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?
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.
October 20, 2017
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It’s been awhile since I have seen real big DX pileup. That was the case yesterday afternoon with Annobon Island on 20m SSB. I was not able to make a QSO. The operator was working split and listening up 5 to 20. Most of the stations responding were stateside and while many were well behaved the number of lids and cops on the frequency made it extremely difficult for all operators. I am a strong believer in the DX code of conduct.
The IC-7300 waterfall makes it fairly easy to see where the DX station is listening. When he calls QRZ the waterfall becomes almost solid in a band between 5 to 20 kHz. It dies out when he answers and then the answering station comes out in the spot he was listening. Some monitoring of this will tell you where he is listening to maximize your chances of him hearing the call I hope to see this op again this afternoon as he is only QRV for a few more days.
October 5, 2017
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I prepared a short how-to on setting up and ICOM-7300 with WSJT-X for working digital modes. If you can get this working, other digital software can be easily configured in a similar fashion. The file can be found on the “Projects” page or from this link:
ICOM 7300 Setup with WSJT-X
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.
August 19, 2017
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I made some changes to the Shack today. First up was removing the FT-450D and the FT-2900R and their associated cabling. The FT-450D will become a portable station along with an MFJ-4230MVp Power Supply in a pelican style case. The FT-2900R will eventually make its way into my Ford F-150 for 2m mobile operation. The IC-7100 is now working as my VHF/UHF rig. I have kept the rig control and HF connection intact so I can also use it on HF. I have now installed a new Icom IC-7300 for my HF base rig. Installation was stratight forward and operation is VERY similar to the IC-7100. The main new features are of course the spectrum scope and the filtering. I have Ham Radio Deluxe, N1MM+, JTDX and WSJT-X configured and working with the new rig.
Today is the North America QSO Party so there is an active band on 20m to play with the new rig. I’ll review later as I have more operating time built up on the rig. Here is the new “minimalist shack”…so far:
Addtional changes in the works are:
- Swap my ground braided strap connections with copper strap.
- Install S9 Antenna and radial plate
- Secure the FT-450D and FT-2900R in their new homes