|The hills are alive with the sound of music....well you get the idea.|
This past weekend, as most of you may have known or seen, the bands were alive with a CW contest, all except the WARC bands. The annual running of the CQWW CW contest was in full swing for the entire weekend. I try to take part in most of the large CW contests, and this one was not exempt. In this contest, for the first time EVER, I did not operate search and pounce. (search and pounce meaning searching out stations in the contest who are calling CQ and trying to contact them) I was for the first time ever a running station. (run, meaning you sit on a frequency and call "CQ contest" and wait for stations to contact you) I CAN'T BELIEVE I DID IT.....
For those of you who are not into CW contesting when you are running (for me anyway) it's a big deal, and you have to be on your CW game. You send out your call sign (for me at 26-28wpm) and wait for the grease to hit the fan and at times it did! Below is how it feels to be a first-time CW running contester.
Before I begin with the adventure, just a little background. They say that preparation is the key, and that I worked on. Over time, getting my code speed up to copy around 30wpm. Every day I practiced with programs such as Morse Runner and RufzXP. These are both free programs and excellent tools. I also downloaded the CWops intermediate CW course and worked through that each day. I worked on my keyboard skills, so I am now able to copy calls without looking at the keyboard. This allowed me to concentrate on the contest program.
Well here we go......first thing that occurred to me was a contest simulator and the real deal is very different! I was not sending code to a computer program but a real person, it's a hobby and all, but I was very nervous about the whole thing. Out the code went, "TEST VE9KK VE9KK" I did this about 3 times and then a station came back to me........it didn't turn out as planned.
I heard the code but my N1MM+ contest software was just met with my blank stare. I heard the call again, and this time it was a full out fumbling act between reading the call and keyboard stumbling. Eventually the op just moved on to another running station. Well, that was a bell ringer for sure! I took a deep breath and tried again, and this time it was worse. The next station came back to me in around 35 wpm, and I was clueless. This time I did not even attempt to answer them, they gave their call a few times and moved on.
I decided it was time to go back to search and pounce and that contest running at this stage in the game was not for me. I took a little break from the contest with a walk, and once I got back to the operating desk, I began to search and pounce. After making a few contacts it occurred to me that this was the first time I tried running in a contest and for sure there are going to be hiccups. Heck after all I just did not grab my first bike and started riding it, I had training wheels..........wait a minute training wheels!
I took a deep breath and set my N1MM+ contest program back to running but this time I opened up a program called MRP40 an excellent code reading program. Now just wait a minute, I am not giving up and relying on a code reader......it's my training wheels and will be used when needed. Well off I went again......"TEST VE9KK VE9KK"
The contest is now in the history books and I did keep running throughout the contest except when I did some search and pounce for needed multiplies for a better score. Midway through the contest, I started to loosen up and began to get the hang of things. Sure, I had op's get frustrated when I messed up their call and when I asked for repeats, some just moved on.
-The obvious one being, running for basically the entire contest.
- Being spotted in the cluster and BOOM I'm not trying to work a pileup, I am the pile up. They were not huge pileups and did not last for long but exciting nonetheless.
- Having the time fly compared to search and pounce where the time went slowly.
- My highest number of contacts ever in a contest of 412 and my best score as well of 113,775.
- Depending less and less on MRP40's decodes.
Some funny moments:
- With N1MM+ you are able to program macros to send preprogrammed messages. It's when my fingers press the wrong key and send thanks for the contact before the was made!
- Finding out the hard way that the code reader is not always correct. I copied a call in my head and then glanced at the code reader, I may have messed up on a letter. So I change it and low and behold my head was correct and MRP40 was wrong.
- This has happened more than a few time......forgetting to change N1MM+ from search and pounce to run and send out the incorrect message.
- Finding myself answering one call after another and sounding to others that I have really pulled this off to only then totally screw up the next few callers.....the way the contest can humble me.
Finally, I want to apologize to those of you with whom I messed up your call or made your contact with me a bit painful. Then those who just gave up and moved on I hope next time things will be better.
Mike Weir, VE9KK, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Brunswick, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].
This is a report on my single-operator contest effort during the ARRL November Sweepstakes (Phone) HF Contest. Some other potential titles for this article are:
A Slacker's Guide to Working the Sweepstakes How To Almost Work 50 States On a Weekend A Simple Way to Get On the HF Bands
Contests on the HF bands can be a fun way to make a lot of contacts and get some new states or countries. The ARRL Sweepstakes promotes contacts between US and Canadian stations, so it is an opportunity to work those states and provinces.
The Club Challenge
I don’t usually work the Sweepstakes contest but Bill/K0UK put out a challenge to the Grand Mesa Contesters club to get on the air and contribute whatever points you can to the aggregate club score. I thought this was a good idea and decided to join in the effort. I already had committed to teaching a General License class on Saturday, so that limited my operating window to mostly Sunday. No problem, I could still make a significant number of contacts on Sunday.
I read the rules for the contest to make sure I knew the operating times, entry categories, what stations I could work for points, and the contest exchange. Sweepstakes has a complicated contest exchange, that includes a serial number (every contact gets a unique sequential number), precedence (operating class), your callsign, the last two digits of the year you were first licensed, and your ARRL section. Wow. For me, the section is just Colorado (abbreviated CO), but some states have multiple sections. It is a great idea to have the list of ARRL and RAC (Radio Amateurs of Canada) sections available. So the information I gave to the other station was something like this: 105 A K0NR 77 CO. In the example, 105 is the serial number that incremented with each radio contact.
It turned out that my HF antenna at the house fell down some time ago because the rope holding the wire had rotted away. So my first task was to do a quick but effective antenna installation. We have a 30-foot Ponderosa pine in the backyard, which is my preferred antenna support. I have a number of wire antennas stashed away in my basement, including dipoles, end-fed halfwaves, G5RV’s, etc.
For this contest, I decided to use an end-fed antenna from MyAntennas.com, about 44 feet long. This antenna has a 9:1 matching transformer (an “unun”) that matches the high-impedance of the wire to something closer to 50 ohms. An antenna tuner is required to do the final matchup over multiple HF bands. This antenna is long enough to be effective on 40 meters and any higher band, which matches my usual operating habits. I had a Yaesu FT-950 transceiver available which has an internal tuner that was able to match the antenna on 40m, 20m, 15m, and 10m. This is not an end-fed halfwave…it is a “random” length of wire that is not resonant on any ham band but will radiate pretty well using the matching transformer. The advantage of this antenna is its simplicity and ability to handle multiple bands, with the push of the internal antenna tuner.
My main challenge was to get this antenna up into my favorite Ponderosa pine tree. Again, I took a simple approach. I grabbed my spin-cast fishing pole, attached two 5/16-inch hex nuts to the end of the line (to act as a weight), and cast the nuts up over the top of the tree. This may sound difficult, but it only took me three casts to get the fishing line on a limb that I liked. I let the line out and let the weight drop to the ground. Then I attached a 1/8-inch synthetic rope onto the fishing line and pulled it back up over the tree. Soon, I had my antenna support rope passing over the very top of the tree. It was a simple matter to attach and hoist the undriven end of the antenna to the top of the tree. The antenna is longer than the height of the tree, so I sloped the antenna away from the tree.
A length of RG-8 style coax connected the antenna and the transceiver in the ham shack. I did not ground the antenna transformer or add a counterpoise, hoping that the length of coax would be sufficient to act as a counterpoise. This worked out OK and the FT-950 was able to drive the antenna using just the internal antenna tuner on all bands.
You don’t have to have a computer to log your contacts during the contest, but you really should. Even with 50 contacts written on paper, it becomes difficult to remember which stations you’ve already worked. Also, the logging program automatically generates the serial number mentioned above. Very helpful.
For most contests, I use the N1MM Logger+ software, which is arguably the standard in ham radio contest loggers. It is free to use and is available here. I probably use about 10% of the power of this software but it is relatively easy to use, once you get familiar with it. It has templates for all of the contests, so it keeps track of your score and warns you if you’ve already worked a station. It automatically generates the cabrillo format for submitting your log electronically.
With a 100-watt-and-a-wire station, you have to compete with much more capable stations during a contest. These folks may be running 1kW and gain antennas. I used the “search and pounce” technique, tuning around to find strong stations calling CQ. I typed the callsign into the logging program to make sure we have not already worked and then I called them, just saying my callsign. If they hear me, they will call me back, providing their exchange information. I enter that into N1MM and give them my info. It is as simple as that.
I can usually judge how well my station is doing by how quickly I can contact another station. If they answer me on the first call, that’s great. If it takes a few calls, it usually means that someone else is beating me out in the pileup. I was happy with the performance of the station — I was making contacts at a decent rate.
I made 187 QSOs in about 7 hours of operating, which works out to one contact every 2.5 minutes or so. That rate is not going to win the contest but it was good enough to keep me having fun.
The scoring multiplier for the contest is ARRL and RAC sections, with a maximum number of 84 sections. I worked 66 of them, so not too bad but not a clean sweep. I worked 45 of the 50 US states, missing South Dakota, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Utah, and Alaska. Except for Alaska, the missing states are relatively close to Colorado, so a little more time on 40m (or 80m), for shorter skip distance, would probably have gotten them. The point is that you can achieve Worked All States (WAS) on a single Sweepstakes weekend.
This is a good example of how to get an HF station up and running and make some radio contacts. I often encounter hams that are new to HF and not quite sure how to get on the air. It does not have to be complicated…get a basic transceiver, power supply, coax and a wire antenna and give it a try. Doing this on a contest weekend means that you’ll have plenty of stations to contact.
73 Bob K0NR
Bob Witte, KØNR, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Colorado, USA. Contact him at [email protected].
As my attorney friends like to say, I was “shocked and amazed” at my answer to that question!
Ham communities vary, of course. But I suspect that you may not be as aware of the licensed amateur radio operators who live in your general vicinity. Some are simply not “active,” whatever the heck you want to say that is. We tend to see through our personal windshields rather than a bird’s eye view those hams who are engaged in some visible activity. Hearing them on the air (very strong nearby signals perhaps), seeing them at radio clubs or local ham fests, and that sort of visibility is mostly how we gauge our impressions of other hams nearby. But I suspect that many, many hams are simply not visible to us that way.
We tend to look up specific call signs through a variety of resources, the most popular of which is the venerable QRZ.com. The results can be viewed on a map. But it is most always just the single call sign. And that is very useful. For some purposes.
But Ross KT1F in New Hampshire—his FCC record says he lives on Sleepy Hollow Road (!)–has published a very clever map of most all FCC ULS records for licensed amateurs. It’s about four years old now. As someone who has been involved in GIS and related technologies since the early 1980s, I am very impressed with KT1F’s ambitious project. Geocoding address records, especially about 750,000 of them requires either a lot of crunching against an enhanced TIGER street database (or similar source), $$$, or a clever way to use relatively free sources. See his site at to find out how he’s done this.
Here’s a screenshot of the map from Ross’ website with my location annotated. I had previously been the only licensee in the EM42xk grid. But no longer! As this graphic illustrates, there are several hams who now reside in this grid square, both on my side of the Reservoir as well as in the Fannin Landing neighborhood across the water.
I was very surprised at the number of hams around me. Driving by many of these neighborhoods on a daily or weekly basis, I would never know that so many had licensed ham operators living there. I just don’t see many obvious antennas. If you’d like to check out your neighborhood, here’s the website below (clicking link will open a new tab):
What did you find in your neck of the woods? Are you rather isolated? Or less isolated than you imagined?
What Can You Do With This Map?
There are a number of very useful and productive things you can do by judicious use of Ross’ map tool. Here are just some thoughts that crossed my mind.
Yep, the idea of a local area club jumps out but there are likely existing clubs if there are enough hams in the general vicinity. But it’s clearly a thought. However, contacting your neighboring hams who are close by can be good for numerous other things, too.
One is periodic gatherings in a park or other suitable area. Saturday Morning Amateur Radio Time is a “smart” move but other times work just as well. A quarterly gathering with rigs, antennas and some food/beverage can grow into a low maintenance and enjoyable collective activity. If the locale is a park listed in the Parks on the Air (POTA) map, activate it! Announcing it on the POTA app website and on their Slack channel can draw a crowd on the air. You only need 10 contacts for it to become official. And, you get to know your neighboring hams.
A careful investigation of this map in your area can identify hams who live in HOA-governed neighborhoods. If you live in one, pizza night at a local restaurant (or elsewhere) can be a welcomed time of sharing. How do others deal with the ubiquitous rules against ham antennas in their neighborhood? Perhaps if enough hams join in over time, this group can request meetings with relevant HOA Boards to just inform them about the hobby, convince them that Herman Munster really isn’t a ham (or a real person), and that ham antennas do not have to be nearly as onerous as above ground utility poles, cell towers, marinas with boat masts that have marine radio antennas on them (like mine). Plus, during bad weather or other events, having an active ham in the neighborhood can be a real asset. But, right now, they probably do not know that.
Looking for area organizations and institutions, such as libraries, schools, assisted living centers, can often give concentrations of hams ideas about public service.
Library programs can be easy to schedule as Directors are all about programs as much as books and magazines these days.
Schools? Not so much from outsiders who would take up valuable curriculum time—-unless you have an insider connection on staff at an area school. I’ve talked with numerous school administrators. They estimate that there’s only about a 3 our of 10 chance to get into a school, regardless of whether there’s a connection with a school. Private schools tend to be more challenging than public schools. The race to gain the “best” college application packet quickly fills up a middle or high school student’s dance card. Just ask any parent of one or more such school children. (They were the first Uber drivers!)
Assisted living centers vary but the ones with resident mobility could be promising for area amateurs to arrange a visit. Doing a brief show-and-tell about amateur radio could well be a boon for residents. Those who know about amateur radio, were exposed to it earlier in life, or who just get struck by the hobby’s excitement could become very interested in the hobby. Most retirement counselors suggest retiring “to” something (e.g., a hobby) instead of just “from” something (work). A Tech license and an HT courtesy of you area hams could be lifeline for one or more residents. Remember, those who are still ambulatory and get out in the community can be as active as you are! (I gave a professional friend who moved into such a center in the Chapel Hill, NC area an inexpensive HT programmed with all of the repeaters in the Raleigh-Durham area. He had maintained his amateur license for decades but the last radio he had was a 2M Goonie Box.)
Is there an RF noise problem in your area? Are their neighborhoods where area hams live where the noise is not so bad? With cooperation, pooling a few dollars into a kitty for a web-based SDR (KiwiSDR, etc.) with a loop or other broadband antenna could be used by other hams in the area for RX (CATSync is a great tool for that). Password-protect it so that just your “team” can access it if the host’s Internet bandwidth is an issue.
Getting acquainted for an “unclub” group to meet and exchange ideas on projects, contacts, events and so forth can be useful. You can also check out others to see if they are individuals with whom you feel like spending time with. The issues with clubs are legion: just read the Clubs board on eHam! But not every club has to be like Walmart. Not every ham is someone with whom everyone else would like to break bread with. Or them, you. We “should” welcome all as a general value position but, honestly, all hams do not behave that way. So meeting without the formality of an official club is often an unobtrusive way to find other area hams with whom you’d like to meet with from time to time.
Of course, your best ham buddies do not have to live nearby. Some of mine certainly do not. But I was “shocked and amazed” that so many licensed hams to live near my QTH. Perhaps you will be, too.
There are other uses of KT1F’s map tool. These are just a few I’ve thought of as I was writing this blog post. What are your thoughts?
Frank Howell, K4FMH, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Mississippi, USA. Contact him at [email protected].
|ZWG - 287kHz Winnipeg courtesy: http://www.ve3gop.com/|
I know it's hard to believe but it's CLE time once again. How quickly time zooms by.
When tuning for NDBs, put your receiver in the CW mode and listen for the NDB's CW identifier, repeated every few seconds. Listen for U.S. NDB identifiers approximately 1 kHz higher or lower than the published transmitted frequency since these beacons are modulated with a 1020 Hz tone approximately.
For example, 'AA' near Fargo, ND, transmitted on 365 kHz and its upper sideband CW identifier was tuned at 366.025 kHz while its lower sideband CW ident could be tuned at 363.946 kHz. Its USB tone was actually 1025 Hz while its LSB tone was 1054 Hz.
Often, one sideband will be much stronger than the other so if you don't hear the first one, try listening on the other sideband.
Canadian NDBs normally have an USB tone only, usually very close to 400 Hz. They also have a long dash (keydown) following the CW identifier.
All NDBs heard in North America will be listed in the RNA database (updated daily) while those heard in Europe may be found in the REU database. Beacons heard outside of these regions will be found in the RWW database. These databases have recently been re-vamped and are slicker than ever before!
From CLE organizers comes the following CLE info:
Here are brief details for our 274th co-ordinated listening event next weekend.
It spans a 50 kHz frequency range - about three times wider than usual.
In that range, the Rxx database is showing about 200 active NDBs located in Europe, 120 in North America, 35 in Oceania. The numbers are approximately doubled if you include DX from other parts of the World that have been heard from each of those three regions.
Days: Friday 26 November – Monday 29 November
Times: Start and end at midday, your LOCAL time
Range: 270.0 - 319.9 kHz (NDB signals only)
Part of the frequency range also has DGPS signals among the NDBs.
We last listened on these frequencies in CLE259 in August 2020.
Any first-time CLE logs will be very welcome, as always.
Send your final log to the List (not in an attachment, please) with 'CLE274’ and ‘FINAL' in its title (important).
Show on each line:
# The Date (e.g. '2021-11-26', etc., or just '26' )
# The Time in UTC (the day changes at 00:00 UTC).
# kHz - the nominal published frequency, if known.
# The Call Ident.
Please show those main items FIRST. Other optional details such as Location and Distance go LATER in the same line.
As always, of course, tell us your own location and give brief details of the equipment that you were using during the Event.
We will send the usual 'Any More Logs?' email at about 19:00 UTC on Tuesday so you can check that your log has been found OK.
Do make sure that your log has arrived on the List by 08:00 UTC on Wednesday 01 December at the very latest.
We hope to complete making the combined results within a day or two.
You can soon find full details about current and past CLEs from the CLE page http://www.ndblist.info/cle.htm It includes access to the CLE274 seeklists for your part of the World, prepared from all the previous loggings in Rxx.
- enjoy the CLE.
Brian and Joachim
From: Brian Keyte G3SIA ndbcle'at'gmail.com
Location: Surrey, SE England (CLE coordinator)
(If you would like to listen remotely you could use any one remote receiver for your loggings, stating its location and owner and with their permission if required. A remote listener may NOT also use
another receiver, local or remote, to make further loggings for the same CLE)
These listening events serve several purposes. They
• determine, worldwide, which beacons are out-of-service or have gone silent since the last CLE covering this range
• will indicate the state of propagation conditions at the various participant locations
• will give you an indication of how well your LF/MF receiving system is working
• give participants a fun yet challenging activity to keep their listening skills honed
Final details can be found at the NDB List website, and worldwide results, for every participant, will be posted there a few days after the event.
The NDB List Group is a great place to learn more about the 'Art of NDB DXing' or to meet other DXers in your region. There is a lot of good information available there and new members are always very welcome. As well, you can follow the results of other CLE participants from night to night as propagation is always an active topic of discussion.
You need not be an NDB List member to participate in the CLEs and all reports, no matter how small, are of much value to the organizers.
Remember - 'First-time' logs are always VERY welcome!
Reports may be sent to the NDB List Group or e-mailed to CLE co-ordinator, Brian Keyte (G3SIA), whose address appears above. If you are a member of the group, all final results will also be e-mailed and posted there.
Please ... give the CLE a try ... then let us know what NDB's can be heard from your location! Your report can then be added to the worldwide database to help keep it up-to-date.
Have fun and good hunting!
Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].
Hello and welcome to the 442nd installment of Linux in the Ham Shack. In this episode, the hosts discuss databases of various types, especially those used in amateur radio related applications. Topics include styles of databases, storage formats, structured and unstructured data, client and server architectures, management utilities and data manipulation techniques. We hope you enjoy this episode and find the information useful. Thanks for listening and have a great week.
73 de The LHS Crew
Russ Woodman, K5TUX, co-hosts the Linux in the Ham Shack podcast which is available for download in both MP3 and OGG audio format. Contact him at [email protected].
In this episode, Martin Butler (M1MRB) is joined by Chris Howard (M0TCH), Martin Rothwell (M0SGL), Frank Howell (K4FMH) and Bill Barnes (WC3B) to discuss the latest Amateur / Ham Radio news. Colin (M6BOY) rounds up the news in brief and in the episode's feature we catch up with the RSGB, covering topics including Tackling RFI, IRU Region 1 Conference, training and a second year of virtual conferencing.
We would like to thank Winston Lawrence (KD2WLL), Theodore Langdon (KU9CPD) and our monthly and annual subscription donors for keeping the podcast advert free. To donate, please visit - http://www.icqpodcast.com/donate
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Colin Butler, M6BOY, is the host of the ICQ Podcast, a weekly radio show about Amateur Radio. Contact him at [email protected].
Hello and welcome to Episode #441 of Linux in the Ham Shack. In this short-topics episode, the hosts discuss several stories including the latest ARDC grants for ham radio projects, the latest ARRL Handbook, mapping a supernova with SDRs, Lua and Luau, Pipewire, mod_hamradio and much more. Thanks for listening and have a fantastic week.
73 de The LHS Crew
Russ Woodman, K5TUX, co-hosts the Linux in the Ham Shack podcast which is available for download in both MP3 and OGG audio format. Contact him at [email protected].