


    In looking over the notes I made about this weekend's contest activities, I was looking for a BLOG theme to present itself. Beyond all the different weird-nesses throughout the weekend, the presence of [intentional] QRM
    is what stood out the most.

    However I'll take QRM over remote access failures; which happened throughout this weekend's 40+ hour contest period. While remote operating the JIDX Cw contest was my main focus, there were other "little contests" happening as well, begging for
    inclusion in my operating schedule.
    More on that later.

    Beginning at 07:00z Saturday, N6KI started off our little group of motley operators @ NX6T
    on the prowl for Japanese stations; more specifically: Japanese Prefectures - all 47 of them.
    I put the remaining pair (#39 & #45) in the log during the FINAL HOUR of the JIDX contest.

    One of the things I like about JIDX is its "point and shoot" aspect; we simply point the yagis and Inverted Vee's broadside toward Japan, call "CQ JA" and then forget about them all weekend. Unfortunately, USA stations hear the CQ's and call US, instead of JA stations (probably because
    from the E. Coast they can't hear any). 2-elements on 40 meters does not provide much Front/Back when running 1.3kw and will end up being considerably LOUD; even off the backside.

    To resolve this situation I programmed an Fkey in WinTest to send "JA ONLY" and most (but not all) eventually got it and moved on. Those that DIDN'T get it had to be NULLED with my brain's
    "Ignore Filter", after which even the clueless eventually moved on.


    WinTest + RCForb & IP-Sound remote software

    Saturday morning at 10:00z Dennis (N6KI) rousted me from my slumber for my 1st remote-OP stint. While station #1 checked out completely BE-4 the 07:00z contest start, the minute I started things

    up at 10:20z everything seemed to go out of synch; I could operate the radio but the VNC Viewer
    VPN was only showing me a black screen. Several reboots did not seem to resolve the problem.

    2 hours of frustration later we got so desperate that Dennis e-mailed me the Wintest .WT4 file with the contacts made thus far. The idea was to run Wintest on MY laptop, keying the radio by way of writing CW macros in the RcForb software's control panel. On the spot  I wrote and tested a series of function key macros, confident that if necessary, I could run with this configuration.

    Then, without thinking I invoked yet another reboot of station #1's computer while I headed to the kitchen to warm my now COLD coffee. When I came back 5 minutes later, VNC Viewer not only looked as good as it did 3 hours ago, there were dozens of Japanese stations seemingly "waiting in line" from when N6KI had been running the same frequency 3 hours earlier; it's like we never left.



    Once I settled in to about 24 WPM on 7021.21, happiness reigned; for all of

    10 minutes anyway.

    What was initially a WIDE-open CLEAR Cw frequency quickly degenerated into mild chaos as illegal SSB marine stations began encroaching on my precious previously-clear run frequency.

    While this happens EVERY MORNING around 10:00z in the Extra Class segment of the Cw band, it doesn't
    mean I have to like it.


    Our 40-meter band has already been invaded with the Russian "M" and "D" beacons on 7.040
    and foreign broadcast stations from 7.200 - 7.300.
    Why must foreign governments operate shortwave broadcasts on AMATEUR frequencies?
    There is PLENTY of room BELOW 7.00 in the Pirate Radio segment and above the 41 meter SWBC band (which ends at 7.500). Wassamatta? Are the governments afraid of PIRATE radio stations?

    While running a frequency on 7021.21 an Asian sounding voice began making "YoY YoY YoY"
    noises in his microphone. This went on for over 10 minutes so I sought refuge on 80-meters, 

    where over all, NX6T handed out 45 unique QSOs doing that. Eventually, I was also forced
    off of 3517.17 by more SSB QRM; which sent me back to 40.



    When 40 meters finally faded I sought refuge in 3.5 hours of sleep. At 18:45z,
    I turned the C-31 yagi again towards Japan and began calling "CQ JA" (on 14014.14) in an attempt to "force a DEAD band to open"; which it eventually did.

    Virtually out of NOWHERE on this DEAD band some IDIOT began tuning up his amp right on top of the run frequency.
    I could literally "hear" him dipping the
    finals and loading the plate.

    WHAT?!!? The band is DEAD and out of all the available frequency space on 20 meters you chose EXACTLY 14014.14
    to tune up your amp?


    Am I MISSING something? Dingle Dorks like that should have
    their licenses REVOKED for reasons of STUPIDITY.

    At 23:00z I turned over station #1 to a LIVE operator (KB7V) hoping he and N6KI would be able to bring 15 (and maybe even 10) meters to life. Monitoring 15 meters on the DX Maps website didn't offer any encouragement; for NX6T the upper bands never materialized, at least not to Japan anyway. This time around  I was not needed during the dinner period (8pm to 10:30 local) so
    I took the opportunity to enjoy some extra sleep.




    On Sunday morning around 10:00z,
    I woke up and slipped onto a quiet frequency on 7007.07, only to be
    quickly moved in on by OTH
    radar on 7006.06, no less.

    Because of the poor space weather, many signals at this time had
    either a "hollow" sound to them
    or sounded "pingy".


    At 10:40 while calling "CQ JA", someone responded by sending "S 7" three different times. HuH? After that, when I received a call from 8J3HC50Y (/3 no less), I thought it was a joke at first.
    However when he repeated the 8J3HC50Y/3 callsign 3 times I knew it WAS legit and added
    that unique QSO to NX6T's log. How many of YOU worked 8J3HC50Y/3?


    I took a DEEP breath just in time
    for the OTH radar to again make the scene; time for another retreat to 80.

    When I came back to 40 meters @ 11:30z, I cautiously "looked both ways" (up and down the band),
    heard no OTH radar, asked "QRL?"
    and settled in on 7004.04.

    Within 5 minutes the OTH radar was back in action - right on top of me.
    By now it was CLEAR that this was not a random occurrence.
    HuH? WTF is THAT all about?





    As it turns out, despite all the failures and the QRM, NX6T seems to have taken 1st place worldwide as a multi-OP setup; the certs/plaques usually label us the "Top MOP".


    Our nemesis HG7T ran a distant second place. Because N6RO & K3EST were running single-band operations, we were spared the difficulty
    of competing against their amps and MONSTER antenna layout operating in the SF East Bay.


    Ironically, where I was running my remote operation from was less than 30 miles
    away from N6RO's Oakley location.





    In addition to the JIDX contest, this weekend also hosted the OK/OM SSB and Yuri Gagarin DX contests, which I could not find time for; especially with the antennas pointed towards Asia, not Europe. While the New Mexico NMQP started at 14:00z Saturday morning, it unfortunately ended
    at 04:00 (8pm left coast time), so I missed that as well.  They could learn from the GAQP (Georgia)
    QSO party coordinators by also adding a 14:00z - 23:59z segment on Sunday.

    Late Sunday morning shutting down WinTest, station #1 was switched over to run N1MM+,
    a superior logging program for state QSO parties. I spent 3+ hours looking for GAQP
    stations on 20 meters (like JIDX, 15 & 10 never materialized).

    At 22:40z I encountered a LOUD but barely copyable W4NT calling CQ GAQP, but @ 38WPM.
    38 WPM? HuH? WTF? Wassup with THAT?! He was working NOBODY because NOBODY
    (including me) could decipher his call @ 38 WPM. I typed "QRS" into the callsign field pressing
    F5 after every CQ call he made. After 7 fruitless exchanges of his "CQ" followed by my "QRS"
    he finally got the message and dialed things back to about 30 WPM; still too fast, but
    infinitely more acceptable. He immediately worked WQ6X and 4 other stations.
    I NEVER run a contest faster than 25 WPM and will always slow down to
    match a slower caller's speed.

    Your callsign is the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can send; SLOW DOWN and send it succinctly. We can't work you if we don't know who you are. If I type the WRONG callsign into the log
    then we will BOTH get "dinged" when the LCR (Log Check Report) bots attempt to match
    up our callsigns. WAKE UP FOLKS!!!


    GAQP Results

    One of my complaints regarding state QSO parties is that (outside of CQP) not enough operators participate in their state's QSO parties.

    While that was largely true with GAQP, 24 stations DiD make
    it into the WQ6X log on 20 meters.

    Similar to JIDX, several listens on 10/15 yielded NO signals whatsoever.  The propagation predictions were spot-on accurate in this regard.

    With no one else to work, out of desperation (a LoT of desperation this weekend), at 21:30z I tuned up on 40 meters pointing the 2-element
    yagi 90-degrees directly at Georgia, quickly encountering K4BAI
    on 7.044 at about S-7.

    He was shocked to work me early in the afternoon, asking me to repeat
    my WQ6X call several times being that he first heard me with what he thought was a WQ5 prefix.

    When he got that I was really in CA, he gave me a big "TU TU TU".

    Today I received an e-mail from John, thus:
    Hi Ron: Thanks for supporting the GQP.
    I couldn’t believe how strong you were so early in the
    evening on Sunday on 40M.
    You sounded great. 73, John, K4BAI.


    Unfortunately, it would be another HOUR before AA4CI, K4EA & W4NT would make it to the
    40 meter log. Georgia stations should take notice that they MISSED OUT on an excellent
    40 meter opportunity on Sunday (and probably Saturday too).

    After those GAQP QSOs were safely preserved in the N1MM+ Cabrillo log, an RX
    remote-audio problem developed ending WQ6X's operation in the GAQP.

    Did you play around in the JIDX and GAQP contests?

    Is NX6T or WQ6X in YOUR Log?

    Friday, April 7, 2017

    Applying Toastmaster's Speaking Tennets to Radiosport

    While I have been a member of Toastmaster's International for 2 1/2 years, I only recently realized that there is a direct correlation between the 10 projects we take on in the Competant Communicator (CC) manual and the way amateurs engaging in radiosport operate during a typical contest weekend. Serious contesters and traffic handlers are always looking for ways to improve their operating ART.

    As the current President of the Alameda Tongue Twisters in the SF bay area, I direct our sargeant-at-arms to read the Toastmaster's club mission statement opening each meeting.
    Every club participates in the goal:

    To provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every individual member has the opportunity to develop oral communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.

    Speaking and leadership are overlapping qualities and activities. It is easier to excel in Radiosport when everything we say/do is precisely crafted to maximize the quality of our actions. 
    This is a technical way of saying EVERYTHING we do has a specific purpose - if its
    not necessary, don't waste your time.



    Doing things the same way every time breeds confidence and efficiency.

    The 10 Competent Communicator projects provide
    a gradient approach to improving our communication skills.

    As it turns out, the focus of each project can be adapted to radiosport operating.

    In radiosport, because we endeavor to communicate with as many amateurs during a given time period (such as 12, 24, 30 or 48 hours), maximizing the effectiveness of our operation (and our operating skills) will iteratively increase our score, each succeeding year.




    Here are the 10 Projects.

     

     

     

     

      1. CC Project #1 is known as the Ice Breaker.
        This speech is where people get to find out a little about us; who we
        are and where we're from, as well as something unique about us.
        In radiosport, the equivalent of the ice breaker is when I setup operations on a given
        frequency and make a "CQ Contest" call; effectively declaring my station as "open
        for business" (i.e. open for communication).
        If I do this well, I will attract listeners who will then want to respond back to me.
        If I do this POORLY, at best I will be ignored, or at worst someone may decide
        to JAM my transmissions out of spite or disgust.
        Properly identifying ourselves is not only required by international
        telecommunication laws, it is also a show of confidence and respect,
        as well as being the most important piece of information communicated
        during a radiosport contest exchange, as well as during traffic handling.
      2. CC Project #2 is about organizing our speaking; what we speak
        and in what order we speak it.
        In radiosport, properly delivered, a contest exchange not only contains specific information (unique to each contest), the information is also delivered in a SPECIFIC order. This can be demonstrated by way of an example I lifted from another WQ6X contest BLOG entry on how NoT to do it:

        Now regarding Sweepstakes itself, let us remember that the event originated in the 1930's
        as a traffic handling practice event. In case you haven't noticed, what we are sending during
        a sweepstakes exchange is the equivalent of the header information sent at the beginning
        of every radiogram.

        Data in the header is in a SPECIFIC order and an EXACT format:
        Your Callsign, QSO NR, Precedence, My Callsign, Check & Section.

        For example, if W6K works WQ6X, our message to Ron would look like this:
        "WQ6X NR 523 M W6K 69 EB" - meaning that WQ6X is our 523rd contact,
        we are a Multi-OP station with the callsign of W6K, first licensed in 1969,
        operating from the East Bay section (in California).

        Please do NOT feel free to arrange the data in some other order as K0TQ did;

        his exchange of "W6K 285 B 64 K0TQ IN" is not only out of touch with the spirit of message header format, it induces operators (such as myself) to ask for a repeat - in my case 3 times - because something about it doesn't "sound" right; even though technically,
        all the information is there.
      3. CC Project #3 is known as "Get to the point".
        Except for leisurely radiosport activities like Field Day (FD), contest exchanges
        are meant to be SHORT and DIRECT; no unnecessary information transmitted.
        For example: when the contest exchange requires you to send 599 and your State
        (such as California), if I ask you to repeat your STATE, I DO NOT want to hear
        599 again; its worthless information anyway; time is wasted repeating
        information we don't care about.  Just gimme your STATE, dammit! 

        For CW and RTTY contests this is easily solved by defining a computer function key
        to send JUST the needed information. For the NAQP contest which asks us for
        our Name and QTH I define the N1MM+ software function keys as follows

        F2 - "RON CA"
        F6 - "RON"
        F7 - "CA"
        Normally I press F2 to send the full exchange. If I am asked for a repeat I press
        F2 again. If I am asked ONLY for Name or QTH then I press F6/F7 accordingly;
        several times if necessary.
      4. CC Project #4 is known as "How to Say it".
        In radiosport this is about learning to speak SLOWLY (but not TOO slow)
        and succinctly; especially when you give us your callsign.
        While we tend to primarily use the English language (even during worldwide contests),
        realize that outside the U.S., Canada, UK and "down under", people's grasp of the English language is rather limited. Correctly communicating your callsign is the most important thing you can do. If an operator on the other end mishears your call,
        it will be entered in the log as it was heard; the result being you are penalized
        with a not-in-log (NIL) error. 
        If that QSO represented a new multiplier,
        you are DOUBLE penalized.

        Operators for whom English is a second (or third) language should rehearse BEFORE
        the contest saying their callsign slowly and succinctly. Frequently I hear Italian or deep European stations repeating their call at the speed of machine gun fire.
        This requires me to often spend over a minute of time just trying to figure out
        WHO they are; as the callsign may already be in the log for that band.


        I should not have to wait around trying to decipher your gibberish like RTTY
        decoder software - I should be able get it FIRST TIME.

        In order for that to happen, you must say everything correctly.
        When you factor in the effects of QRM (interference) and QRN (Static/Noise) - as always happens in a contest - speaking precisely and correctly become even more important.
      5. CC Project #5 is "Your body speaks".
        In radiosport we prefer this in reverse - we prefer our bodies to NOT speak; unnecessary physical motions slow down the operation. The venerable Katashi Nose (KH6IJ) once pointed out that picking up your pencil/pen and putting it down to send code with the key several times, adds approx. 8 seconds to EACH QSO made. Making 500 QSOs in a weekend will result in 4,000 seconds spent on this action alone. 4,000 seconds = 66.67 MINUTES! - a WHOLE HOUR spent on just picking up your pen and putting it down. wOw!
        Katashi Nose - KH6IJ


        (His solution was to learn how to keep the pen balanced between the thumb and index
        finger, allowing the operator to send and write with the same hand; or to send with one
        hand and write with another.)

        In general, unnecessary movements are to be avoided. Because radiosport is about
        listening, sitting quietly yet deeply focused on the frequency-of-interest is how it all begins, and then ends.
        Having your body under control makes a contributive difference.

        Essentially, this is the body speaking - but in REVERSE - speaking by NoT speaking.
      6. CC Project #6 is "Vocal Variety".
        Here, we focus on the specific voice inflections that are needed to communicate
        the message. In radiosport we make extensive use of phonetics for communicating
        callsigns and abbreviations.
        Using phonetics as part of your speaking requires practice and rehearsal.
         
        Sharing the headphones with experienced operators as they work a
        contest pileup will quickly orient you on how to make this all happen.
        Then, add in your own personality and you will have perfected the art.
      7. CC Project #7 is "Research Your Topic".
        Being the most effective in radiosport is more than just
        plopping your butt in the chair and turning on the radio.
        Weeks in advance, in preparation for a contest event I spend time on the contest sponsors website evaluating the results from previous years events. This allows
        me to make an educated determination of what category I should operate under
        in this year's contest.

        For example, in 2015, coming off of a 2014 Pacific Division Multi-OP plaque win
        with N6GEO, after some careful research, I chose to run the November Sweepstakes
        Phone contest as an assisted station; something I had not yet done in Sweepstakes.
        This last-minute portable operation resulted in another Pacific Division plaque.

        1. Unfortunately, for the 2015 CW Sweepstakes (2 weeks prior) I incorrectly submitted the log as a
          high power (HP) entry; handing over the low power win to the station who should have come in 2nd place.  Classified with the other HP entries,
          I did not stand a chance.  OOOPPPsss.

          In addition to tracking contest related information, I also pay attention to the space weather forecasts; in particular the A & K Indexes, as well as the Solar Flux Index (SFI).

          Receiving advance notice on upcoming solar disturbances allows me to prepare in advance for signal problems that may result from that.


        Studying the K6TU propagation prediction reports as well as the space weather forecasts allows me
        to  layout a proposed
        band operating plan
        updating it as the
        weekend progresses.
      8. CC Project #8 is "Using Visual Aids".
        Turning in consistently high scores in a radiosport contest is partially a function of station ergonomics, as well as operator skill.  Poor station layout can be distracting
        and contribute to carpal tunnel and fatigue.

        Because most stations are now computer-controlled, having 2 - 3 monitors at EACH
        operating position is not uncommon. However, there is a right way and a not so right
        way to layout those screens.


        Only display information that is vital to the operation; and, layout that data across all the screens such that the particular information you are interested in at any given moment
        is on the screen that is currently in your field of view. Discovering the ultimate layout
        will require before-contest trial-and-error until, at some point, it just "feels" right.
      9. CC Project #9 is "Persuade with Power".
        This is often misunderstood as being FORCEFUL when in fact, its about WOOing.
        In radiosport, the objective is to establish communication with as many
        participants as possible.
        If I am parked on a run frequency looking for stations to come to me, I need to present my callsign with confidence. On SSB, the voice should be crisp and distortion free;
        on AFSK, the audio should not be over-driven; on CW, the signal should be free of "chirps" and rise-time "clicks".
        As I work each station, I should deliver the message quickly but not hurriedly.
        Then after listening to and logging the returned exchange, transition from that
        QSO on to the next by way of "QRZ?".
        Its very easy to get out of synch and make mistakes. At times like that should I feel a bit flustered, I take a DEEP breath (literally), slow down, and regain my operational synch.
        When running a frequency, if you come off as not being confident or confused, that confusion will transfer onto your listeners and their calls to you will reflect that confusion.

        If you are searching and pouncing (S&P'ing), when you identify yourself to the run station, deliver your callsign boldly and with confidence. I often break HUGE pile-ups working the station on the 1st call; not so much because of the power and/or antennas behind my signal, but because the timing and intention of my voice or timing of the CW/RTTY keying allows the WQ6X callsign to stand out amongst the piles of other stations.
      10. CC Project #10 is "Inspire your audience".
        In radio sport, this translates into being so enthusiastic behind the key, microphone
        or keyboard that not only do other contest participants want to work you, even non
        contesters  call in wanting to know how they too can play, or at least, you give YOU
        a QSO that you might not have made otherwise, and possibly no one else will have
        an opportunity to make.
        In contests (except Sweepstakes) where I can work a station once on each band,
        operators often remember me from earlier in the day or the day before.

        In order to be remembered more easily, I will often say or do something
        a particular way to imprint my callsign on their experience.
        For the 2017 WPX SSB contest, I digitized the EASY button into the Elecraft K3's voice memory #2 and would press F2 to play it back ("That was Easy") after a contact with North American stations (most Asian operators don't get it) in between QSOs.
        I heard a number of giggles trip the VOX throughout the weekend.
        [CLICK HERE] to hear the easy button.
     

    SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
    At the Alameda Tongue Twisters, whenever we speak we are being evaluated not only by speech evaluators chosen especially for us during a given meeting, we are also critiqued
    by the person who volunteers as the Ahh-Um counter.

    In the same way that unnecessary repetitive movements can waste up to an hour of time, ahh's and um's also waste time; and, they clearly demonstrate lack of confidence and organization. The way you reduce ahh's and um's is make a DEFINITE pause at that
    moment. However if the pause is TOO LONG, the station on the other end may get
    confused and/or think you are now unexplainably waiting for their information when
    in fact, you are not finished sending yours.
    There are more things to say about all of this, but that will have to wait for another time. 
    Like Toastmaster's, radiosport is not only about communicating but doing so as precisely
    and effectively as possible.

    When did you last play radiosport?

    Is WQ6X in any of YOUR contest logs?
     

    Monday, April 3, 2017

    WQ6X runs 4 contest GiGs on April 1st


    In between last minute software design changes and working with clients I managed to find pockets of contest operating time allowing me to chase QSO party stations in Missouri (MOQP) and Mississippi (MSQP).

    For non-stateside fun I searched for Polish stations in the SP-DX contest and anyone else around the world who wanted to play in the Spanish EA RTTY contest.

    During the last week the internet microwave relay has been upgraded for station 2. While station 1 improvements are coming, an important aspect about this weekend was to give Station 1 a workout to see what things are left to resolve. While there were a few brief internet dropouts, no modem-resets were necessary the entire weekend, altho Station 1 did shut itself down while I was generating a Cabrillo file for the EA RTTY GiG after all the contests were over.


    Equipment-wise I ran the usual Station #1 configuration consisting of an Elecraft K3 running
    into an ACOM 2000a amp dialed back to the tune
    of about 800 watts for CW & SSB and 550 watts
    for RTTY (keeping the amp heat and the shack
    down to 40-deg c).

    The "antenna farm" was the usual 13mh C-31XR tri-bander for the high bands, and 2-elements on 40.

    The QSO parties BOTH began at 14:00z, followed

    by the SP-Dx contest at 15:00z and the EA RTTY contest at 16:00z. By 04:00z the MSQP was over. Because I yielded station 1 to another OP to play around in the SSB sprint contest, by the time the Sprint was over, so was MSQP. The people who orgamize these QSO parties need to offer us more hours to work their gig like we do here in California with CQP's 30 hour time frame.

    I woke up Sunday morning to an open 20-meters loaded with SP station spots; all for Europe, nothing for the U.S. An hour+ on 20 meters allowed me to finish off the EA RTTY gig and then go back to bed for nearly 3 hours, getting up just in time for the tail end of MOQP.

    This weekend CW & RTTY activity seemed to co-exist quite nicely , with plenty of room for ragchewers to call CQ and find each other in between our RTTY signals. People who complain that contests take up hoards of space are simply a bunch of cry baby appliance operators who have not learned to max-utilize our most important resource in Amateur Radio: Spectrum.

    The ragchewers heard on 20 & 40 meter CW seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as we

    were - maybe even more because they were enjoying a leisurely chat while we were feverishly attempting to work each other.


    Recent space weather forcasts have been Positivly WILD: SFI-106, A-Index DOWN to 16 and K-Index DOWN to 2.

    For the 1st time in MONTHS we see Fair--> Good forecasts for 20 & 30 meters. 


    Similar to last weekend 20-meters has been staying open much later in the
    day here in California.


    Also like last weekend there were "pinging" effects riddling many signals; in particular, those coming from more "northern" locations. Around 19:30z I heard a statesider say that we had just been "hit"
    by a solar flare. That might explain why the bands sounded extremely quiet at that time.

    People may not agree with me when I say not only have we ALREADY reached the BOITTOM

    of Sunspot Cycle 24, we are actually headed UPWARD again. The scientists may be basing
    their forecasts on the appearance of new versus old sunspots. My opinion is based on 45+
    years of DX and contest operating.  I know what it FEELs like to be going UP or DOWN. 
    By 2020 we will know the TRUTH behind the actual bottom of the sunspot cycle. 
    NEWs at 10:00.



    For this weekend, 10 and 15 meters never materialized altho I made numerous lengthy CQ EA Test calls on both bands. WQ6X was even spotted

    in ZL-land on 15 meters but had no actual QSO
    takers - Bummer Dewd.

    40 meters was rather robust Saturday evening with signals from all over. While no European signals

    were heard on 40 meters in the EA RTTY contest,
    I did manage several runs of JA's and a brief run
    of EU stations on 20-meters at 15:30z.

    In all honesty I was expecting more EA stations to be participating in their OWN contest - wassup with that?






    Because my main focus was RTTY this last weekend, persistence eventually prevailed, taking the QSO count

    to a barely respectable 124 QSOs.

    For the other GiGs, a handful of QSOS were managed in both QSO Parties and a bit more in the SP-DX contest; which unlike the EA contest allowed me to only work Polish stations. 

    While I saw DOZENS of SP station spots, only a fraction
    of those stations were actually heard in Fallbrook.

    For the MO QSO party I managed to work one triple-county-line based staion qualifying for three QSOs and a mixed-mode entry. Technically, I could take 2nd place for USA and
    1st
    place for California (W6) in MOQP. 

    The 3830Scores website doesn't list ALL log entries;
    only the ones that chose to make their score public.


    While I was largely just screwing around on the
    radio this weekend, the upside is I got to test-drive
    a number of procedures and N1MM configurations which will become useful in upcoming RTTY
    contest GiGs.

    I still haven't figured out how to invoke the K3's
    RIT feature remotely.  In response to off-frequency stations, I press F-11 to transmit "you're off FREQ - please tune me in" and then press F3 ("TU QRZ?") or use F1 to call another CQ. Most stations get it and tune me in; then again there are a handful who don't or won't get it and just disappear - their loss.


    Working the EA RTTY Contest

    To make things more fun I changed the F3 TU message so say
    "TU Happy Fools Day de WQ6X QRZ?".

    Did you have a fun April Fools day in this weekend's radiosport events?

    Is WQ6X in YOUR Log?