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Hurricane Fiona is on her way!

 


A few years ago when we moved to the Maritimes within our first weeks we were greeted by Hurricane Dorian. It was, to say the least, an adventure and left us asking "why the heck did we move down here". Since moving down here we have learned about and experienced Nor'easters and hurricanes.


 Today I am taking down the Hustler 4BTV and my Endfed wire antenna. Anything that can be blown around has been stored away and our generator is filled, tested and ready to go. The generator with a remote start and is connected to a transfer circuit breaker panel. It feeds our fridge, heat pump, living room, bedroom and radio room. 


This hurricane adventure is supposed to start this evening (Friday) and last until Sunday morning.

A little resistance goes a long way!

 


 This past weekend I was rolling along in the CWop open CW contest when all of a sudden when I sent CW my Icom 7610 shut down and then cycled back on all on its own. My output power was 100 watts and each time I transmitted the rig would cycle off and back on again. I had already been contesting for about 3 hours and all was good and now this!


As I sat there a thought occurred to me, in one of my Icom email groups I remember reading regarding this same issue. Those who had this issue found it was the Anderson power poles they were using. My rig goes to a Rig runner power bar using Anderson power poles and the power supply feeds the Rig runner via Anderson power poles. At this time in the game, I just wanted a fast fix so I powered the radio down and turned off the power supply. I then unplugged and plugged back in the Anderson power pole connectors and this did the trick for now. 

With the contest completed and still hearing CW rings in my ear, it was now time to turn my attention back to the 7610 power cycling issue. I subscribe to Groups.io which is an email group and one of my email groups is called Icom 7610 you guessed it, it's all about the Icom 7610. I read the threads regarding power cycling and the Anderson power pole. The consensus seemed to be the connection point of these connectors can develop a poor connection. The fix some used was like I did to connect and reconnect a few times. While others removed that style of connector altogether. 

On the Icom touch screen, you can bring up a menu called meters. One of the meters is the Vd. This meter reads the real-time internal voltage of the 7610. On the scale, there is a red section and if the voltage gets to this point the radio will shut down. Once the sufficient voltage is supplied again the radio will cycle on again. Thus the issue I was having. When I was transmitting I was drawing much more current then bring in a poor connection (resistance) thus drawing more current. When you draw more current your voltage goes down and if it goes below what the Icom 7610 wants the radio shuts down. As soon as it shuts down more than enough voltage is available as very little current is being used and the radio cycles back on again. 

On the Anderson power pole site, they do have a bulletin as to why a connection issue may exist. Some causes they mentioned were a poor crimp connection if you decided to solder the connection a poor solder job and if the solder flowed down onto the connection tabs this could be an issue as well. I have to be honest I have been using Anderson power poles for a long time and I have never had an issue. 

I wanted to see if the Anderson power poles have in my case become an issue. My test was set up as follows. I wanted to have a steady constant load on the Icom 7610 and what better way than to transmit an FT8 tune signal, I choose to use 100 watts. I would connect the radio as it was during the contest and then send an FT8 carrier at 100 watts. Record the voltage drop on the Icom Vd meter. Then remove the Anderson power poles from the Rig runner. One is the power cord from the radio, the other from the power supply to the Rig runner. Run the same test and record the results. finally, remove the Anderson power poles from the cable from the Icom and connect it directly to the Astron SS-30-M power supply which has screw terminals. Then record the results. 

Before I began I checked the terminal voltage on the Astron power supply and it was 13.8 volts DC. Also during the tests, the power supply voltage stayed at 13.8 volts DC. Below are the results from the tests. 

Just a word about the Vd meter before we begin. I determined that the Vd meter scale is 0.24 volts per hatch mark. Therefore the minimum voltage red trip line on the Vd meter scale is the 6th hatch mark from left to right (11.44 volts) with the first hatch mark counted as zero. 



The first test was with the radio connected to the Rig runner via the Aderson power pole and the power supply connected to the Rig runner via the Anderson power pole. The results below when FT8 test tune at 100 watts was Vd voltage dropped to two hatch marks above the trip red line. 

For the second test, I removed the Rig runner and connected the two Anderson power poles one to the other. The FT8 100-watt test tune gave the same results,  two hatch marks from the trip red line. 

 

Finally, I removed the Anderson power pole from the radio power cord and stripped the ends and attached it directly to the Astron power supply via its screw connectors. The FT8 100 watts test resulted in a surprising result of 5 hatch marks above the red trip line. 


 
Removing the Anderson power poles from the circuit seemed to give some impressive results and I am going to leave it this way. If I need to use the Rig runner power bar I can power it from a spare Astron 25 amp supply I have. Once I have some spare time I am going to take the pair of Anderson power pole connectors apart and see if I can find what did possibly wrong.

Continue the adventure.


 Now that fall is just around the corner and summer vacations, lazy days in the sun and let's not forget the yard work comes to an end it makes more time for radio. Over the summer I have found the bands are a bit more on the quiet side, blog posts slow down and for the most part, we are preoccupied with summer. 


For those of you who are into CW and the key has gathered some dust over the summer break a great way to slide back into the CW groove is to take part in some 1 hour "mini-contests" 


The K1USN SST (Slow Speed Test)

The event runs twice a week    Friday 2000-2100 UTC
                                                  Monday 0000-0100 UTC which is Sunday eve but Monday according to UTC time....always threw me off when I first got into contesting.....anyways...


This 1-hour mini contest max's out at 20 wpm and I have done many of these and sent at 16-18 WPM and had many contacts. If you are rusty and want to pick up the dit dah pace a bit this contest is a great place to be. If you are a veteran op it's a great place to slow the pace down and donate an hour.
The exchange is your call sign, name and your State or Province. The contest program N1MM+ supports this contest also if the call sign you are working on is in N1MM+ database the op's name and State/Provence is auto filled if you want. This way you can start by just having to copy the op's call sign. 


ICWC MST (Medium Speed Contest)

                         Mondays 1300-1400 and 1900-2000 

Tuesdays 0300-0400

In this 1 hour mini contest the CW speed picks up the pace a bit to 20-25 WPM BUT on request will slow down. This contest is also supported by N1MM+ but under the UDC section (user-defined contest) I'm not going into the UDC format here but use the ICWC link above and they provide a link to the N1MM site to set this contest up. The exchange in this one is your call sign, name and QSO number (serial number as it's called)

 CWops CWT

This event runs 4 times a week. Wednesdays 1300-1400 UTC and 1900-2000 UTC
                                                   Thursdays 0300-0400 UTC and 0700-0800 UTC
 

In this 1-hour mini contest, one has to put their seat belt on and realize your hair (if you still have any) will be blowing in the wind with the CW speeds. This contest is looked at as a high-speed mini-contest. The speed starts at 25 wpm and goes up from there. When I say up.... speeds into the 40's wpm....mind-boggling. Anyway, N1MM+ does support this contest. In my humble opinion if you are in the 20ish wpm range give this contest a listen only. Search and pounce just listening to the calls and see what you can pick out. The average speed is mid 20's to mid 30's wpm. The exchange your call, name and CWops member number or if not a member your State or Province.
I do take part in this contest but I am not as yet a member of the CWops so my exchange is NB for New Brunswick. Membership details can be found at the site from the link above. 


So there you have it if you are interested this fall and winter and have some time on your hands give the 1-hour mini tests a go. Here is the way I look at it....I busted my hump learning CW (it was not an option when I went for my ticket) and I just did not want to throw that away. I had done what most did to get my ticket I learned the code just to get past the exam and I planned to forget about it.
I did leave the code and radio alone as I had a young family like most of you did. I then started to have time on my hands and the love for radio was alive again. I listened to CW and to be honest I was a few code letters short of a full load if you know what I mean. Slowly started to pick it up again and have never looked back.
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Above is me stepping down off my soapbox....I hope you found some useful information from the above.

 

                                                 

 

 

 

 

Contesting and Murphy what a mix!


 Just taking a break from the WAE CW contest this morning (Sunday) and this contest has been an adventure! Issues with S.T.E.V.E (more about this after the contest in another post) and then Murphy showed up. A few days before any contest I get the PC, radio and N1MM+ contest logger going and make sure all is well, and it was. 


Murphy had no issue waiting, I started contesting and things went wrong right at the get-go, as I was CWing "CQ CONTEST" a warning on my PC came up that I lost my internet connection. Then another message informed me my connection had been re-established. This just kept happening over and over and it was only when I was transmitting. This told me RFI was the issue, NEVER up until now have I ever had this issue but such is Murphy. 


 The contest at this point was a bit slow so I decided to investigate the issue further. I had a theory and that was my new PC motherboard has WIFI and uses two small antennas at the rear of the PC. I checked my settings and I was on WIFI, not LAN....so I thought. I removed the two small WIFI antenna thinking that they would be good at picking up RFI and thus could be the reason. I then set my LAN as the internet connection. 


After restarting my PC I was back to contesting but this time there was the loss of internet connection but not as often. Thinking now it was possibly my LAN hub at the rear of the PC. I then connected my LAN (with toroidal chokes) directly to my PC. Again I had intermittent connection issues and I was sure it was still the WIFI and maybe the antenna female connector ends on the PC motherboard were picking up RF still. The issue happened less often so removing the antennas did help.

 
It was not off to the BIOS to shut the motherboard WIFI down.....going into the BIOS.....what could go wrong here?? Once in the BIOS, I clicked here and there and just could not find any WIFI settings. Closed the BIOS and restarted the PC.
Once restarted I knew something was wrong, the PC was really slow and jerky is the best way to describe it. I went to the internet to see what the hell I had done only to find the internet now was running as if I was on dial-up! 


I have now gone from intermittent internet connection to a funky PC and very slow internet speed. Oh, and I also noticed that in my contest program N1MM+ I lost the contest macro setup and all my contacts. I have no idea what that has to do with the BIOS but it happened.
After some reading on the internet on my laptop, I concluded the best thing to do was update the BIOS and MSI motherboards they make it very easy to do. My thought was, that whatever the heck I did will be undone by a BIOS update. After all, I have nothing to lose if I wanted I could reformat the hard drive and slide a backup clone image onto the drive from my backup files on another hard drive. I would have all my programs and setting from an earlier time. Some may think I could just use Windows system restore. In times of need, I have ALWAYS had system restore let me down with a final message after a restore that windows was unable to restore to an earlier date!! 


The BIOS updated without any issues and when the PC restarted I was back to normal but the slow internet was still there and RFI seemed to be dropping the connection still. I just happened to go back to Windows 10 internet connections box (for the 100th time) but this time I noticed for some reason I was back on WIFI. I manually changed it back to LAN and the connection issue was gone and the surfing speed was back. 


I decided to restart the PC and have a look at the Windows 10 internet connections box again. After the restart, I was back on WIFI again and it would seem for some reason each time the PC was restarted it would default back to WIFI. The very slow connection was due to the fact the antennas were removed and RFI was affecting the WIFI board via the female antenna connectors.

 
I then just right-clicked on the WIFI connection icon and clicked disable!! You know what folks that did the trick. Only if 2 hours earlier I had done just that I would not have messed with the BIOS, lost my N1MM+ contest settings, squeezed behind my desk to the rear of the PC and wasted 2 hours. Sometimes the solution is just a click away!!

Calling on all U.S. hams…


 In my last blog post, I had a comment from Tom a future ham and he asked me the question posted below. Since I am in Canada and my expertise is not the U.S. band plan for a technician class licence (or any other U.S. licence class for that matter) I asked him if I could start a new post featuring his question.  


The floor is your Tom...


 Hello. I thought this may be a place to get an answer. First, I am taking the test in September for my technician license. I am a CB operator and want to get into the ham world. Navy vet, electrical engineer, love radios and antenna theory. I am struggling with something. I really respect the knowledge of the amateur radio group. My struggle is understanding where the technician can operate. Google searches, YouTube searches, ARRL, Practice Tests, have yielded me the following:
1) Only HF
 2) HF and some bands of VHF
 3) Only 10-meters in HF
 4) ARRL band plan shows more
 5) HF and some bands of VFH, UHF.
Arrrgggg!!! I look at dates when I read things. This question is all over the place. Can one of you experts in here shed some light on this? Did something change? I understand the pool of questions for technician is now new as of July so maybe something changed….
Thanks for any help!!
– A future ham, Tom


 In advance, I would like to thank those who contribute to answering Tom's question. I am also sure we all wish him the best as he writes in September for his Technician licence.

K7K expedition how did it work out for you?

 It's Tuesday early morning and I am greeting my first cup of java along with some radio time. I found myself drifting off to the weekend of radio operating. I very much enjoyed the Islands on the air contest (IOTA). It was also my plan to get K7K from Kiska island in the log as well. As the saying goes "sometimes things do not work out as planned".


I was keeping an eye on the DX clusters to see when K7K was on air and where. This year is my "year of CW" so I was looking forward to getting them in the log using CW. Again sometimes things don't work out as planned. I noticed once K7K was up and running that FT8 seemed to be their mode of choice for most of the time. I was reading on the cluster posts there were some upset ops... that very little time was spent on SSB or CW. 


I am not here to rag on FT8 and to be honest, I used this mode a great deal last year and very much enjoyed it. But having said that in my humble opinion they operated FT8 about 70-80 percent of the time and left modes such as SSB and CW alone. 


In the expeditions, defence conditions for them could not have been great and the Digi mode FT8 would sure fill their logs up and better than a poor showing in the log book. Also maybe the tide is shifting and with the Dx Peditions to come FT8 and other Digi modes may be the choice of the operators. 

I did notice K7K on their website indicated FT8 would be used but they also included CW and SSB.
There was an occasion CW and SSB were used but on a limited basis. I will chime in and say the only long period of time they used CW was in the IOTA contest. They are indeed an island and rare as well, it was expected for them to take part BUT this seemed to be the only time K7K used CW.


 I checked the clusters during the contest to see where they were. I did notice comments of frustration, K7K was operating split and some contest ops were calling on K7K calling frequency. Other comments indicated stations calling CQ contests in the responding TX frequency. Then I found they went back to FT8 in a very short time during the contest. 


This is just my humble blog opinion regarding the K7K "event" but when you indicate CW, SSB and FT8 on your site giving equal time to all would be a positive thing. From what I read in the cluster comments there were more than a few unhappy campers.


IOTA contest

 


 The Islands on the air contest is sponsored by the Radio Society of Great Britain or RSGB for short. This contest is only 24 hours long and hosts some very nice DX from sometimes remote and DXpedition Islands. If memory serves me correctly I found this year to be more work to pull stations out. The QSB at this end was very deep. At one moment England was there at S5 and then gone. I'm not thinking it was just me as many stations I listened to were asking for report repeats. Oh well, it's all part and parcel of the contesting dream. 


I entered the CW-only category at 100 watts and it was the first time using my new Hustler 4BTV vertical antenna. As everyone has told me and it is true the vertical antenna is a bit noisier than my horizontal End Fed BUT I had better results with the Hustler 4BTV. The very small extra noise with the vertical was taken care of with the noise reduction on the Icom 7610. 


For me, this was not a contest where I was running (calling CQ contest) it was 99% search and pounce. The reason for this was Island stations gave you 15 points compared to 2 points for all other contacts. The Island stations for the most part were running calling CQ contest. With this contest I found it harder to move up the band and bang off contacts and the reason for this was island contacts are big points and they are limited in numbers and that equals pile-ups.
Below is the score summary: 


 


Here are some takeaways of mine from the contest: 


- My CW is improving so the twice-daily practice time is helping. 


- Keeping my butt in the chair even during slow times helped my score. 


- Getting my backside out of bed early on the final day of the contest gave me the rewards of contacting     New Zealand, Austria and Hawaii, along with the 15 bonus points for each.


Contesting with a vertical compared to my End Fed antenna:


- Most all the time if I could hear them I could work them. 


- Omni directional was nice compared to End Fed horizontal directional characteristics. 


-Using the Icom 7610 second receiver to its full potential. I was able to listen to another band with the second receiver. I was not able to do this with the End Fed as I needed the tuner for all bands. I found without using the tuner the receive was very poor with the End Fed.


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  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor