November 20, 2017
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The 2017 ARRL Sweepstakes was this weekend. I had some personal issues to deal with on Saturday and did not actually start working the contest until Saturday evening, 5 hours after the start of the contest. At this time of day 20m and up were closed down at the QTH. I started by working on 40m and spent most of my time there. The 40m 1/4 wave vertical worked great.I made contacts easily and the exchange was copied 100% about 95% of the time. I tried 80m on both the vertical and the DXtreme end fed and while both tuned up initially, there were problems when it came time to actually make contacts. The auto-tuner would start trying to re-tune every time I went to transmit. I only made one contact on 80m to North Texas. I worked Saturday until about 11:30 pm.
I ran a few more contacts on 40m early on Sunday morning before I left for church service. I picked up again in the early afternoon and started working on 20m and 15m. 20m was very busy and there was considerable QRM. 15m was open but there were significantly fewer stations. I struggled to make contacts initially but after about an hours they started to come in easily. I suspect that this was due to propagation changes. I quit around 5:30pm after making a few final contacts on 40m.
All in all, I worked the contest for only 6 hours and 33 minutes, made 124 QSO’s across 63 of the 83 available sections. I worked enough “rare” states that I completed my ARRL WAS for the phone endorsement using only LoTW confirmations.
- Very pleased with the 1/4 wave vertical, with the IC-7300 and received several complements on my audio quality.
- The Timewave ANC-4 has become easier and easier to setup and use. It is very valuable when noise conditions changes during the day. I am finding it to be effective at reducing shack noise.
- N1MM logger+ is very very handy for contest especially with the spectrum display on the PC with the IC-7300
What I need to improve:
- I don’t have a capability to work 80m and below effectively. This is a problem that I need to address as there were rich contact opportunities on 80m during the evening hours. I thought I could use the DXtreme for this purpose as I did in 2015 but I suspect there is something with that antenna that has changed. It may be time to bring it down.
- My foot gets tired using the foot switch. I switched back to the hand switch occasionally but I need a better switch for this purpose.
- Need to work on adjusting the receiver when there are many stations close in causing QRM.
I don’t really compete in contests for the prizes or fame. I work contests to test my setup over various bands and look for areas that I can improve. I think I was successful in that this year. That being said I was only 20 sections from a clean sweep mug so who knows? maybe next year?
November 15, 2017
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New QST came in with the results of this years Field Day. Here is my score. My score is #3 on the following list:
I was only one of two stations claiming a 1B1 class in the STX section and I had the higher score. Out of all STX stations reportiong across all classes I came in 54 out of 72 stations. In the 1B1 class, I came in at 60 out of 102 stations. Top score had 1371 Q’s! Overall happy with these results considering I only worked FD for about 8 hours and was running 45W on solar charged battery power. Looking forward to improving the score in 2018!
October 30, 2017
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I was on a short business trip to China last week and arrived back home late Friday night after the CQ WW SSB contest had already begun. I started working the contest after lunch on Saturday using the Icom 7300 on 100W and with the N1MM logging program. I took a little time before starting to enable the spectrum display feature on the logging software as well as the spotting capability. This was fairly straightforward and only required that I change the baud rate on the rig. How did this all work? Well all I can say is I wished I had this in earlier contests! Here is a view of my contest screen:
Spots match up with the spectrum display and a simple click on the signal of interest adjusts the rig. There are screens that display the spots that will maximize my score which is really handy. I operated search and pounce on 10m, 15m, 20m and 40m bands. Here is a summary of my score:
Action on the daytime bands was centered on 15m. There was some intermittent activity on 10m during daytime hours. 20m was very active but also seemed difficult for me to make contacts. Not sure if this was related to the antenna or propagation conditions. 40m at night was also quite active with very decent DX. Overall a good cross section of DX with 63 DX entities contacted over 35 CQ zones.
Lots of fun with this and a good test of the vertical antenna system.
August 23, 2017
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I spent some time playing with the new IC-7300 transceiver this weekend on various modes. My first comment is that having used an IC-7100 for some time I was instantly familiar with about 90% of the IC-7300 controls. Most of the buttons are labeled the same and many of the setting menus are also the same. First thing I installed was a headset adapter so I can use the Koss SB-45 headset. I needed a plug adapter (which I luckily had on hand) to plug in my Vibroplex paddles. Rig control via Ham Radio Deluxe was fairly straightforward as the USB drivers are the same as the IC-7100. I started operating on 20m during the North America QSO party on Saturday with the 1/4 wave verticals.
My first impressions are that the rig works well (and possibly better) than the IC-7100 on SSB. My signal reports were solid 59’s and occasionally 59+ all across the USA. Also made some DX with favorable reports. Receive options make it easy to adjust RF gain controls and filters to help clean up the signals. I like the overload indicator which tells me to back off on the preamp or RF gain or both. The main learning curve for me thus far is in using the scope screen. Once you play with this awhile you get used to operating more visually. You can see whats going on across the whole band and find signals to tune into or find dead spots where the frequency is open. It is also easy to switch in the audio monitor to hear what you are transmitting.
Also tested digital modes JT-65, FT-8 and PSK31 after configuring the software for the rig. The audio scope helps look at the signal quality on digital modes. I did not find any notable differences in using the 7300 vs the 7100 on digital.
So overall I am impressed by the new rig especially on SSB Phone. I’ll likely expand on this review as I get some more time on the rig but I am happy with what I have seen thus far.
The IC-7100 is now setup as my base VHF/UHF rig and I hope to play with DSTAR on it for the first time sooner rather than later. I will continue to have it connected to my PC for rig control and can switch in HF when needed.
March 27, 2017
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I installed the RA0SMS Mini-whip just in time to use it during the CQ WPX SSB contest this weekend. I use the N1MM Logger+ software during contests. This is a great piece of software with many many features useful in contesting. I am particularly fond of its “memory” and in alerting me to dupes. It connects to my rig via serial port which is ok but it has prevented me from using the panadapter at least until now. I am using a piece of software called VSPE (virtual serial port emulator) that allows multiple applications share the same serial port. In my case my rig is on COM11. The software creates a port called COM21 which can be used with multiple applications. This is useful as the HDSDR software is controlled using Ham Radio Deluxe to control my rig when using it as a panadapter.With this setup I can open HRD and HDSDR as I do during normal HF operations. This gives me the panadapter functionality. Then I can open N1MM Logger plus which links to the radio for frequency information during logging. Her is what the whole thing looks like while running:
The panadapter display is on top allowing me to see activity across the whole band and select with a click what I want to hear. The contest logger is running at the bottom. Ham radio deluxe is running but minimized as I don’t need its functionality other than rig control. The lower left shows HamCAP propagation prediction tool which is also useful in contests to see what directions I can expect to receive from.
Really happy with the way this worked out! I am a casual contester and generally use the opportunities to evaluate antennas. I made over 70 QSO’s during this contest over 30 prefixes on 40m, 20, 15m and 10m using the end fed vertical antenna.
March 6, 2017
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As I have stated before, I am a causal contester. The ARRL DX SSB contest was running this weekend and I used it as an opportunity to test the vertical 31 foot antenna as an end fed with a 9:1 balun with the IC-7100 radio and tuner. I figured this would be good to test on 20m during the day and 40m at night. I didn’t join in until Saturday afternoon and found that nearly all the action was on 15m which tuned up well on the antenna. There was also activity on 10m and 20m. All told I made around 30 contacts using “search and pounce” all of which were DX stations. Sunday morning I tried 40m and made a JA contact, my first on 40m! I was hearing Indonesia as well.
All in all good results of my antenna and rig. This shows that a multiband antenna is very useful to adjust to changing band conditions and that the increased receive sensitivity is being put to good use.
As always, I am shocked to hear so much activity on contest days on bands that one usually thinks are dead. I may start making a point to call CQ on these bands and see if anyone is listening. I may be surprised!
December 11, 2016
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Living in South Texas has some advantages especially in mid December. Great day here, sun was out and the temp around 78°F. Took out the FT-817ND and setup for solar operation with the DXtreme end fed antenna in vertical orientation. This end fed antenna needs an antenna tuner but allows me to operate on multiple bands. I used the LDG Z-11 Pro II tuner and ran at 45W today. Solar conditions were pretty bad with SFI of 72 and a sun spot number of zero. That’s right…zero…nada. I only made a few stateside connections on 20m. The ARRL 10 meter contest was going on today and I found this band was open. I logged contacts in Argentina and New Zealand without any difficulty.
Some notes on my operation today…first up it was bit breezy had gusts up to 30 mph. The travel mast worked great but I did have two instances where one of the segments broke loose and brought the wire down.I am going to think through some 3d printed clamps to keep this from happening in the future. I found I am short one PowerPole “Y” harness if I need to use the radio, amp and tuner. I switched from the two 15W panels to the fold-able 52W panel so I could free up the power connection. Duh, I just remembered I have some power distribution blocks that would solve this problem! Will try these next time. This time of year the sun angle is way different than the summer. Makes finding a suitable position for the solar panel a bit tricky. Overall no issues running the portable station at 45W. Finally, there was a lot of noise on the bands today. Suspect it was external man-made noise as the radio Noise blanker would help.
Feels good to get outside and play radio again!
November 22, 2016
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This year I haven’t participated much in Contests for various reasons realted to the life thing. I really missed Field Day this year and also missed the CQ DX SSB contest. ARRL Sweepstakes was this weekend and I was able to run for several hours on the IC-7100. Band conditions were generally poor. I managed a total of 34 contacts working for about 3 hours total on 15m, 20m, 40m and 80m. Overall not so happy with the performance of my station this year. I had trouble maintaining tuning on 80m and it just felt like I struggled more this year than last year. I’ll be investigating this a bit more deeply in the coming weeks. I suspect the antenna but I’ll have to run some tests to find out.
March 7, 2016
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There were many Ham radio activities in my area this weekend but unfortunately I could not attend most of them. This is after all a hobby and pressing family events and activities ALWAYS take precedence over Ham Radio. I missed the annual ARES Summit in Harlingen on Saturday as well as the Saturday morning coffee at the local club. The ARRL DX SSB contest started in the early evening Friday and continued on through Sunday afternoon. I was not able to tune in until Sunday afternoon at 20:12 and continued until the end at 23:59. During this time I worked over 50 DX stations on 10m, 15m and 20m mainly in Central and South America as well as all over the Caribbean. Pretty fun time and as always it is great to see the bands alive on the panadapter.
December 23, 2015
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Took the FT-817 and magnetic loop antenna outdoors Saturday afternoon and ran solar powered. I wanted to test out the Amplifier on battery power so I was running on 20W. Reception with the magnetic loop is clearly superior to the end fed wire. I had it pointed to the north east and was getting some great signals that the FT-450D was deaf to. The RAC contest was going on so I racked up about 25 contacts mainly in Canada and the US. Not overly difficult getting stations to answer the call on 20W.
Saturday afternoon was really nice here in the low 80’s and sunny skies. What I did not count on was the lower angle of the sun casting shade through the trees. This made positioning the solar panel difficult to keep the batteries topped off. With full sunlight, I put in about twice what I am consuming with the radio on receive and the amplifier on standby.