Posts Tagged ‘Contesting’

Software can bring you joy or grey hair…….

Not what you want to see after a program restart! 

This weekend contained some QSO parties to partake in. Almost every weekend there has been a QSO party I wanted to take part as I have a personal goal to see if I can make some contacts in all the QSO parties. I am not officially enrolled in the QSO party challenge as I have no hope of placing anywhere other than close to the bottom of the pile. It is just a thing for me to do during the COVID 19 stay at home order. I have managed to make at least one successful contact in each of the QSO parties up to this point in time (I have a feeling that may end once the Hawaii QSO party happens) But this weekend I thought the streek was going to come to an end. I was having huge issues with hearing anyone in the Nebraska QSO party! BUT I then remembered reading they also accept FT8 QSO"s and not many QSO parties do. So it was off to FT8 to see what I could find. The contest software I use is N!MM+ and it does integrate with both WSJT-X or JTDX software. The issue here was I had not as of yet made the integration. I found online a very nice video of a step by step process and as Picard would say "make it so". Before I ever venture into making program and radio changes I always back up both my PC (system restore) and my radio settings.
I following the setting changes that needed to be made in N1MM+ and JTDX software I then did the smoke test and restarted the programs. I was greeted with an error message and the program stopped working altogether. To save the day I restored the JTDX settings and rig settings back to their previous settings. I then was able to make 2 Nebraska contacts on FT8 using the "old" settings in JTDX.  My next step was to figure out how to convert the ADIF file that JTDX gave me into a Cab file which the Nebraska QSO party needed for submission. I went online and found SP7DQR's program called ADIF2CABR program and it did the trick.
The next day it was time to tackle the JTDX integration with N1MM+ so I went back to the video and figuring the issue was I was rushing the day before. Since everything was backed up from the day before I got right down to it. Once done I tried a restart and low and behold all worked fine. I reviewed what I did and it came down to the file location of JTDX I had to enter into N1MM+ I don't believe I enter the exe file last time.
A much better message. 
There was one very odd thing that happened it had nothing to do with N1MM+ or JTDX it was my setting for my windows microphone. What clued me into this was the receive level in the JTDX program was off the scale. I open Windows microphone settings and it went from a set level of 4 to 100. It's just the magic of Windows and for whatever reason, it decides to do whatever
it wants!

CWops club

CW ops in action

Greetings to all my blog readers I think it's safe to say that a majority of you 6 months ago never thought we would be where we are today! Life is so fragile along with our environment my hope and prayer is that all of you stay safe. I am so thankful that up to this point Julie and I are doing just fine without any COVID 19 issues. I'm retired so I can stay at home and Julie is an essential service and has to go to work but she may be able to work from home soon. I am so so so thankful that I have a pension income and that Julie is still working my heart and prayers go out to those who I can't even for a second imagine what you are going through. To all the essential workers such as medical, grocery store, pharmacy, truckers, call centres, the essential trades, border patrol, military, firefighters, EMS, police, public transit and please forgive me if I missed your type of work that helps the wheels turn during this time. Thank you thank you very very much!
Ham radio is a very good way to pass the day and I was thinking today how ham radio can play a key roll in this time we are in. My radio time was very simple yesterday basically turn on the radio and see what is going on out there. My wife works these crazy shifts and Friday is never Friday and for the next 6 weeks, our Friday is Tuesday. So we both just say thank god Friday is coming and when it's it's actually Tuesday so when it's Wednesday it's our Saturday. Having said that yesterday when I flipped the radio on and 20m was dead and I thought why is it dead on a Saturday........WRONG it's really Wednesday.
All of a sudden the band became very busy with CW traffic and I was not sure what was going on so I ventured over to WA7BNM contest page which is a fantastic site for contest goings-on. It turns out from 1300 -1400 it was the CWops mini CWT contest and WOW was it ever busy.
The CWops or CW operators club has only been around since January 2010 and according to there website now have over 1000 members and I would think that to date it's more than that. Even more exciting is that in 2012 the CW academy was founded within CWops. The CW academy is for those who are interested in learning code to those who want to improve their speed and then at the top end those who want to head copy the code! CWops also have a morse code trainer page this is a very detailed page and I can only imagine the hours that were put into its creation. With the spare time that has been unexpectedly placed upon our lives and if your interested in morse code or want to improve your code the CWops page is the place to go. I have enrolled in their intermediate coarse and opted to start in the fall as I am not sure I can put the time aside that is needed during the summer. 

The weekend of radio

Russian CW contest was Rockin the band
Another weekend passes and another QSO party in the bag! This past weekend it was the Virginia QSO Party. In this QSO party, you had to pay a bit closer attention to the contact information as it was not the standard 599 and county that was sent. In this contest, you had to listen for a QSO number and the county. In other QSO parties where the exchange is 599 or 5NN (cut numbers) and their county if you miss the county just listen to his next contact and you are golden. When QSO numbers are involved if you miss it or part of it and ask for "NR?" and they are lost in the mud.........well then it's a matter of counting his next contacts and listen to the number you can hear and then subtract from that number to figure out what your number is. Believe me, I have been there done that and it can be a challenge!
So how was the Virginia QSO Party you ask.........well on 20m things were really hopping but not with the QSO Party but the Russin CW contest. The band was packed with DX and very tempting to just jump in BUT I wanted to keep up with my goal of working all the QSO parties this year, I jumped up to 40m and worked a few Virginia station ground wave from my location. I was able to get 4 in the logbook only on 40m as I did have some "to do" items that needed to be done around the house. I checked in again on Sunday and went back to 40m but the strange thing was on Sunday I could only hear the stations making contact with stations in Virginia?? Oh well, propagation can be a funny thing at times.
Other related radio adventures were I was able to work fellow blogger John AE5X from Texas. John was working POTA and activating location KFF-3054. I was not able to hear John at all on CW but it was great he grabbed his laptop for the trip as we made contact on FT8. On Sunday I checked out the POTA cluster to see what was up and I was able to contact KB3WAV and at the time I did not realize it until I went to the POTA website and found that Kerri is a top leader for POTA activations.
His stats are:
Activations       1266
Unique parks      446
Total contacts   4730 Now this is an old number I would believe after this past weekend activation.

I also noticed on Sunday 20m was dead again as the Russian Contest had ended but it goes to show propagation is alive and well.
If you are like me and trying to work all the QSO parties this year by taking part in ARRL's State QSO party challenge make sure your seatbelt on during the weekend of April 3-5. The QSO Parties for the weekend are Nebraska, Missouri, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana! 
Finally, on a lighter note, today is a milestone for me.........I'm 60 today! My car dealership sent me an email birthday wish bright and early this morning way before anyone would have been at work. Darn computers programs just don't sleep...:))

Contest Morse Code, Computers, and an Icom Rig

This past weekend (third full weekend in February, February 15-16, 2020) is the ARRL International CW Contest (ARRL DX CW link: http://www.arrl.org/arrl-dx ). This is interesting to my study of radio signal propagation as a columnist and as an amateur radio operator​ because of the contest objective: “To encourage W/VE stations to expand knowledge of DX propagation on the HF and MF bands…” This contest is a good way to get a feel for current propagation–though there are caveats.

Speaking of Morse code and the CW mode on our amateur bands: those of you using CW during contests, do you send by hand or by computer?  Do you copy the code by head, or do you use a computer for decoding?

Do you use a computer for Morse code operation?

Just curious about those of you who use CW. Do you send by hand or computer? Receive by head or computer?

In most contests like the ARRL DX CW contest, I copy by ear, and send mostly by rig keyer. If needed, I use a single paddle key with the Icom rig’s internal keyer to answer unique questions and so on.

Below is a quick demo of using the internal Morse code keyer in my Icom IC-7610 transceiver.

V47T, in the Saint Kitts and Nevis Island in the Caribbean, is calling CQ TEST in the ARRL DX CW contest.

Using the programmable virtual buttons, in which I programmed my callsign, NW7US, and other info, I answer and make a complete contest QSO.

In activity like the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC – https://SKCCGroup.com) K3Y special event, it is all manual. I send my Morse code using a WWII Navy Flameproof Signal Key, and decode with my ears.  It is contextual for me.

How do you do contesting Morse code?  Bonus question: How do you do logging while doing contest operation?

73 es best dx = de NW7US dit dit

 

ARRL DX CW contest.

It was nice to see the bands very active with DX for me it was from 15m to 40m. The Endfed I have at the moment will not get me onto 80m BUT the new Endfed I purchased (going up in warmer weather) will give me 80m and maybe more. This year I spent a bit more time in the chair operating than I usually do. I was operating as a single operator, all band and low power (100 watts)
Score breakdown:
I was not able to snag any rare DX and in fact, I really only heard manly Europe, nothing from the middle east or Asia this year. During the late afternoon on 15m, I had Central and South America open up and I was able to get some contacts from there in the log. I only made 126 QSO's I was in and out of the chair and I really have to get to the point in my CW career to feel comfortable calling CW contest and stop the search and pounce only routine. The only Murphy moment I had was when my Bluetooth keyboard's rechargeable battery when dead. I had to hunt down my USB keyboard before continuing in the contest. The lesson learned here is to set the Bluetooth aside and use the USB keyboard for contesting.  The next contests in my schedule are the North and South Carolina QSO party contests the first weekend in March.

Bring it on!

Using Dual watch 
There have been some blog posting regarding the ARRL State QSO party challenge. After looking over the ARRL site regarding this "challenge" it is something that can fit right into my schedule. My wife Julie works most Saturdays and Sundays, our weekends are Tuesday-Wednesday. This leaves me with time to jump into the weekend QSO party fray! In the past (post-retirement) the weekends were occupied with yard work, food shopping and cleaning house BUT now that I am retired all these things can be done during the week now.
The kickoff (Super bowl lingo) to the ARRL QSO party challenge was very busy with 3 QSO parties this weekend. The BC QSO party, Minnesota QSO party and the Vermont QSO party were in full swing this weekend.  The challenge to me was how to participate in 3 contests using only one contest software program?  The software I have used in the past for contests were N1MM+ and N3FJP's contest software. I did read regarding Scott's N3FJP's contest software that you can run multiple contests using API (application program interface). Now I never claim to be a computer guru and API meant nothing to me until Thursday last week when I read about it on the N3FJP software user group site. For this weekend I used N1MM+ and loaded all three QSO parties and just loaded the contest I was logging in and for the time being, it worked just fine for me until I can read up on this API thing.
Why has the ARRL QSO party challenge appealed to me:
- I have the weekends more or less free now.
- These contests are not a full 48-hour effort.
- They are local meaning North America and low sunspots do not have as much of an effect.
- Maximum power is 100 watts so most of us are on the same level of playing field.
- The modes are CW, Phone and in some QSO parties, the digital mode (FT8 and FT4) has been            embraced so there are lots of opportunities no matter what your choice of operating is.
- If CW is your forte I have found the speeds are slower and sometimes a TU (thank you) and 73 is      added to a contact.
BC QSO party shot

So how did the first weekend of QSO party contest go.......
Vermont QSO party:
This was a tough one as I made only 2 contacts both on 40 meters and I felt because Vermont is close to home my contacts would be ground wave. I was not able to hear any Vermont stations on 20m at all. I had to settle for 2 contacts with a score of 16. When I visited the contest score webpage 3830 I was shocked to see that all others had scored low as well.
Minnesota QSO party:
There was more action in this contest but for some reason, the only station I heard were ones I already worked (Dupes).  I ended making a whole 7 contacts in this contest for a final score of 98.
BC QSO party:
In this contest, I was able to hear lots of BC stations but the conditions were changing very fast such that I would make the contact but then they went below the noise level. I ended up making 6 completed contacts with a score of 116 but lots of contacts that ended up being incomplete as they were washed up in the noise floor.

The benefits of the these QSO party contests:
- It gets me on the radio as most of the time just planning to get around to it never happens.
- I want to enter the CW category this will help me improve my code.
- When CW slows and if the contest allows digital FT8/FT4 I will give this new way of contesting a       go. 
- Allows me to learn more about my Icom 7610 in contest situations.




For those of you out there

who have a real yen for Amateur Radio contesting and Radiosport competition in general ........... I ran across this announcement on the ARRL Webpage the other day.


The State QSO Party Challenge is a competition comprised of other contests, namely state and provincial QSO parties. As explained on the website, the annual cumulative score program is open to any radio amateur who participates in any approved state QSO parties (SQPs).

Participants just need to submit their QSO party scores to 3830scores.com to enter the challenge. Participants’ cumulative scores will be calculated by totaling up the number of reported contacts and multiplying by the number of SQPs entered in the year to date. Periodic standings will be posted to 3830scores.com, the QSOParty Groups.io forum, and the StateQSOParty.com website.

“Using the number of QSO parties entered as a multiplier is expected to encourage radio amateurs to enter more state/province QSO parties,” the program’s organizers said. “The first SQPs in 2020 are the Vermont, Minnesota, and British Columbia QSO Parties in the first weekend of February.”

Entrants must make at least two contacts in a QSO party for it to count as a multiplier. Full details are available on the State QSO Party Challenge website. Challenge sponsors expressed appreciation to Bruce Horn, WA7BNM, for developing the SQP Activity Tracker on 3830scores.com.

This is interesting in a few ways.  Even if you decide to not formally participate in this, it can be taken on as a real personal challenge. "How many State QSO Parties can I participate in?". For me, it would be a big deal to participate in all fifty, plus Canada  This kind of reminds me of the QRP-ARCI Golden Jubilee event a few years back, where the goal was to work K6JSS stations in all 50 states.

Secondly, would I be able to make "at least two contacts" in all of these? With band conditions the way they are - the state QSO parties in Alaska and Hawaii and some of the Canadian Provinces might prove to be a real challenge. But then, going back to the QRP-ARCI Golden Jubilee event, Alaska and Hawaii were NOT the two states I missed!

Thirdly, this would be a great way for those who are on their way to earning Worked All Sates to actually accomplish that.

Fourthly, for those of you out there who complain about the bands being "flooded with contests" every weekend (you know who you are), this would actually make that a good thing. Instead of disdaining these QSO Parties, it would be an incentive to jump in and make them into an enjoyable and an interesting experience for you. After all, you don't have to stay in them for the entire event if you don't want to - but can you make just two QSOs in each?

I just might be tempted to take on the personal challenge myself!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

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