Sunday, November 27, 2022

CQWW DX CW 2022 contest review


Results CQWW DX CW 2022 - yellow=10m, lightblue=15m, blue=20m, green=40m

While I write this the CQWW DX CW contest is still on. But I have had enough CW this weekend. According to the stats I spend 8 hours at the radio this contest, not that much but well spend. My goal was to work the most interesting DXCC and if possible an all time new one if available. Another goal was trying to find some fellow hamradio bloggers. Actually the first contact made this contest was with blogger VE9KK Mike from east coast Canada. I met him again today on 15m. By coincidence I made a contact with blogger AE5X John as well on 20m, not shure he was in contest since I later heard him on 17m with CQ pota. So, the next goal was to find an ATNO....not the easiest task. I found VK9DX this evening on 40m and spend at least a hour to work him in the end. Norfolk Isl. was not yet on my DXCC list.

Well, since I was looking for DX and most of my time spend at the radio in daylight I only worked in 40-10m. Nothing on 160m/80m this time. I really didn't care about the amount of QSOs, the only thing that counted for me is to work the interesting DXCC and stations from my point of view. I think I did well. At least I had fun and hope others did too.

I have to say I did encounter some interesting propagation. At sunday I worked Japan in the afternoon on longpath on 10m. Not long after that I worked a station from the USA while the path was not really open yet to the US. Strangely enough I had to point my beam to south America, directing it to the US made the signal a lot weaker. Later, after sunset 10m closed early today I suddenly worked some stations from the UK, Corsica and Germany.....actually those are normally in the skipzone on 10m.
I think it is a sign propagation is rising fast. Hopefully we will encounter this special propagation again soon in the ARRL 10m contest in December. 

Friday, November 25, 2022

The QRP(p) powermeter revisited and more meter repairs


  8 years ago I did need a QRPp powermeter to measure an output of approx 10mW to use on WSPR. The original article on my blog showed a foggy photo and it was a job in a rush. In my current SWR/power meter repair I needed some resistors that were luckely still in this meter. So I decided to use them for the broken Stabo SWR/Power meter and rebuild the QRP(p) meter a bit. I also made better photos. I disabled the SWR meter function and only use the power meter part. To calibrate I use my FT-817 at 1W and adjust with the potmeter to full scale. Then I adjust audio to 100mW output and adjust the potmeter to fullscale again. After that I adjust audio till 10mW can be read on the meter. I realize this is an indication but I don't want to use attenuators because it would limit my receive as well.  At the moment I'm researching the possebility to experiment on 40MHz WSPR/FT8 with 10mW ERP without a license after some blogposts from G3XBM about this matter. 

  Back to the repairs. I bought a nice Stabo SWR/Power meter on the last radiorally I visited. Unfortunately this device was defective, I could read forward power but the pointer didn't move when I wanted to see my actual SWR or reflected power. At first I measured all diodes, all did show correct readings. Next I measured the switch, it was ok. Next the potmeters, I noticed on didn't have any resistance at all. After removing the thing I noticed why, it was broken. Now searching for 200 Ohm potmeters in my pile of electronic waste I could not find any good ones, most are in the K ohm range. So that is the point I decided to get them from my QRPp meter.

  This is the SWR bridge from the QRPp meter. It contains two 130 Ohm resistors. However the Stabo meter use 2 potmeters of 200 Ohm. I removed the resistors and soldered them in the Stabo meter. Readings are not correct. With a 50 Ohm load I read a SWR of 1,8:1. I reverse the input/output leads (TX signal at antenna side) to see of it would change but same reading there as well. 

  I think that is is a matter of a poorly designed pick-up transformer, actually no transformer as well. The signal pick-up is just 2 wires wrapped around the tube that is connected to the inner side of the connectors. You see this often in cheap SWR meters. Wish I could exchange the bridge for the one from the QRPp meter because that one looks a lot better and I know it is very accurate. Anyway in the end I replaced the resistor at the side of the reflected power pick up with the 200 Ohm potmeter that was still ok. 

  This time I could calibrate SWR almost 1:1 with a 50 Ohm load and 1:3 with a 150 Ohm load. Besides that I had to calibrate the power meter as well. It showed 3,5W when 5W was applied. Still it is not very accurate, even not after the calibration. I know the output of my FT-817 is pretty right what is should do. If I measure it with the Welz powermeter it shows right 0,5 - 1 -2,5 and 5W. With the Stabo it shows 0,6 - 1,2 - 2 and 4,8W.

  But at least it is repaired and I could use or sell it now.

Here the picture from both meters. Well, analogue meters might be a bit outdated. But it was fun to be able to repair something.

Then I remembered I had another broken meter. Well, it is a case of a meter that I never use. It's a Daiwa VHF/UHF SWR meter. Whatever power I put in both meters didn't move. I did a quick check on the pointers of both meters, they moved allright. So, easy as that something blocked the signal. Then I remembered I did a quick check before about 4 years ago and that revealed both switches are just very bad. Probabely corrosion because I actually never use this meter. I decided to use contact cleaner and compressed air to blow any corrosion off as far as it is possible from the out side.

Well, it worked well after some fiddling with the switches/air and contactcleaner. I measured all contacts and it was working again. Connecting the FT-817 showed movement of both meters again. Hopefully it will stay in good condition now. Or may be I should leave a note inside in case I have to open this meter again in about 10 years ;-)

Monday, November 21, 2022

SWR/PWR meter repair - hold your breath!

 So unfortunate I coincidentally dropped met precious Welz SP-15M SWR/Power meter. From the outside there was no real damage. But unfortunate the meter's pointer wouldn't move when applying power to it. I bought this meter in 2011 on a radio rally and it went with me at several portable occassions. It is a nice and accurate meter excellent for QRP and I don't want to lose it. So searching for a solution I arrived at the TRX lab youtube channel about the repair of a Diamond SX 600. At 4.05 minutes Peter shows a easy way to measure the mechanical voltmeter itself. So, I tried. Between the terminals my meter showed resistance. The meter is not stuck ( you find it on the internet as most common fault). But applying voltage on it with both the multimeter and a 1,5V battery the voltmeter still didn't show any movement. I also measured if the voltage pickup was correct when I was TXing and that showed that there was nothing wrong on that side. Not shure what to do now....I asked Peter and got the answer it could be a mechanical issue. Of course, there are not much electronics in a simple SWR/PWR meter. It consists of some coils, diodes, switches and a voltmeter. What else could it be?

After a good night sleep I was thinking that the fault could only be at the volt meter itself. For that I had to take it out of the housing. First of all I desoldered the wires and the capacitor that was soldered over both terminals, not the easiest job since wires were wrapped around the terminals. After some effort I got the bare meter in my hands and I could finally measure the meter again showed no resistance this time! To research the fault I had to take it apart. A very delicate job with my thick fingers. But as you can see on the photo I managed it.

Next thing was examine the actual inside for any damage with a magnifier since this is really something small. Luckely my phone has a excellent magnifier as well and I managed to picture the problem.

 Can you spot the problem? It is the small spring which is not connected to the terminal anymore. Remember this is very tiny. Personally I can only see it with a magnifier. To solder it you need a steady hand and hold your breath. At first I soldered it but the spring had moved in a wrong position. At a second attempt I got it right. A quick measurement with the multimeter showed resistance again and I saw the meter move as well. Now it was just a case of rebuild the thing and test it.

A quick test with my CB radio which previously showed that it has 3,5W out . After the repair nothing changed so I guess I don't have to calibrate the meter. Now I really need to be more carefull with my equipment. However it is a miracle this didn't happen before since portable use isn't always the best for this kind of meters. I might search for a digital alternative to bring with me in the field and keep this meter in my shack.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Friese 11 steden contest 2022

 Since this is a primarily local contest I'll write this post in the Dutch language. If interested you're welcome to translate it with google in the language you prefer.

Vorige week was ik de PA-beker contest vergeten. De Friese 11 steden contest wou ik zeker niet missen. Dus toch maar in de agenda gezet en alles voorbereid. Voor degenen die het nog niet weten, de Friese 11 steden contest heeft natuurlijk te maken met de legendarische schaatstocht. Het doel in deze contest is zoveel mogelijk stations te werken waarbij rapport, QSL regio en plaatsnaam als uitwisseling geldt. De multipliers zijn de 11 steden van de beroemde schaatstocht en als 12e multiplier de kluunplaats Bartlehiem. 

Dit jaar werkte ik met de Icom IC-7300, 100W, Heil Proset Elite Ic headset en de antenne de inverted-V doublet.  Dit werkt al jaren prima en het was nu zeker niet anders. Wat mij opviel dit keer was dat er veel amateurs klaagden over veel storing en dan wel zo erg dat het hun ontvangst haast onmogelijk maakte. Zo hoorde ik PA1AT uit Yde die al na een paar QSO moest stoppen omdat hij gewoon niks meer ontving. Daarnaast was het aantal deelnemers gering, waarschijnlijk te wijten aan sport op TV? Het is maar wat je belangrijker vind. Zelf heb ik vrij snel 11 multipliers kunnen werken, alleen Hindelopen ontbrak. Waarschijnlijk was er geen amateur in of bij Hindelopen die aktief kon zijn op 80m, erg jammer, maar volgend jaar beter. Leuk om weer veel bekenden te werken, veel amateurs doen elk jaar mee. Het meest vreemde voorval deze contest was een PD amateur die mij zo nodig tot 2x toe een rapport moest geven. Voor alle duidelijkheid de amateur in kwestie is in overtreding en ik mag volgens de regels niet eens een QSO met hem maken wat ik ook niet gedaan heb. Ik ben niet van agentschap telecom en ook niet van de politie dus ik geef er verder geen commentaar op. Alles bij elkaar was het toch een leuke gezellige contest en kijk ik weer uit naar de volgende keer.

Friday, November 18, 2022

#60m TL8ZZ Central African Republic worked


Tnx to PA4O Peter I noticed that this DXpedition was now on 5356 FT8 F/H. After trying almost the whole week now it was easy to work them tonight.

Monday, November 14, 2022

#60m Guinea Bissau worked


Lucky this time. J5JUA was very strong and I found a empty spot in the one on 60m for me.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

DX sunday - Saved by PB7Z

 This morning I already noticed the bands would be full of DX. I hoped for some nice DX contacts. But with the WAE RTTY contest on it was a bit difficult to receive the DX. Talking about contests, I totally forgot the PA-beker contest today.

I only had time in the afternoon/evening today. And while I write this I still hope for some DX showing up on 60m. I saw TL8ZZ Central African Republic) and FJ/SP9FIH (St. Barts) yesterday evening but was too tired to continue calling in the huge pile-ups.

Today my QSOs almost didn't happen, I had the luck I had some back talk with PB7Z via internet. We were both trying for TL8ZZ on 12m. But after one hour trying I decided to QSY 10m to try. Just when I switched to 10m I got a message from Bernard that TL8ZZ was replying to me. So I immidiatly switched back to 12m and made the contact after all. Wow, if Bernard had not seen it I would have missed them. After that I went to 10m and worked them after calling once. At the same time FJ/SP9FIH was on at 10m only 1 KHz above TL8ZZ. I turned the beam and made the contact. The benefit of having a directional antenna! Talking about that, a bit later Bernard warned me T88WA appeared on 20m. I could barely see him between the RTTY sigs. But I managed to get him to reply to me. Only the RR73 was just on the stream that I could not see. Luckely Bernard has a beam and came to the rescue, He received the RR73 and send me a copy to verify. Well, it was a bit strange....something like a hybrid contact. Some will say this is not valid, however I'm in the log...

On 30m I worked V51LZ (Namibia) and HB0/HB9LCW (Liechtenstein) both new band ones. 

Hey I do some SSB as well if time allows. The problem is that I have to be in the shack actually. FT8 is done mostly remote from my laptop/tablet or phone. On SSB I worked Phil K4OMD from Ft. Lauderdale FL. He is a belgium guy and we talked in our native language Dutch. I also worked V31XX (Belize) on 10m SSB after I worked him on 12m SSB yesterday.

Thanks to PB7Z this was a successful DX day.

Friday, November 11, 2022

FT8 basics that some HAMs still don't understand

 Not that I am an expert in FT8 communications but some basics are still not understood in the HAMradio FT8 community. I thought to just write them down here and hope someone will learn from it.

On the TX side:

 First of all I want you to understand that almost every transceiver has a transmit audiofilter. Dependent on your transceiver this audiofilter can be set at wide or small. But even on wide, it will not be wide enough for digimode covering a bandwidth of about 3000 Hz with maximum audio. To transmit with a constant maximum audio frequency you need to use "fake split" to set the transmit frequency to compensate in that way you always transmit at maximum of the audio transmit filter. Of course this only works if your radio is connected via CAT control to the software. The benefit is that you will not transmit distorted audio and harmonics (cleaner signal) and you will have equal power output all over the FT8 frequency spectrum. Of course I assume you understand how to setup the audio output to the transmitter, it should transmit with minimum ALC.

A beautiful signal from HA8BE on the 60m band. Wipes out most of the signals...

I've been posting about this before:

On the RX side:

 Second is the RX bandwidth. Of course, if you use an old radio, you will be limited to about 2500-2600Hz. But most HAMs these days are getting more sophisticated equipment, especially those that are interested in the digital communication modes like FT8. A very populair radio, for instance, is the Icom IC-7300 which is a SDR radio. It can listen to a bandwidth of 3600Hz. I know other more sophisticated SDR radios can listen to 4000Hz or even more. Still most of the FT8 QSOs going on are limited to 200-2600Hz. Why?  Really, is this my misjudgement? Are most FT8 users equipped with 20 year old transceivers? I don't really think so. Spread out! Use the whole bandwidth... 

20m on a random time. A lot of spectrum is free to use!

Deliberate QRM?

It is also wise to check the DXcluster and before you transmit. So many times I see stations transmitting at exact the same spot in the waterfall as a DX station they probabely do not hear. A empty spot in the waterfall does not always mean it is actually free to transmit. It can happen by accident of course. Most times you will be notified by others to QSY (change frequency).

Just an example

 Have you ever been listening to DXpeditions that transmit with F/H (Fox/Hound). This is a great invention. What I do not understand is sometimes stations are calling in the same period as the DX. I really don't understand? Why calling if you don't see the DX station at all? Do they think the DX stations wil mysteriously get out of the noise for them.....or magically change periods just for them? Strange things happen....come on....check if you are in the right period! Sometimes this happens by accident...though I have seen stations calling in the same period of the DX for over 30 minutes.

Well, have you seen anything annoying on FT8 (or other modes)? Have any tips for others? Please comment. Hopefully someone has learned from this post.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

TBDXC Bands Alive HF Ultra Marathon - good to know!

  Remember my posts about the True Blue DX club HF marathon? Probabely not. It's one of many marathons over the year. This one is particulary for CW and SSB. The club wants to increase the use of SSB and CW on the (HF) HAM bands. A nice thought and I welcomed it. I registered for their marathon since you don't have to be a member to participate. I uploaded my logs and became 6th in 2021. A nice certificate was received. I thought it would be nice to upload my log to this years marathon as well. I did....but then I got an e-mail. Too long for this blogpost to just copy&paste it here so I publish the most important part:

Therefore, if you enjoy FT8, or you use it ‘because there is nothing else’, or to work a new one ‘no matter how - just as long as I put it in the log’, we wish you all the very best in your ham radio activity, but the TBDXC is not the Club for you.”

I did a quick read and first thought it was about their HF marathon. But it isn't. They probabely send out this e-mail to everyone both members and participants. I'm not a member of this club and I will never be. I enjoy all kind of communication. I'm not limited to SSB and CW alone. No, the TBDXC is not a club for me. But I like their marathon. 

Luckely the e-mail contained this:

"the TBDXC as a Club is not “against” FT8. This has been said and repeated many times, but, yet again, this essential point is often misunderstood or ignored."

So if you like to participate, and like me you like to do some FT8 and other digimodes as well, you don't have to be a member of the TBDXC. 

Currently I'm 5th in the LP SSB category.

Monday, November 7, 2022

#60m Togo worked


Worked 5V7RU on 60m this evening. The contact was almost lost since some kind of strange broadband signal was wiping out all signals on the 60m band. Luckely a few seconds later everything came back and I received the RR73. A new one on 60m. Decided to remove my last "new one on 60m" TY0RU from my log. I'm not in their log on 60m and it seems most of the time there was a pirate active with the TY0RU call. I really don't know what fun it is to mislead other HAMs, most of us will not understand...

Sunday, November 6, 2022

DX sunday

 Terrible autumn weather today gives an opportunity to stay behind the radio the whole day. Or at least most of the time. I already noticed that there are a lot of DXpeditions on air lately. Several from DXCC I never worked before. A good test for my 4 band square halo again. But whatever the antenna is, we are all depending on good propagation of course.

First of all, several days ago I tried to work P29RO from Papua New Guinea on 40m FT8. I received him reasonable well. The miracle happened and P29RO came back on my first call with a -04dB report. But then it happened, some digital signal wiped out everything and I was not able to see anything at all. Next day I checked the online log and it seems they did receive my report, I am in the log of for 40m. Not really satisfied about this contact I decided to chase them again today. It resulted in working P29RO on 10m and 17m both in.....CW. Did you know that Papua New Guinea is one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world. There are 839 known languages in this country.

Something else occured to me today, just a few minutes before I worked P29RO I worked 5V7RU from Togo. Just another African country I thought I had already worked. It was a pretty easy contact. But this was actually a new DXCC for me. I was not satisfied with this as well. It would be nice to work them on SSB or CW. Unfortunately I never heard them or see them spotted on the DX cluster. Worked them today on 10m and 12m with FT8.

This morning I noticed a new DXCC active on 10m FT8. It was T88WA from Palau. 10m normally should be no problem for me, their signal was strong. But no matter hw I tried I didn't get my signal through. I must have been trying for over 2 hours till their signal vanished into the noise. It puzzled me since I saw many Dutch stations made it into the log. After lunch I checked everything again and noticed my antenna switch has been into the wrong direction. I was transmitting on my inverted-V instead of the 4 element LFA. How stupid. Luckely I could just see them on 15m FT8 and after about 15 minutes I was in the log. T88WA has an realtime log search, how convenient!

The 12m band was in great shape today. I worked 3C3CA Equariotal Guinea, J28MD Djibouti and FJ/SP9FUY Saint Barthelemy Is.. Not shure if the square halo is that good, but it seems to radiate well. My signal is certainly getting there.

Finally I decided to do some SSB calling on 10m into the direction of the USA. It's what I really like. And within about 25 minutes I worked 6 stations from USA and Trinidad&Tobago.

Certainly a good DX sunday...

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

CQWW DX SSB 2022 review

Event: CQWW DX SSB contest 2022
Section: SO Low Assisted 10M
Logger: N1MM+ 
Station: Icom IC-7300 @100W
Antenna 1: 10m LFA @14m
Antenna 2: 4 band square halo @15m
Antenna 3: 2x20m inverted-V doublet @12m

Started saterdaymorning late. 10m was not open yet here. At that moment I was not shure I would do a single 10m band effort like last year. So I started on 40m and 20m. This was also a god test for the "new" square halo antenna I previously made. And I have to say...compared to the multiband vertical it is a excellent performer. It is clear to me that most of the stations I heard I could work as well. For instance KL7RA (Alaska) was barely above the noise. But I had a reply after the first call which surprised me. Same for VJ4T. Below a map made with all 1000 QSOs I made.

Oh yes, I heard the DXCC I wanted to work. V85RH and VK9C. But others did as well and I might have a chance another time. I tried a few times but the pile-up was just too large and signals too low.

Although I was active on all bands except 160m (I forgot I don't have a 160m antenna aymore) I aimed for 10m only. So most of the contest I was on 10m to work as many DXCC/stations as possible. I made quite a few runs into the direction of north america, always great to do that. Below a map from my 427 QSOs on 10m.

Surprisingly, and I believe never did this before. I worked 100 DXCC overall. Incredible to just contact so many countries in one weekend.

According to the analyzer I use I operated 30 hours and 1 minute in total. Which is a lot I think. Yet, I was not on the radio all the time. I just had breaks to drink coffee/tea and eat lunch/dinner. Besides that I had to go out with my XYL to do the necessary shopping for the week. I did have a good sleep as well. So after the contest I was tired but not really exhausted.  

I always remember some memorable moments. Like the station in Sudan (ST0HQ) that was giving me a report in dutch. Another memorabe moment was a surprise call I got on 80m by Elsie M7ELC, probabely the youngest female operator/contester in the UK. She is the daughter of fellow blogger M0YKS Simon. You can view a video about the contest featuring both here.

I also worked fellow blogger VE3VN Ron on 15m. Ron has a interesting blog full of details about the hobby. I met Ron before on 15m and never heard him on another band. He might do a single band 15m effort?

Funny is also that some stations, even when I never ever had a contact, seem to be regular readers of this blog. According to the reactions from some of these stations. If you read this it is appreciated and always nice to make the contact were ever you are. I had a lot of fun this weekend and certainly broke last years score. Surely I will be in the contest next year and will try to beat this years score.