Showing posts from 2017

WAE DX contest SSB, N2RJ North America winner!

Would you look at that!!! Seems like I made the winner's box :)

This was a pretty tough one, as we had absolutely horrid band conditions, with a radio blackout on Sunday. It was tough going. BUT you know what they say - when the going gets tough, the tough get going. So I powered through, despite bad conditions and QRM from Ethiopia.  I savor it for now, and hope I can repeat it for next year. I guess I need to figure out where on my wall the new plaque will be going. :)

A word about band conditions - I actually prefer worse conditions as it allows me to concentrate on one or two bands rather than having to make decisions about the higher bands. It also reduces the temptation to chase after multipliers on higher bands rather than focusing on rate. No more. I am focusing strongly on running with mult chasing on the 2nd radio almost exclusively. My strategy is changing, and it seems to be working.

Special thanks to Keith, KJ8DO for loaning me his Alpha 91B amp.

160 meters and 9 band DXCC!!!

YEAH! I did it!!!

I finally got my DXCC on 160 meters. The last entity to confirm was ZA1WW in Albania. Thankfully it was via LoTW so there was no need for a trip to the card checker.

How hard was it? Not as hard as you think, but no cakewalk either.

The key to 160m operating is listening. "If you can't hear 'em you can't work 'em" is especially true on this band. For this reason I have done extensive research on receiving antennas, noise floor and operating techniques to maximize SNR. I fought many pileups, including some rare (on topband, anyway) entities in far off places like Cote d'Ivoire, and Annobon Island.

Anyway, I enjoy this for now and bask in the glory of 9 band DXCC!!

The FT8 conundrum

As I sit here I am working FT8 on 160 meters. It's a great mode to kill time and get some DX, states or new friends in the log. But this mode is not without controversy. Let's explore some of the controversies and see what can, and should be done. Or not.

What's the big deal about FT8 anyway? If you haven't heard of the mode, I am thinking that maybe your radio isn't working or you haven't tuned up into the digital portion of the HF bands lately. So, briefly - FT8 is a digital "sound card" mode jointly developed by two really smart people - Joe Taylor, K1JT and Steve Franke, K9AN. It's not a rag chew mode. Instead, it provides basic QSOs exchanging grid squares and signal reports. One can optionally send a short message (13 characters) but the mode really isn't for this. FT8 was born out of other similar modes such as JT65 and JT9, which were also short QSO modes, developed for weak signal work. In fact, Joe initially developed the JT65 mode f…

LED lamp QRM - solved!

Last week I became really scared because I turned on 40 meters and there was AC buzz all over. I have a relatively quiet noise floor which is advantageous for contesting and DXing, and my fear was that my neighbors had bought some cheap device with a switching power supply that would spew noise all over the HF bands. Or was it the new fridge we bought? Or was it something else? Thankfully cooler heads prevailed and I went about finding the noise source methodically. Watch how I got it done!

Troubleshooting The very first thing I did was to get a shortwave radio and verify that the noise was there. Indeed, a portable shortwave radio confirmed that it was there. Actiually, I used my Kenwood TH-D74A in general coverage shortwave mode. It works well for this purpose.

The next step was to shut off the main breaker in the house. We did that, and the noise was gone. This alone was a huge sigh of relief! The noise was inside this house, and this means I had full control over it, at least.


6 meter opening this evening

Mike, VA3MW alerted me to an opening on 6 meters tonight (11/28 EST, 11/29 UTC). Just as I had walked in the door. I dropped everything, put on dinner quick then went to work the opening on FT8. It didn't last too long, about 40 minutes. At least for me, as I started well into it.

Anyway, here is a PSKReporter screen shot of who was hearing me. I was running 1kW into 6 elements wide spaced (34ft boom). Furthest hearing me was NA6L in California. My other friend Howard, KY6LA told me that NA6L heard me for one cycle and tried to call. But the opening had probably started fading out by that time I suspect. Oh well! 

Some thoughts on ham radio, millenials and the future of the hobby.

Why this post? So let's start off by saying that this won't be yet another reply to Sterling, N0SSC's article about why Millenials are "killing" ham radio.  I am in the millenial demographic, but I come from 20 years of experience in the hobby, starting off as a teenager. However I feel that an alternate view is important because Sterling's post does have a few valid points, but a lot of it ignores what is right and wrong with the hobby.

The spark. I can't really pin down what was the spark that got me specifically into amateur radio. I can say that ever since I knew myself, I was always fond of technical things. Suffice to say, this is what got me into the hobby. I had a few great elmers along the way, mostly SK now, but they nurtured me in the hobby.

Why ham radio? Why did you get into this hobby? For me it was a vehicle for electronic experiments and science. I later on discovered things like DXing and contesting which were simply a way of applying th…