Thursday, February 29, 2024

On the edge

  A blogpost just on the edge of winter/springtime. At a special date today, a once in a 4 year opportunity to make a blogpost on the 29th of February. During the (work)week I've less time for radio. But this evening I thought of giving it a try to work 2 new ones. XU7GNY from Cambodia and H40WA from Temotu province. If FT8 would not be existing I don't think I would ever work these entities at all just because my time is limited. With FT8 you can let the computer call, it does the job for you. This evening again I was called away from the shack several times. But in between the computer managed to work XU7GNY on 30m and 40m quite fast. Later on, H40WA was worked on 20m after about 10 minutes of calling. 

The DX purists will probably find this disgusting. DX should be hard work. Finding the right split frequency and find out which direction the DX operator goes. Oh yes, I've experienced this a lot of times in the past. And yes, that is the way we did DX which takes a lot of time to contact the DX at all if you can even hear it. We are now in the future of HAMradio. Working DX will take less time and less good equipment so you have time and money for other things of interest. After all, who cares if you have worked 340 DXCC in the last 50 years? We all collect DXCC for our own interest.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

My quest to learn CW (3)

 This is my monthly update about my quest to learn CW. I got to the point that I'm stuck. It took me 35 times at lesson 27 on LCWO to learn that I have to lower my expectations. The speed of 28wpm with effective speed on 8wpm is too much for me. I've lowered the speed to 7wpm effective. I really need more time between the letters. It is not only to understand them but I need to find the right key on the keyboard as well. I'm shure I could write the letters down a lot faster but it is what it is. After I lowered the speed the 36th time I was over 90% which is enough to go on the lesson 28.

Graph from lesson 27. I almost gave up at the end, then at 7wpm effective it took me 1 try.

Writing the letters down is what I did during the ARRL DX CW contest this month. And I was surprised by the amount of stations I could decode. Although sometimes it took me listening a few times before I could complete the call and the state abbreviation. It was fun to do the decoding without the computer. S&P that way is certainly possible. However this is not "instant" decoding like in a QSO or when running. I have the feeling that it will take me a few years before I manage to do that. We will see how things will work out.

In the mean time I rehearse at least 15 minutes every day. Hopefully I can tell I have improved next month.

Monday, February 26, 2024

#60m Wallis & Futuna Isl. worked


For those that don't know where these islands are. It is roughly between Samoa and Fiji in the Pacific. It is french territory. Quite difficult to reach by travel and by radio. There are a few radioamateurs on the islands but I never heard them. Right now there is a Bulgarian DXpedition going on. Worked TX8GC before on 30m for a ATNO. FW8GC was worked on 17m a few days ago. I was up early sunday morning and saw a few very nice DX stations. The problem is that I'm not the only one, so it is difficult to get a QSO. I made it to FW8GC at the end of the morning greyline and just on the edge (-21dB on FT8). It took me some transmissions before I decoded the RR73. Very glad I managed to work this one. Unfortunately something happened with the QSO screenshot and I lost it. So I had to wait for the confirmation in clublog to prove things.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

New update VarAC


VarAC is one of the coolest digimode programs around. It is getting more populair everyday. It is important you keep the software updated as new versions most times do not work with old versions of the software. Latest update is V8.6.2. It requires VARA-HF v4.8.5. Since I had less time for radio today I left it on 10m to monitor. When I returned at the end of the day my first QSO was with J69DS Frans from St.Lucia in the west-indies.

Friday, February 23, 2024

#60m EK/RX3DPK Armenia worked

Second new one on 60m this year. If this one is legal is always the question. But work first worry later!

More 60m new ones are reported in the morning. I only am too early or too late. It might happen this weekend?

Sunday, February 18, 2024

ARRL DX CW contest exercise

   As a matter of fact fellow blogger VE9KK Mike gave me an idea to practise my CW skills (!). He invited me for this CW contest. An excellent idea.

The plan:

Try to decode as many CW stations with call and exchange as possible on Saturday. Try to make at least 25 contacts headcopy only. Bonus: try to work VE9KK.

I had less time Saturday due to other obligations. So I wrote down some calls I decoded, mostly on 10m. It was an excellent rehearsal for Sunday. Computer was off, I only listened to the radio. I was surprised how many I could decode.

On Sunday I switched on the computer and did run N1MM logger. But did not use any CW decoder. Yes, I did make use of the cluster but that doesn't give any exhange and you have to verify the call yourself. Actually I was just doing S&P and turning the dail. It was really satisfying to find stations that were not spotted yet and decode both call and state. Not always easy because some are using speeds beyond my abilities to decode. But till 30 wpm is not a big problem. Sometimes it took me a minute to figure out a call, but overall it just took a few seconds after hearing the call a few times. I wrote it down on paper including the exchange to be shure I wouldn't make mistakes. I then put it in the log and made the contact. It's not really the fastest way but I'm just starting doing this. If you take a closer look at the papers on the photo you'll see that I made mistakes and correct it afterwards. In the end I made 77 contacts on 7, 14, 21 and 28 MHz. Transmitting was done with the keyer of course, I don't have a key or paddle connected.

It was a pleasure to give K1ZZ some points. He was active in the PACC as well so he was most deserving the points in my opinion ;-)

    Chasing VE9KK was not easy this time. Via RBN I was checking his frequency regularly but unable to hear him on 14 MHz and 28 MHz. Mike finally got to 21 MHz, but still no signal at all. Then I checked my multiband halo.... oh my that was not good, the rain was really having a bad effect on it. SWR was sky high. So I tried to tune the inverted-L, got it down to 1,8:1. Mike's signal was starting to get in now, very weak though. This was going to be hard! When I was finally hearing a reasonable signal I was just trying a few times and luckely able to get into the log. Tnx Mike.

This was a great CW exercise. It really gives me the feeling that I make progress. 

Sunday, February 11, 2024

PACC contest 2024 review


Event: PACC 2024

Section: QRP mixed

Logger: N1MM+ 

Station: Icom IC-7300 at 5% (5W)

Antenna 1: Experimental multiband halo

Antenna 2: 10m LFA @14m

Antenna 3: 2x20m inverted-V doublet

This years goal was to beat the score from last year. Beside that I wanted to do more CW and try to headcopy instead doing it all with CWskimmer. Well, I can tell decoding with my own brain is hard. Yes, some easy calls are no problem like SN5O or K1ZZ but others are really really hard like II5I and others, I got really confused sometimes. So if any of those CW callers are reading this I'm sorry if I left the frequency without working you all. The amount of stations calling on my CW CQ was most times overwhelming. 4-5 stations together at the same time gives one long beeeeep. And most stations keep on repeating while I struggled to decode and find the correct keys on my keyboard. In the end I think it is just a matter of rehearsal :-).

So here they are, the statistics:

Green dots = SSB  --  Red dots = CW

Yes, I ended early. I had enough when I reached 425 contacts. It is 50 more as last year. I see that I worked 2 dupes. I worked more in CW mode compared to SSB, that was one of my goals. The 10m band disappointed me on SSB. Just a few Russian stations and worked one JA. The money band was 40m SSB. 40m Propagation inside Europe and especially inside the Netherlands was excellent this year. I even managed to have a few (tiny) pile-ups on that band which isn't easy with only 5W. 

DXCC worked

Congratulations to K1ZZ who worked me on 5 bands CW. Last year he did it on 4 bands, so this is a new record! Another remarkable contact was with PA0Q/OE3JRC Hans who is one of the organisation members of this contest. Hans is living in Austria near Vienna and I worked him on 80m when he worked remote from the Noord Brabant province on Saturday. I know that Hans is working with a magnetic loop from his home and would be QRV on Sunday on 20m. It was a surprise if I could hear him and the other way around. But we managed to make a good CW QSO, signal was really good actually.

Well after all it was an interesting contest with good propagation as expected. I had the feeling propagation was better on Sunday. For next year I hope to improve my CW because it is the only way to improve the score in the QRP section.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Upcoming weekend Dutch PACC contest


   This upcoming weekend I will participate in the PACC contest again. This contest will be 10-11 Feb. from 12-12 UTC (24h). I will participate in the QRP (mixed) section. 

A few years ago I was really fanatic about this contest. This resulted in a win of the SSB low power section, which is the biggest section, in 2020. After that I decided to do the QRP section only because it is the most difficult section and a large challenge. Of course in the end I would like to win this section. But to win it there is only one way.....learn to master the code...that's the biggest challenge of all.

   Propagation willl be reasonable according to the forecast. Hopefully I can do some more CW this time. I wish I could do the decoding without the help of the computer but unfortunatly I'm not that far. I will try to copy as much headcopy as possible though. Hopefully I will meet some of you bloggers and readers in this contest. 

Friday, February 2, 2024

#CQWW PA6AA 1st in explorer multi section


Well, this certificate is quite unique. For those that didn't read the previous posts about our experiment. It was first confirmed by the authorities to be legal. Then, after all, thoughts changed and it became illigal afterwards. Hopefully there will be a change of rules in the future here in the Netherlands. This is a very nice opportunity to contest together if you are not able to join together at one (contest) station.