Wednesday, August 30, 2017

When in Doubt: CHEAT! (but within the rules)

It might surprise you to know that I advocate cheating in radiosport.

In this context I define "cheating" as doing things that are NoT pro-hibited by the rules, yet no one has thought to consider them before.

It is from this spirit that today we have spotting networks, Skimmers, SO2V and SO2R. There was a time when many serious contesters considered these methods to be cheating; or at the very least, operators using them were considered disingenuous.

For example, long before we had voice keyers (like the MFJ Voice keyer or the WQ6X voice keyer software) many people solved the overdoing of one's voice problem by using various forms of tape recorders/players to call CQ and the like. As KX6H in Redondo
Beach, I remember using a cassette recorder to make use of a
5-second telephone answering machine OGM tape to call CQ.

Long before there were readily available contest logging software (such as CT, and now N1MM+, WINTEST & WriteLog) a handful of contesters (such as myself) wrote their own custom software. I once operated an All Asian CW contest from my 2nd floor cubicle at Data General's Western Education center in Manhattan Beach, Ca.

Thanks to the rooftop being 6 stories high I stealthily setup an 8JK flattop yagi barely a foot above the rooftop, orienting it N/W & S/E to broadside into Asia and the Atlantic ocean on the back end.

With the operating QTH less than a mile from the beach, this antenna turned the ICOM 740's 103 watts into +5 db punch giving the KX6H callsign (my call at the time) recognition into Asia. Because All Asian
is a 48 hour contest, after everyone in the office went home for the weekend, I snuck in a sleeping back to crash unobserved under
my desk throughout the weekend.

In addition to the 6-story height advantage, one of the reasons I wanted to operate from my office
is that it would provide access to the DG MV/10000 computer network we maintained for student training purposes.

Altho running AOS/Vs on the MV/10000, I made a special backwards compatible installation of DG's eXtended Basic software development IDE under which I wrote prototype code for a never-released KX6H-Logger program.

While nothing like today's professionally designed software, that program could DUPE check callsigns and complete entered QSO
data with data from a previous QSO with that callsign. The software produced a .Contest file (essentially a cross between a .Text and a
.INI file). While the file format was hardly as robust as the currently accepted CABRILLO format, being a .Text file it could be easily
printed and snail-mailed (we didn't have e-mail back then).

When the word got out that many operators were making use of computers to assist them in contesting, some people decried these users as in some way CHEATing.

Today, not only are logging programs ubiquitous, some programs are ALMOST (I stress the word almost) capable of running a contest without
an operator in the chair.

Thanks to .WAV files and keyboard macros which can be auto-invoked, today's operator can find free time in between CQ's to eat some bites of food or pop a brewski. Then, when a station calls in,
the press of another function key sends the needed information.

It's not completely automated however. Even in today's contest operations the operator must still type (or click for RTTY) the data
into the entry boxes. However the computer gives us immediate feedback when we've made a mistake.

Fortunately, as it turns out, the use of computers in radiosport occurred because a bunch of operators around the world had enough foresight to use them. Today, most serious contest operators would CRINGE
at the thought of hand logging a contest. Consider also that because most radiosport GiGs encourage improvement in operating efficiency, use of computers contributes to improved emergency preparedness.

Being innovative can easily make its
way into SSB operations. Recently several SSB contests have inspired
me to include playback of the EASY Button during the "Thank You"
message that originates when function key F3 is pressed, saying "Thank You! [That was EASY] - QRZ, WQ6X".

In contests like JIDX and All Asian, most people don't "get" it so I don't use it.

Another idea that worked out I implemented several years ago putting together a Multi-OP ARRL 10-meter contest operation from W7AYT's QTH in Concord Ca. (altho at the time Dennis was not a licensed ham). Remember that in 2011 Solar Cycle 24 was on the way up (about 60% of its eventual peak). At that time in the sunspot cycle,
10-meters opened relatively early in the morning and remained active until well after sunset, during the month of December (which is when the 10 meter contest is run).

On Saturday in this contest, some friends came over to enjoy a Dennis-created meal. Not only did I put Kathy & Brian behind the microphone, I wrote a script for each of the 4 voice keyer memories in the ICOM-7000, having Kathy speak them into the radio. For the next 18 hours after she left, Kathy's voice ran the SSB part of the 10-meter contest while the N1MM CW macros ran the code side of things.

Now, it all sounds easy; and it is - with LoTsa practice.  Remember,
YOU are still the control operator; you are the
one who must push the function keys in the
right order.

You must correctly type in the information you receive during each QSO.  If in the end, mistakes are made attributable to the use of a computer, then you neglected to test-drive one of the most
important contest tools today: the LOGGING Computer itself

Automation can be a good thing if properly configured and tested BEFOREHAND. For example, the N1MM+ software which I use much of the time makes a weekly software update available virtually every Wednesday or Thursday. The week of an upcoming contest event,
no later than Thursday, I fire-up N1MM+ on the computer I will be running it from and wait for the "Update is Available...." message.
After installing the update I read the update file to notice if the
update might in some way be relevant to what I will be doing. Information is Power.

As a contest weekend rolls around I keep an eye on space WX conditions to get an idea what propagation may be like for that contest.

Websites like DXMaps give yet another look at possible propagation anomalies I might encounter.

The trick is knowing what the data means and/or
how to interpret it.

No matter what degree of technology you employ to make your
radio operations work better, there is still no substitute for a
highly rehearsed, expertly trained operator.

When you engage in radiosport, do YOU Cheat
(but within the rules)?

Tell me about your exploits.


3 QSO parties test-drive WQ6X Remote

My last remote run of NX6T's Station #1 during the Worked All Europe (WAE) contest found me navigating through [literally] a dozen computer system crashes, often in the middle of sending a pack of 10 QTC messages.

Since that weekend, the laptop computer running station
#1 underwent a thorough anti-overheating overhaul and
now runs as cool as it did when Toshiba manufactured it 10+ years ago.

With essentially a new computer all over again and spiffier internet on both ends, operating NX6T remote from the bay area is becoming fun again.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the QTC packet sending part
of the WAE contest, when the system randomly died in
the middle of that, in addition to the re-boot time, I needed to re-boot my spirits to keep myself "in the chair".

Running a Frequency on 20 meters
Radiosport-wise, this last weekend brought us 3 state QSO parties: HQP, OHQP & KSQP. Additionally, the HF spectrum was host to the YO HF Dx contest and the SCCC RTTY GiG.
Remote audio problems prevented me from running SSB or RTTY modes.  Luckily the YO
Dx contest and the QSO parties are all predominantly CW affairs; at least for me anyway.

Radio-wise I ran an Elecraft K3 into an ACOM 2000a amplifier out to the usual bevvy of yagi's
(a C-31 and a 3-el Stepp-IR), 2 elements on 40 and a droopy inverted vee for 80/75.

As it turns out, poor timing and technical difficulties allowed only ONE QSO in the YO contest. Nevertheless, I WILL send in a log; I've won certs in HQP for 2 QSO logs, so anything can happen.

For OHQP I did not find any operating time until after 03:30z; less than 1/2 hour before the end
of that QSO party for 2017. (It's a shame the OHQP doesn't support a 2nd operating period, as does the KQP contest in Kansas). Luckily I made a quick 11 QSOs with Ohio on 40 meters and a final 2 on
80; and again, enough worth sending in a log.

For the Kansas QSO Party (KQP), I missed the first segment on Saturday, although I did
manage a couple of hours in the chair on Sunday putting 52 QSOs in the KQP log. 

For Hawaii I tuned the bands throughout the weekend; even working one station (KH6CJJ) on
10 meters - which was otherwise dead in Fallbrook. 15 meters produced 5 Hawaiian stations,
while 40 meters produced 9.

From time to time, out of desperation I would call CQ KH6; the only responses being from statesiders who don't understand what "CQ KH6" means.
I defined an N1MM function key JUST for them that says "KH6 ONLY".

As you can see WQ6X was readily spotted on 15 meters; and yet, there were VERY FEW actual Hawaiian stations. Sometimes "statistical diagrams" can be misleading.

HQP Multipliers

Multiplier-wise WQ6X worked only
6 of the 14 Hawaiian counties.

NII & MOL & LAN were expected
lo-shows. I was surprised that PRL (Pearl) was for me a no-show.

Who nose, it might have been easier if I had been able to run RTTY & SSB. Maybe next year.

When it is all over with we get the "Bonus" for all of those long hours:
pretty bar charts detailing how we
actually did.

It always looks better afterward; or not. In this case, stats within stats details everything that happened.

Even though Hawaii is just a "skip across the pond" from California,
if there is a TON of atmospheric noise, the little 100-watt home station operators all over Hawaii will not break thru the California noise level; as I'm sure was the case.
Normally, working KH6 on 80 meters from Fallbrook is a slamdonk.
This year, if they were there the
noise swallowed them up.

I guess the WORST Space-WX storms can occur with a minimum of sunspots to choose from.

As you can see, running multiple contests can be a bit tricky; which is why we utilize software like Wintest and N1MM+. While some multiple state QSO party weekends allow for the logging of many parties in the same log, this last weekend was not one of them (at least not that I am aware of).
No matter HOW its scored, eventually, one log for each contest must be submitted in order to
get credit for having operated in that contest.

NX6T - After Hours

Did you work HQP, OHQP, KQP or the YO DX Contest?

Is WQ6X in YOUR log?

Friday, August 25, 2017

More thoughts on Solar Eclipse effects and Radiosport.

During the month of August, our sun has been very busy, despite demonstrating very little sunspot activity.

The few sunspots left in Solar Cycle 24 have evidently been enough to cause some major disruptions in earth's geo-magnetic field throughout the month.

BOTH NAQP events & WAE Cw GiG suffered greatly due to K-Indices of 4, 5 & 6; along with A-Indices over 30 & 40.

I wrote a BLOG about the SEQP 

event.  [CLICK HERE] to read that entry.

I am used to solar storms during peak sunspot periods; encountering so many events during the bottom of the sunspot cycle has been an unfortunate surprise. While Monday's solar eclipse was known about for years, at least theoretically, there was no correlation between the Eclipse event
and the solar flare which occurred 4 days prior. They were unrelated events; or so it would seem.

Nevertheless, the Solar Eclipse QSO Party (SEQP) was conceived to investigate the possibility
that a solar eclipse could have an effect on HF radio communications; can you say "acute, geo-centered atmospheric cooling"?

In order to make things easier to track,
I registered the W6K 1x1 callsign for
use during the International Lighthouse event (Friday thru Sunday), the NAQP SSB contest on Saturday, and finally
the SEQP GiG on Monday.

It is well known that animals have experience a noticeable reaction to eclipse activity, however it is mainly based on the sudden appearance of what seems to them to be nightfall.

That the nightfall comes and goes so quickly may create a startle reaction that quickly dissipates into the memory jumble of the past.  Because RF & light are all part of the electromagnetic spectrum, as the amount of light to reach a specific area of the planet diminishes significantly it is theorized that
we should experience something along the line of a brief "greyline" event. 

Although I was on the radio nearly an hour before the eclipse period on the west coast, I can't say with any degree of certainty that there was any form of propagation improvement, in any particular direction.  I remember hearing KH6 Hawaii on 20, but in fact never worked any area further due-west of California except north to Alaska.

Because this was a portable setup, I made use of the existing CH-250 vertical and put up a Cobra horizontal VEE with the arrowhead pointing exactly north. The ends of the Cobra antenna were
secured on the roof of the QTH. While the antenna was barely 7mh at its apex, the performance
was reasonable and usually more QRN quiet (compared to the CH-250).

Using the WQ6X antenna switch coupled with the Yaesu FT-1000mp's
built-in A/B antenna switching, either antenna could be run alone or the two could be run parallel, accepting whatever weird radiation pattern one could expect from such a combination.

Theoretically, paralleling the two antennas should've resulted in a line impedance of approx. 26 ohms; a value easily matched with the 1000mp's built-in antenna tuner.

Horizontal VEE + CH-250
Horizontal VEE only

One of the goals for this SEQP was to call CQ using JUST the Horizontal VEE followed by CQ with BOTH the CH-250 Vertical and the Horizontal VEE paralleled together. As you can see, adding the vertical to the signal path opened up the number of directions my signal went; altho there was no indication of whether the original paths were strengthened or weakened by the use of both
antennas simultaneously.

Horizontal VEE w/CH-250 in middle

While self-spotting is not normally allowed in most
radiosport events, for SEQP, honest self-spotting
added to the signal detection made by the CW
skimmer receivers around the world.

Self-spots plus the RBN (Reverse Beacon Network)
spotting data together can later be evaluated by the
analysis software "behind" the SEQP event. 

Sorting out all this information should make for some interesting raw statistical data to evaluate.

Hopefully, a few months hence some sort of data analysis reports will be made available to us all regarding signal effects (if any) that may have been induced by the 90
minute long solar eclipse event as it made its way
across the United States.

Normally in contest events we endeavor to work
as many states, countries or zones as possible.

Because this event was more for research,
it made sense that we examine signal paths
on a much different basis. Using the VHF/UHF
grid square breakdown made more sense.

On that basis, the W6K operation worked a total of 33 grid squares around the U.S., as well as Alaska.

Did you work the SEQP event and submit
a Cabrillo log file afterwards?

Is one of W6K's 41 QSOs in YOUR Log?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

W6K Contributes to Solar Eclipse Research via SEQP

The 3rd weekend of every August
brings a dovetail of two disparate radio operating events: The International Lighthouse Event (ILLW) and the
North American QSO Party (NAQP).

Once in a lifetime another event traverses thru the confluence of two regularly associated events. For 2017, after the ILLW and NEQP events were
a distant memory, Monday morning brought us SEQP - the Solar Eclipse QSO Party.

SEQP is a once-in-a-lifetime event with the intent being to collect data regarding the solar effects
on radio communication. Calling CQ a lot allowed the Reverse Beacon Networks (RBN) to track our transmissions. Data collected from these transmissions along with log data submitted after the event can be fed into spreadsheets, allowing discernment of the nuances of atmospheric cooling as the eclipse-effect migrated across the United States.

CH-250 & Horiz. VEE (underside)

To bring IILW, NAQP, SEQP all together
I reserved the W6K callsign. Using W6K allowed my signal-data to stand out
amongst non 1x1 callsigns.

W6K was another portable operation from W7AYT's QTH in Concord Ca. In addition
to using the location's CH-250 Vertical,
I configured a Cobra dipole as a horizontal
VEE 7.5 mh.

With an old 3-position coax switch I am able
to select either of those antennas or parallel them together.

The Yaesu FT-1000mp's tuner managed
to sort things out quite nicely.

While W6K made a grand total of 41 QSOs in the SEQP (4 more than made in NAQP), just as important were the ongoing CQ calls made throughout
my 6 hours of operating in the event.

I kept an eye on DXMap displays
to know when the W6K callsign
was being spotted.

While spots occurred on 10 & 15
meters, no callers appeared.  Additionally, tuning those 2
bands, I heard no workable

Grid Squares worked by W6K

Beyond countries, states, provinces and zones.
for radio purposes, the world is split into what
are known as Grid Squares.

W7AYT's QTH is in grid square: CM78xx.

During the SEQP event, W6K managed to work
32 different gird squares in the U.S. and Alaska.

My Cabrillo log submission will allow the LCR
(Log Check Robots) to computer-analyze the log
data and build a complex database of cross-reference
QSO data, in conjunction with SPOT information
from the skimmers and RBN networks.

I found engaging in a Monday operating event
to be an interesting experience.

20 & 40 meter W6K spots

Because it was a daytime event
most of the QSOs on the west
coast occurred on the upper
bands, with a brief stint on
40 meters.

As such, I did not have to deal
with the usual evening 40-meter intentional QRM situation.

Did you work the Solar Eclipse QSO party?

How many Grid Squares are in your log?

Is W6K in one of them?

W6K  Ending  Screen
Shortly after this article was published I added a PART II to the contest BLOG.
[CLICK HERE] to read this second installment.

Monday, August 21, 2017

W6K in NAQP is a STORMY affair

W6K portable operation @W7AYT
Arriving @ W7AYT's QTH Thursday afternoon I was prepared for just about everything, except for the one thing we can never really prepare for: geo-magnetic storms caused by solar flare activity earlier in the week. Depending on when/where solar events hit the planet, atmospheric effects can vary.
For this contest weekend, in the SF bay area the upper bands were knocked out considerably.
10 & 15 meters never materialized; 20 meters never opened reliably until 22:00z. While the CW NAQP event was not the greatest, I DiD manage to put 500+ QSOs into the WQ6X log.

Because this was a multi-event weekend (IILW, NAQP & SEQP), I chose to register the W6K callsign I often
use for events like these.

Having used the W6K numerous times over the last few years, a special set of .WAV files was ready for this weekend's NAQP contest; and as needed, for the SEQP (Solar Eclipse QSO Party) event on Monday.

Due to Station #1 being off the air @NX6T in Fallbrook ("NashVille"), N6KI encouraged all the NX6T operators to run single-OP as Dennis ran NX6T's station #2 with his own callsign.

Running single-OP in NAQP allows only 10 of the 12 hours to be on the air. The strategic question
is which 2 hours of op time to forfeit. Listening at 18:00z I heard no stations east of California.
Thanks to the solar noise, I DiD hear a pair of stations in Hawaii (KH6 & NH6) but little else.
I made the decision to do station maintenance for the 1st hour and run errands during the
2nd hour on the gamble that Hawaii would materialize later in the contest; it didn't.

W6K Spotted on 20 meters
Just before 20:00z I was frustrated by the lack of NAQP signals, prompting me to convert the slanted Cobra dipole into a horizontal VEE antenna.

Whether it was a change in antenna orientation or a drop in the K-Index that made the difference, I'll never know.

As you can see, W6K was easily spotted on 20 meters. That would suggest that my signal was easily being heard.  Unfortunately, hearing back seemed to be the major difficulty in this contest GiG.

The FT-1000mp's eDSP made quite a difference in the audio noise levels; in
my mind, much better than the Elecraft
K3 (which ironically many operators upgraded to from the 1000mp units).

Early on, out of desperation I converted
a 40 meter radio-check QSO into the
first 40-meter QSO for the NAQP.

When 10 minutes of CQ calls for NAQP yielded nothing it was back to 20 meters to finally make it all happen.

Astute searching & pouncing put nearly 2 dozen QSOs into the log. Unfortunately,
it took 2 hours of OP time to make that happen before the noise levels all but obliterated 20 meters.

By 00:40z it was time to make the "official" move to 40 meters, hoping for the best. Because we are near the bottom of the sunspot cycle, 40 often opens to the east by 23:30z. Unfortunately, because
of the solar noise central U.S. signals never reliably materialized until 03:00z; the east coast never happened at all.

Periodically scouting 75 meters and putting out numerous CQ calls, nothing came thru until 05:35z when I managed to add 2 S&P QSOs to the W6K log, effectively ending the contest. (Returning to 40 meters did no good as most stations had either worked the 10 hour limit or were just noised out.)

Like this weekend's International Lighthouse Event ([CLICK HERE]
for more information), because of the horrible space weather, NAQP
was also a disappointment.

Why is it the effects of solar events ONLY happen during contest weekends? If I didn't know better I would assume it was another government-induced right-wing conspiracy.

W6K was part of the Southern California Contest Club (SCCC) team #1. Other than N6KI (whose 400+ QSOs carried the team), the rest of our scores were pretty pathetic.

At LEAST I have something to blame it on; an A-Index of 31 and a K-Index of 5.

While having a set of .WAV files pre-ordained for the contest weekend
gave my voice a distinctive PUNCH,
no amount of signal punch will result
in a reduction of S-7 to S-9 noise
levels on the receiving end.

While a disappointment overall, the hope is strong that everything will check out as being totally
ready for the Solar Eclipse QSO Party (SEQP) on Monday. [CLICK HERE] to check out my score submission to the 3830 Scores website.

Did YOU play in the NAQP SSB contest6?

Is one of W6K's 37 QSOs in YOUR Log?

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?