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What is wrong with this picture???

I am operating in the CW CQWPX contest today and just can't contact anyone. Yesterday all was good but today NOTHING at all. Have a look at the above picture and see if you can see what's wrong. It took me some time as I kept overlooking the obvious.

Contacting the Dodecanese islands on FT8.

Last evening I wandered down the hall to the radio room someplace I have not been for about 2 weeks or so. I have been taking advantage of the great weather here to get some outdoor projects done.  There was a shed to level and rebuild and also a deck to level and refinish. Doing those projects during the day left me with no real energy to get on the radio in the evenings. For some reason last evening I just had a nice kick in my step and it was off to the radio room for some FT8 adventures. I found myself on 30m and it was hopping with activity at 0200 UTC. One of my contacts was to the Dodecanese and I had never heard of this location. I looked it up and it is a group of 15 large islands and 150 smaller ones. SV5DKL was from Rhodes which is the capital of the Dodecanese islands. These set islands are a part of Greece but it was very cool to contact this off the beaten path location. Overall I was very pleased with the conditions on 30m and I was on making contacts until 0300 UTC and then my internal clock told me it was time to hit the sack.

RFI mystery

RFI issue spread across the band
Over the last let's say a month or so I have been seeing some RFI on the waterfall of my Icom 7610 that is new. For about 7 months I have been RFI free at my new QTH and was very happy regarding this fact. At my old QTH in downtown Toronto RFI was the norm. 20m seems to be the worst for the issue and it's not all the time and as for what are the times I am not exactly sure. I have been very lazy with trying to narrow down a time frame for the RFI events. Way back about 10 years I did have a plasma TV that gave me a huge headache but I was able to solve that issue with the MFJ 1026 noise cancelling unit. In my wisdom, I ended up selling the MFJ unit for whatever reason. To try to narrow down the issue I have done the following:
- Switched to my active antenna and I still had the issue.
- I change to battery power only and I still had the issue.
- I turned off the main AC circuit breaker to the house and I still had the issue while using battery power obviously. Oh and an added dear wife was not happy about that.
Sometimes the RFI stops but then soon starts 

-Switched to my dummy load and the issue was gone but so were all signals.
So from the above, it seems it is being picked up by the antenna and not something within my home. At this point, I have not tried to pinpoint times as to when or if the RFI is present. I will be within the next few weeks paying very close attention to times when I am on and if the RFI is present or not. Until then I wanted to see if I was able to solve the issue with the Icom 7610's filtering. The choices I have are the noise reduction option or the noise blanker option. As a side note, my previous rig was the Elecraft K3 and it had amazing filtering for RFI issues. It was time to put the Icom 7610 to the test and see how it performed. I tried both the NR and NB and found it was the NB (noise blanker) that did the trick. I was able to totally remove the RFI and still hear the CW signal that was getting buried in the noise. Within the noise blanker settings, you can adjust the level, depth and width. I did find certain settings worked better than others at removing the offending RFI. I did change over to my Elecraft KX3 just to see how it dealt with the RFI and I was shocked how it really was not able to remove the RFI and the Icom 7610 won hands down!
I have included some screenshots of the RFI in the post here and if anyone has any ideas of what it may be or other tests I can do please post a comment. One theory I have is our very close neighbour has what is called down it this way a "split mini". Until I moved to the East coast I had never heard of one or even seen one but they are a heat pump so you have heat in the winter and cool in the summer. It's about 30 feet away from my Endfed antenna but this is just my humble opinion. The trick for me will be to check out the radio when his split mini-cycles off.
The split-mini 

Very very busy day on FT8

This is 20m FT8 on Saturday it sure is very hard to belly up to the bar and find a spot for your signal cursor! I would chance to say that FT8 is seeming to have caught on. I did manage to contact many U.S stations are well as Russia, France and the Netherlands. 

One of those “Are you kidding me” mommets.

Back in late April, I posted the inspection of two heat sinks my Icom 7610. I always get a bit anxious when I remove all the cable from the radio and all that is plugged into it. In the past, I have learned that it saves lots of time and headaches if I use my trusty iPhone and take pictures of the cabling. I really don't have all that many cables at the back of the radio BUT I still take pictures. Once the heat sinks checked out to be without issue it was time to re-connect the radio again along with my trusty pictures.
All was connected and it was time to fire up the radio and see what happened. Everything was good and now it was time to make sure all software was "talking" to the radio. There were no issues so far until I went into transmit. The antenna I am using is an EndFed multiband and I do need a tuner to allow a decent SWR. The odd thing was it seemed my tuner lost its memories of the presets for each band. That was no issue I just started back at square one and returned each band so it was in memory. The issue was after tuning the band I would attempt to transmit and the tuner would start tuning again as the SWR seemed to go back up over 3.0. The first thing I checked was that the antenna was still up and it was as you never know stuff happens. I double-checked the rear of the radio with my pictures and all was good there.
To me, it seemed something was up with either a coax patch cable or the coax out to the antenna. The first thing I wanted to check was the PL259 connectors on the back of the radio. I have in the past had these connectors show issues once they were moved around with being unconnected and re-connected. I try to keep coax angles very slight as I have found over time this can add stress to the connection. I was not looking forward to the whole process but it was the next step that had to be done.
I am not sure why but out of the corner of my eye I noticed my LDG DTS-4 antenna switch which I use as a radio switch (between my Icom 7610 and Elecraft KX3) and not antenna switch as I only have one antenna at the moment. The light on the DST-4 position 1 for my 7610 was out and the light for the KX3 position 4 was on! Problem solved the DTS-4 was grounding out my 7610 as it was not selected and with the simple push of a button my problem was solved.  

QSO party challenge was a bust this weekend!

Up until this weekend, I was deep into the QSO party challenge which means getting on the radio each weekend and logging contacts in each of the QSO parties here in  Canada and the U.S. This weekend was all prepared for and it was going to be a barn burner with 5 QSO parties going on! Here was the dilemma.....the weather on Saturday and Sunday was forecast to be great. That is not good when I have to jack up our large deck and redo the foundations to bring it level. This is due to the fact that the previous owner had no idea or hired someone who had no idea what they were doing.........or as what I say "if you hire someone and pay peanuts you get monkeys". Then speaking of foundations our large shed foundation was put in by the same person. The shed is old and to jack, it up would just bring on more issues as the shed is at its end of life. The new shed was ordered and came in on Saturday sooooo I had to begin the demo of the old shed as well. A very not so much ham radio weekend but these things had to be done and it takes precedent over the hobby.

Icom 7610 heat sink issue

Bottom cover removed
In the Icom 7610, there are two ADC (analog-digital converters) that in some rigs an issue with the heat sinks have either become loose or all together falls off. There was an issue during production with certain radios where this was an issue. My serial number did not fall into the run that had this particular problem. BUT I did want to double-check to make sure I had no issue with the ADC heat sinks. I have had very good luck with my 7610. As most have heard the Icom 7610 has a notorious issue with their screens. My rig now is over a year old and I have had no screen issues and I hope I am safe to say that I am out of the woods......but if something does come up with my screen Icom has said that all screen issues are covered no matter the date of your rig.
No issues with heat sinks. 
Back to the ADC issue, today I decided to inspect the ADC heat sink to make sure there was no issue. I removed the bottom cover and was thrilled to see both ADC heat sinks were without issue. I know my radio was not one of the production runs that had this issue but it does not hurt to check.

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  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor