Archive for the ‘dx’ Category
Those of you who follow my blog know that my primary ham radio passion is operating above 50 MHz. But I also enjoy getting on the HF bands for POTA and chasing DX. I’ve also done a few holiday-style DXpeditions: V29RW and ZF2NR. Compared to my friends that are serious about DXing, I consider myself a Slacker DXer.
The Sun Is Your Friend
You are probably aware that we are approaching the peak of the 11-year solar cycle, which means that the propagation on the higher HF bands is great. When I do operate HF, I really enjoy having 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m and 10m open worldwide. Back in December, I noted that the ARRL 10m contest was happening and I decided to give that a try. Because we have been doing some renovation at our place in the mountains, I had pulled down my HF antennas (all wires in trees). No problem, I just strung up a J-pole antenna I have for 10 meters. I got on the air during the contest using SSB and had a great time working DX all over the world. This gave me the bug of trying to accumulate a few more countries/entities for DXCC. At the time, I had 140 entities confirmed in Logbook of The World (LoTW). I also set up FT8 and FT4 and worked quite a few stations on digital.
Later, I started to think about the other high HF bands (20m and up), so I took down the 10m J-pole and put up a random-wire end-fed antenna. See my previous post to learn more about it.
The wire length on this antenna was 36 feet, so it is nearly vertical when strung from our tall pine trees. I was pleased to find that the antenna worked well on 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m and 10m. It was at this time that I realized I had hardly used 12 meters, so it was fun to try out a new band. I was working a lot of stateside stations and DX at this point on these 5 bands. One day, I was pondering the 30m band, which I had always thought of as a CW-only band. Actually, it is a CW and digital band, so FT8 is commonly used. (I sometimes operate CW but it is not a focus for me.) So I checked out my antenna on 30m and the IC-7610 tuned up just fine. In fact, I tried using 40m with the same antenna, and it also works on that band. So now I have a basic wire antenna that works well on 40m and up. Very nice.
Worked All Zones (WAZ)
I have often found that having a particular operating goal, usually some kind of award or certificate, can help motivate and guide my radio activity. Driving up the DXCC count is always good but I am also intrigued by the CQ Worked All Zones award.. The 40 CQ zones are distributed worldwide, providing a more consistent way of measuring how well you have worked the world. (In contrast, DXCC is strongly influenced by the history of world and how the various governments are organized.) LoTW supports WAZ so a check of my LoTW log revealed that I had 30 zones confirmed. So my operating objective became adding new DXCC countries and WAZ zones, on any band.
In the past few months, my DXCC count has increased to 158, as confirmed in LoTW. Being a Slacker DXer, I don’t spend the time chasing down QSL cards. It is either confirmed via LoTW or nothing. For WAZ, I have 38 zones confirmed, still looking for Zone 22 (Southern Asia) and Zone 34 (Northeast Africa). For me, it is important to “stay in the hunt” but not get overly obsessed with working a particular country. If you aren’t having fun, you are doing it wrong.
I emphasize to newer hams that I am doing this with the classic 100 watts and a wire station. Working DX does not require a huge tower and amplifiers. Using FT8 really helps but CW and SSB are also viable modes. Take your pick. Now is the time to get on HF and enjoy the excellent propagation.
Work any DX lately?
73 Bob K0NR
Special Event Week: Dec 24-Dec 31, 2023
The 1st annual Olivia Digital Mode on HF Winter QSO Party, celebrating 20 years of Olivia.
The Olivia Digital DXers Club (we’re on ClubLog!) is holding the first annual Winter Olivia Digital Mode on HF QSO Party, starting at 00:00 UTC, 24 December 2023, and ending at 23:59 UTC, 31 December, 2023.
Minimum logging requirements: Callsign worked, Band (or Frequency), Mode (I.e., Olivia 8/250, or other variations), Time QSO Started. You can log more than that, but for the sake of the certificate, please send at least the minimum information per QSO, to NW7US (email is on QRZ profile). Logs can be any common method, from an .ADI file, to a screen shot.
Full details are on our website:
Olivia, a Multi-Frequency Shift Keying (MFSK) radioteletype digital mode, is an amateur radioteletype protocol designed to work in difficult (low signal-to-noise ratio plus multipath) propagation conditions on shortwave radio (i.e., high-frequency, or HF) bands. The typical Olivia signal is decoded when the amplitude of the noise is over ten times that of the digital signal!
Here is an introduction to the Olivia digital mode:
73 de NW7US
Olivia is the digital communications mode on shortwave (high frequency sub band, or, HF) for amateur radio operators who want more than the “Check Propagation” FT8 mode. This video is an introduction that was presented to the Raleigh Amateur Radio Society ( https://www.rars.org/ ) on December 12, 2023, presented by Tomas Hood, NW7US
Olivia information can be found, here:
Olivia, a Multi-Frequency Shift Keying (MFSK) radioteletype digital mode, is an amateur radioteletype protocol designed to work in difficult (low signal-to-noise ratio plus multipath) propagation conditions on shortwave radio (i.e., high-frequency, or HF) bands. The typical Olivia signal is decoded when the amplitude of the noise is over ten times that of the digital signal! It is commonly used by amateur radio operators to reliably transmit ASCII characters over noisy channels (slices of high-frequency spectrum — i.e., frequencies from 3 MHz to 30 MHz; HF) exhibiting significant fading and propagation phasing.
The Olivia digital modes are commonly referred to by the number of tones and the bandwidth used (in Hz). Therefore, it is common to express the Olivia digital mode as Olivia X/Y (or, alternatively, Olivia Y/X ), where X refers to the number of different audio tones transmitted, and Y refers to the bandwidth in Hertz over which these signals are spread. Examples of common Olivia modes are, 8/250 (meaning, 8 tones/250-Hertz bandwidth), 16/500, and, 32/1000.
The protocol was developed at the end of 2003 by Pawel Jalocha. The first on-the-air tests were performed by two radio amateurs, Fred OH/DK4ZC and Les VK2DSG, on the Europe-Australia propagation path in the 20-meter shortwave radio amateur band. The tests proved that the Olivia protocol (or, digital mode) works well and can allow regular intercontinental radio contacts with as little as one-watt RF power (when propagation is highly-favorable). Since 2005, Olivia has become a standard for digital data transfer under white noise, fading and multipath, flutter (polar path) and auroral conditions.
Olivia can perform nearly as good as the very popular WSJT mode, FT8, and better than FT4.
See you on the waterfall!
73 de NW7US
SOME INFORMAL THOUGHTS ON WORKING CW DX
Recently, I came across some questions another amateur radio operator posed to a group of CW enthusiasts. Since I have an interest in Morse code, I thought I would explore these questions:
— begin quote —
1. When chasing some particular CW DX station needed for my DXCC punch-list, what are some things(s) that one can do to improve one’s chances of snagging that DX contact amidst a congested pileup? Is it truly the luck of the draw or roll of the dice? Or are there some time tested methods, less than obvious, that the experienced CW DX chasers have used that seem to improve one’s chances of snagging the DX contact? Yes, I’m aware that there are many variables to consider. I’m just looking for some general suggestions to improve my odds of success based on the experience of others.
2. If, let’s say, a DX station appends “UP 1” or “QSX 2” to his CQ call or just “UP” appears in a DX cluster spot listing, what is considered an acceptable amount of “UP”? I’m amazed sometimes at the amount of “UP” that I hear. LOL. Does a hefty amount of “UP” actually improve one’s chances? What does the DX op expect?
3. After a DX station sends their callsign how long should one wait to reply with one’s callsign? I hear stations respond immediately. But sometimes I hear others wait just a “bit”, and then respond to DX. And sometimes when the DX station is responding to a chosen station, other callers are STILL calling the DX op. What do most DX operators expect with regard to the response of a reply? Immediate? One-Mississippi …?
4. I hear stations reply to DX with their callsign once. Others sometimes twice. If I send my callsign twice I run the risk that the DX station has already begun his reply back to me with my sig-report while I’m still in the midst of sending my 2nd callsign reply. So … I should send my call just once?
— end quote–
Great questions! And, the answers translate over to working DX pileups on voice, too.
Here are some of my off-the-cuff remarks, based on my limited experience DXing since 1990:
(I am an avid DXer, with 8BDXCC, etc.)
1. Listen, Listen, Listen: The DX station typically does work split – the DX station on, say, 14.023 MHz, and the DX station is listening anywhere from 14.028 to 14.033 (up 5 to 10). You first, of course, need to listen to the DX station, but, also to hear the stations that are calling the DX station! The trick is to be able to hear some of the stations that are piling up on the DX, and to determine if the DX is working a station, then tunes up a little, or down a little, from the frequency on which the last caller was chosen.
Once you know this, you want to position your signal so that the DX operator tunes to or very near where you are transmitting your signal. If the DX station does not call you but continues in the same tuning direction, you reposition your transmit frequency (always in the pileup window) and try again. If you do not know where the DX station is listening next, and especially if you cannot HEAR the DX station, you are calling blind and are in for a long effort.
If you have a way to see the waterfall at and around the DX frequency, you can often see the general spread of “UP” where the callers congregate. When listening (and, let me tell you, listening is key) to the DX station, watch the waterfall for the responding caller (the station in the pile-up calling the DX), as sometimes it is very obvious who is answering the DX. Watch this exchange for a number of new callers – and get a sense of HOW the DX operator is moving through the pile-up. Anticipate where the DX might listen next. Choose that “next frequency in the pattern of movement” and use that as your calling frequency.
2. Timing your call: this takes a bit of effort. I typically listen to my chosen transmit frequency, trying to call never at the exact same time as others, on or near my calling frequency.
3. I always send my callsign TWICE… something like this:
DX: DX1ABC UP
ME: NW7US NW7US
DX: NW7US 5NN
ME: R R NW7US 5NN TU
DX: NW7US TU, DX1ABC UP
There are some fine CW-oriented DXing books, PDFs, and websites that talk about this. For instance:
I hope this personal observation of mine about working a Morse code pileup is helpful in some way.
73 de NW7US
I had so many plans for my Hamvention 2023 visit on Friday and Saturday, May 19-20, 2023. For example, I planned on many interviews including one with N3ZN, maker of great Morse code keys. I also needed to visit the Card Checker Service of the ARRL DXCC program. I had a handful of DX cards I was submitting toward DXCC credits.
But, I collapsed about 40 minutes after I got to the Hamvention, on Friday morning! I had just finished getting my DX QSL cards checked at the ARRL booth, then I collapsed. After only being at my first Hamvention for a brief 40-some minutes, I was taken by ambulance to an ER of a Xenia-area hospital. My blood pressure was difficult to measure at the initial moments of being at the emergency room — it was about 60 over 40, and I had NO radial pulse.
After a CT scan of heart and neck, and blood lab work, I was transported again by ambulance to a hospital near Dayton. There, I was admitted to that hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) around 5:30 PM on Friday.
I’m writing this on Saturday, from my hospital bed, as I’m still in ICU in Dayton. I hope to be discharged tomorrow (Sunday, 21 May 2023).
The working diagnosis is Acute Kidney Injury (AKI), caused by a combination of issues starting with my parathyroidectomy surgery, a few months back. I had three of my four parathyroid glands removed because they were completely tumorous. I wrote about that in my previous entry on this website.
Turns out my calcium levels were lower than they should be, causing problems throughout my body, but especially in my heart. Additionally, I was severally dehydrated due to two medications I had been taking because the VA doctors thought I should be on them. But, these meds were working against me. One of those I don’t even need, but the VA had me taking. That one is FUROSEMIDE. The other is LISINOPRIL. I don’t have high blood pressure, nor water retention.
At the ICU, I have stopped taking those meds. I’m on an IV, getting hydrated, and getting calcium supplements.
My kidney function is improving but I’m going to spend another night in ICU until they feel confident I’ve made full recovery. I hope to be discharged on Sunday, 21 May, 2023.
I hope all of you that were at this year’s Hamvention have enjoyed the fellowship of radio enthusiasts. Maybe I’ll meet many of you, next year! I will make videos of Hamvention 2024, if all goes well in a year’s time.
If you were at Hamvention 2023, share some highlights in the comments!
UPDATE: On Sunday, I was released from the ICU, and I am now home recuperating. Monday is a bit rough, so am not at work, yet. BP is normal, and I am on new medication for my heart so that I do not get dehydrated by the furosemide and lisinopril. Here’s hoping for next year’s Hamvention, which I hope to attend.
73 de NW7US
Way back on April 20th late in the afternoon, I checked my go-to DX cluster DX heat to see what was happening on the bands. I saw VU2TMP from India spotted and I have seen this station in the past but never heard him just the pileup.
This time he was spotted on 15m and out my way in the afternoon 15m can do some very surprising things. I flipped on the Icom 7610 and spun over to 21.001 CW and low and behold there was VU2TMP at about S5! I put the radio in split and Dual receive and to my surprise there was not much action happening. I dropped my call a few times but he went back to other stations I could not hear most in Europe. I thought to myself the only time I hear him he can’t hear me, but I am only running 100 watts into a Hustler 4BTV.
I dropped my call again a few times and low and behold I hear “VE9?” now I am thinking it’s one of my fellow VE9’s also calling him. I tried again and heard “VE9K?” well know things are getting serious and to top it off he is now fading!! I sent “VE9KK…KK…KK” and his reply was “VE9KK 5NN” Well hot dog I am in the log. I sent my exchange and all was good.
The last three years have been, well, challenging.
In 2021, I became ill with Covid. That was rough, but I bounced back. That bout with illness caused me to lose my job, though, because I was ill too long. What is worse is because I was not hospitalized, I did not fall under the protections of “disability,” and had to step down from my employment at that time. After I recovered, I found employment.
In 2022, I again fell ill to a second Covid. That illness was significantly worse! I nearly WAS hospitalized, but I resisted this, and hung on by a thread. I made it through, though the illness lasted a lot longer the second time around. Because I was ill for about five months, I again had to step down from employment. This second Covid was the worst illness I have ever experienced, physically, emotionally, and financially. I am thankful for my friends and family that were very supportive.
After I recovered, I found employment in late 2022. It took a while for my health to stabilize, but the new job leadership has been supportive. I have been happily working at this new job since late 2022.
But, the challenge to recover was high. I sought answers.
In December 2022, I was diagnosed with Primary Hyperparathyroidism. Sure enough, the many tests I endured confirmed that I had more than one tumor in at least two of my four parathyroid glands (we each have four of them, because we’re given redundancy for this critical body part).
I had surgery at the end of February 2023 to remove these tumor-riddled glands. The surgeon, once in my neck, found that THREE of my four glands were tumorous! He removed the three. I now have just one parathyroid gland.
Recovery has gone well. My health is improving nicely. It is like a switch was flipped, and I no longer have some of the debilitating symptoms like brain fog, extreme fatigue, and an out-of-control metabolism. I have a stable function of the remaining parathyroid gland, and that is supporting the proper function of the rest of my body. It is amazing how the whole body relies on these four glands for running correctly!
All of these challenges of the last few years caused enough distraction that my YouTube channel, and my writing, here, as well as other hobby activities, suffered my absence. Now that I am getting back on my feet with my health, and because my job continues nicely, I am beginning to spend some energy and time on these hobby areas. I plan on creating and releasing a few series on amateur radio, radio propagation, and space weather, on my YouTube channel. If you are already a subscriber, you probably saw my latest video where I announce that I am, indeed, back:
If there are topics that you would like me to cover in the new educational videos I am planning and will create, please let me know with a comment to this post, or, look my email address up on my profile at QRZdotCom. I will do my best to answer your questions and cover amateur radio and space weather topics in which you are interested.
If you are not yet familiar with my YouTube channel, you can find my channel here: https://YouTube.com/NW7US — Please subscribe and hit the bell to be notified when I release new video content.
I will also post more often on this site. I appreciate the opportunity to share with you my love of amateur radio, and the science of propagation and space weather which affects our radio signals.