This Weekend on the Radio at KB6NU

After a very fine turnout for the ARROW breakfast, this weekend was all about the CQ WW DX contest. I didn’t really operate all that much–only 2-1/2 hours total–but had a lot of fun doing so. The bands were open, and over that period, I made 50 contacts (although one turned out to be a dupe), scoring some 8,200 points.

I made most of my contacts on 15m, using the 40m dipole antenna. This antenna worked very well, better than I anticipated. I was, for the most part, picking mostly the strongest stations to call, but even so, it rarely took me more than two or three calls to make the QSO. And occasionally I would call a station with less than an S9 signal strength, and in most cases, I would still make the contact. I also worked at least five new countries, including Bolivia, Ceuta & Melilla (an island off Spain), French Guiana, Cape Verde (the D4B contest station), and Belize.

To put this all in perspective, however, consider this. Dennis, KT8X, a “real contester,” reported that he operated for about 10 hours total on and off, and made 600 QSOs in 24 zones and 102 countries for a claimed score of 214,326.

In addition to the contesting, I also managed to make a couple of non-contest CW QSOs. The coolest one was with VA2DFD in Quebec. He was just licensed three weeks ago, and I was his second CW contact! I’d have loved to have been his first, but someone beat me to it. He had a real nice fist for being such a new operator, and he was speeding along at about 14 wpm, too. There’s no way I was going that fast three weeks after I got my ticket.

D’OH!

Yesterday, while working a guy on 30m, we got to talking about antennas, and I mentioned that I had a fan dipole with legs for 30m and 40m and a 20m ground plane antenna. He said, “That sounds good. With that setup, you can work four bands, 40 through 15.”

I almost slapped myself. I’d never even thought about doing that, even though it’s a common practice. In fact, this was a very common practice for Novices, back in the days when we all started out as Novices. The reason this works is that 15m (21 MHz) is an odd harmonic of 40m (7 MHz), and the impedance of a half-wave dipole antenna is about 70 ohms for not only the fundamental frequency, but for all odd harmonics as well.

Last night, I gave this a try. Sure enough, the rig tuned up just fine on 15m. Unfortunately, the band was dead at that point.

This morning, however, was a different story. I turned the rig on at 7:30 am, and while I didn’t expect the band to be open so early, decided to give it a go anyway. Surpisingly, I could hear plenty of Europeans. I called CQ a couple of times, but only got one response, and that station disappeared shortly after making contact.

Tuning around a bit, I heard a pileup and identified the DX station at HC8L on the Galapagos Islands. He was working the Europeans one right after the other. I’m not much for pileups, but since I wasn’t having much success calling CQ, I decided to give him a shout. I tuned up 1.5 KHz from his calling frequency, cranked the RIT down so I could hear him and began calling. I got him on my third call!

So, in less than 24 hours, I went from not having 15m capability (at least in my own mind) to working DX. Just think of all the DX I missed, though, by not realizing I could get on 15m with my 40m dipole. D’oh!

NEXT: Seeing how well the 30m dipole works on 10m.

An Interesting Phenomenon

One interesting thing I’ve noted about my CW is that when I’m in contact with an operator that’s making a lot of sending mistakes, or just has a poor fist in general, I tend to be sloppier with sending than if I’m in contact with someone who’s sending very accurately. The reverse is true, too. When I’m not at my best, I notice that the other operator makes more mistakes than he or she would likely make if I was sending better.

The moral of the story? If you want the operators you contact to send good code (making it easier for you to copy), then you need to make every effort to send accurately yourself.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….

On Thursday night, I worked KC9ERZ in Santa Claus, IN. I told him he should get a Santa Claus picture and use it as his picture on QRZ.Com. Jingle bells, jingle bells….

Listening Online

I’ve had access to a shortwave radio for as long as I can remember, starting with my grandparents’ old Philco (see the very first entry in this blog). If you don’t have one, but still want to listen to shortwave radio, you now access several shortwave receivers over the Internet.

One of the options is dxtuners.com. This site offers access to quite a few receivers all over the world, including Australia, Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States. When you access one of the receivers, a very slick little Java applet loads that includes a digital frequency display, analog S-meter, a tuning knob, and other assorted controls that makes controlling the receiver just like tuning a radio.

There’s one catch: If you want access to all the receivers, you have to sign up for $40/year or $15/3 months.

A second option is N2JEU’s Web Controlled Icom IC-R75. To control this radio, you fill in a text form. While not as slick as the dxtuners.com interface, it does work well, and the audio sounds great.

You can find more online receivers at:

40m is Hopping Tonight

I thought I’d come down to the shack and see if I could scare up a QSO on 40m before watchingn Law and Order: Criminal Intent at 9 pm. After tuning around a bit, I call CQ on 7.035, and get HI8RV, Chikin, to answer my call. I’ve worked him several times on 30m, but never on 40. Then I tuned down a bit, cranked the keyer up to 24 wpm, and call CQ on 7.028. This time I get a call from HB9BCZ near Zurich and swapped 559 reports with him. I’m tempted not to watch the TV show with the band open as it is, but I just shut the rig off for the night.

Overall, it’s been a pretty good weekend for casual DX. Last night on 30m, I worked ED5JAC, a special event station and the TJ3FR DXpedition. I guess they’re over the hump, at least on 30m. There wasn’t a big pileup, and I actually heard him call CQ a couple of times.

Being a Good Scout

This year, our club’s Tech class has a bevy of Boy Scouts–13 to be precise. That being the case, Roger W8ZRF thought it would be a good idea for us to participate in the Jamboree on the Air (JOTA). According to the website,

JOTA is an annual event in which about 500,000 Scouts and Guides all over the world make contact with each other by means of amateur radio. It is a real Jamboree during which Scouting experiences are exchanged and ideas are shared, thus contributing to the world brotherhood of Scouting The JOTA is a world-wide event. Units may operate for 48 hours or any part thereof, from Saturday 00.00 h until Sunday 24.00 h local time. It is for members of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM), and also for members of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).

We scrambled a bit to arrange a time and place, but in the end, it was decided to meet at 2pm at the University of Michigan’s club shack.

Being so hastily arranged, only two scouts showed up at 2 pm–Ray and Max of Troop 8 here in Ann Arbor. We were joined by ARROW member Jeff W8SGZ and U-M club member Jon KG6URI. I was a bit disappointed that more didn’t turn out, but it probably was for the best. Any more and each would have gotten little actual mike time. We made four contacts overall, with stations in Ohio, MI, NJ, and IN. Unfortunately, W8UM is not able to operate 20m, and 15m wasn’t open, so we weren’t able to work any DX. Jon did fire up his laptop, though, and made contact with an LZ station via EchoLink.

This was a lot of fun. The kids were very enthusiastic, and I hope they persevere and get their licenses.

Need Iceland? Try Thursday Evenings.

Last night, I worked TF3IRA, the station of the Icelandic Radio Amateurs, Iceland’s ARRL. They have a very nice website that explains that they meet every Thursday evening, at which time their station is active on both VHF and HF. I worked them on 20m CW. They don’t say what kind of equipment they’re running, but I’d bet it’s a nice setup.

The Allied Catalog

When I was a kid in the 1960s, I would pore over the catalogs from Allied Radio, Lafayette Electronics, Olson Electronics, and others. These were quite comprehensive, including not only electronic components, but radios from all the major manufacturers as well as their own line of kits (Knight Kits). I bought my first shortwave receivers–a Hallicrafters–from the Allied Radio catalog, and my second from the Lafayette catalog. I would spend hours with these catalogs, considering the radios I’d like to buy and pricing out parts for projects I was considering building.

These were quite comprehensive, including not only electronic components, but radios from all the major manufacturers as well as their own line of kits (Knight Kits). I bought my first shortwave receivers–a Hallicrafters–from the Allied Radio catalog, and my second from the Lafayette catalog. I would spend hours with these catalogs, considering the radios I’d like to buy and pricing out parts for projects I was considering building.

Sadly, these kinds of catalogs are long gone. Allied, however, is still in business, although now their name is Allied Electronics, and they’re now an electronics distributor and not a retailer. I received their 2005 catalog today in the mail.

Although you won’t find Icoms or Yaesus in this catalog, it’s still a useful reference for the radio amateur. It’s over 1,600 pages long and has just about any kind of component you’ll ever need. There are all kinds of tools, too. I just flipped it open and am looking at crimpers for RF connectors.

You can get your copy free by simply going to their website.

Links

Free Webcasts

Tech Online (www.techonline.com) provides a number of free, online seminars for registered users. In their recent email to me, I noted a couple that might be of interest to ham radio operators:

  • Understanding Media and Packet Processing in VoIP Networks. This seminar will explain how media and packet processing enables media gateways and media servers in a VoIP network and will explore critical requirements for these processing functions.
  • Tips for Developing Linux Device Software. Brief update on how Wind River and Red Hat are working together to lower total device software development costs, reduce risk and improve total product quality while enabling greater product innovation. Linux device software project examples using the latest Wind River Workbench 2.0, Wind River Hardware bring up tools and Wind Manage, a unified device management suite. Practical direct comparison of other readily available Linux development tools.