April 10, 2018
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I came across an interesting read from Jim, N2GXJ entitled “Thinking about Field day Antennas“. This talks about Field Day scoring and how to improve your score. He points out that the key to Field Day comes down to the sheer number of QSO’s you make irregardless of where they are from. Jim starts by looking at poulation density from the US Census as an indicator of where ops will be located:
This map tends to confirm my previous experience that the bulk of contacts are made up and down the east coast and in California. Last year I ended up running at 45W due to poor propagation and did notice many stations coming in from California. I made the mistake of not working more of them.
So from my QTH in South Texas I need to target the East and West coasts with daytime activity on 20m and 15m. The 2el vertical beam for 20m will definitely be a good choice for pointing to the east coast and should let me go back to QRP levels. I’ll try and test this out this coming Saturday if the weather holds (good to test the battery system while I am at it).
March 5, 2018
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The previous post discussed my operations on this year’s ARRL DX SSB contest which I really need to update on. I have recently started using SH5 log analyzer software to bring up some statistics on my operation. The actual final result works out to 95 QSO’s, 45 countries, 19,044 points and 5435 km /QSO average distance.
First up is a map of all my QSO’s across all bands worked (40m-20m-15m-10m):
Here are the QSO’s per time of day:
Here is the distance Histogram:
March 4, 2018
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Worked the ARRL DX SSB contest this weekend and managed to get 100 contacts over the course of the past 48 hours. I did not operate to aggressively but did operate with spotting assistance. I worked 46 countries on 40m, 20m, 15m and 10m. 34% were in North America, 30% in South America, 16% in Europe, 7.5% in Asia and 10.8% in Oceania. No contacts in Africa this year. None of the worked countries were counted as new ones. All in all not bad and a lot of fun considering the band conditions were pretty bad (SSN=0 SFI=67). North America was dominated by 20m, South America with 15m, Europe on 40m, Asia split evenly on 40m and 20m and Oceania also split between 20 & 15m. All in all 20m was the more difficult band to work with many really weak signals heard here at the QTH. 40m comes alive in the early evening into Europe and Japan in the early morning. 15m had less overall activity but had many strong signals from central and South America. My score works out to 22,572 with 100 QSO’s. The DX stations responded with power of 1000W about 90% of the time with the lowest power as 100W. Good test of the vertical 1/4 wave antennas!
January 22, 2018
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Saturday morning was a bit hectic for me this week as I had some errands to run early. I finished up by 17:30 UTC and started to setup for the North American QSO party. I decided to deploy the 2 element 20m vertical beam. I had taken it down due to inclement weather so this was a good test on how long it takes to setup in the field. All told it took about 30 minutes and that was doing things slowly. I have it pointed on a roughly North bearing.
I started operating the North American QSO party just after 1800 UTC and operated off and on through about 0000 UTC. I started on 20m and there was a lot of activity on this band. The 15m band was open but with much lower activity. 40m started coming alive at around 2200 UTC. Working search and pounce at a rate of about 25 Q’s per hour. All in all I ended up with 120 QSO’s to 106 unique call signs. I managed to work 40 US states, Barbados and several VE stations.Top state was California at 18.3% followed by 9.2% in Washington and 7.5% in Florida. Overall a decent effort with casual contesting.
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!