Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Morse code – Belongs to the past.

I guess the title of this posting must have evoked a few reactions?

I suspect that CW (Morse code) is now more popular than it has ever been before. I think this can be attributed to quite a few developments in the sphere of amateur radio.

CW is used extensively in radio sport i.e. contesting and remains the most effective mode for chasing rare DX entities. CW is way more effective with weak signal work and the rubber stamp exchanges used during contests and expeditions, transcend language barriers that otherwise would have existed.

Then there are the fantastic (free) software tools to help guide newcomers to this great mode. I know there are many such software packages, but I have used two of them and they have helped me a great deal.

 The first is the program written by G4FON – “CW Trainer” (Koch method). It is a brilliant tool. Do read the instructions first.  (I have the nasty habit of getting a program installed without reading the instructions). The suggestions made are most important to consider before using the program. I wish I had this tool when I started out some 37 years ago. Maybe I would be a hot shot CW operator now, but alas this is not the case!

The second software package, is the “Morse Runner” contest simulator, written by Alex VE3NEA. IMHO this program is most useful once you are fairly proficient with CW. Then use this tool to sharpen your contest skills. If only I would spend a few minutes every day using this tool, I am sure it would make a huge improvement in my contest rates.

Long live CW

Monday, 28 November 2011

CQ-WW-CW 2011

Let’s set the record straight right from the beginning. I am no big contester, nor do I have large or efficient antennas at my disposal. In fact, the only half decent HF antenna I have up at the moment, is a homemade rotatable dipole for 10M.

Due to various reasons, I could not give the contest my full attention and could only devote a few hours to the event. I decided to take part using QRP and only work 10M.

I am pleased to say that conditions were very good and I made a fair amount of QSOs, including some nice new DXCC entities. I worked 39 stations in the first 24 hours, all on QRP, then I got a bit impatient and felt a bit frustrated losing out on new and rare countries. I then operated QRO for the remainder of the contest. What a difference it made to the QSO rates! I managed to work a further 110 stations in the 8 hours that followed. I guess that is a pretty poor performance by all contest standards? BUT, during this single contest I managed to work 60 DXCC entities, 23 zones and 8 all-time new countries.

I was using N1MM Contest logger. What an amazing program! Each and every time I use it, I discover new little tricks and features. It sure makes contesting much easier and it is pleasure to use. Needless to say, my log has already been uploaded to LoTW, my own HRD log as well as to the CQ-WW contest robot.

73, Pierre ZS6A

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Amateur Radio at its best: Part 2 - VE7SL

A while back I wrote on my blog about a very memorable QSO I had with Steve VE7SL on 10M. Steve was using a homebrew “Longfeller” valve transmitter running only 8 watts.

I was very pleased to receive a QSL card and a photo of his transmitter he used.

To me this is much more meaningful and personal than receiving some DXCC award or the like.

Homebrew, vintage valves and almost QRP. Does not get any better than this.

Thanks Steve !!

73, Pierre ZS6A

Thursday, 17 November 2011

6M TEP Season - Not over yet

I received some emails from Paul ZS6NK with the screen shot below. He is some 300 km North of my QTH. This makes a huge difference when it comes to Trans Equatorial Propagation (TEP).

I thought that the 6 Meter TEP season was history, apparently not. The photo below says it all.

It must have been a very good opening. The footprint reached much further South than usual, Johannesburg and  Durban were able to work into Europe. That happens very rarely with TEP.

Looks like it was a good 6M opening. Pity I missed out on it.

73, Pierre ZS6A

ZS6NK 6M Activity 16 Nov 2011

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

South African DXCC Standings

I received the following info from Chris Burger ZS6EZ (email below)

He has undertaken the mammoth task of tracking the progress of the various South African DX leader’s achievements. It makes for interesting reading.

Please assist Chris in providing him with feedback regarding omissions, errors or updates.

73, Pierre ZS6A


As you all know, I publish a number of lists of operating achievements by South Africans:

The most familiar are the Band Country Survey and the South African DXCC

Recently, I added an extract from the DX Foot Club:

This week, I started building a new addition: Lists of South Africans with WAS and WAZ.

I would imagine most of you have these awards, and you may also know others who do. Please let me have particulars, regardless of how incomplete they may be. Once we know that a certain individual had WAS or WAZ, we can start digging for more details. If you have a collection of old CQ magazines, please also see if you can contribute some information.
Lists were normally published monthly in the DX column.

Finally, I'm also in the process of adding a list of WAS scores on LotW.
The Triple Play has generated a lot of interest in WAS, and several South Africans are completing WAS on many different bands and modes. If you send me your scores (directly off LotW), I'll include them in the table. I'll probably place the file at:



Monday, 14 November 2011

ZONE 38 - Amateur Radio Chat

During the weekend I decided to start a face book group that provided Radio Amateurs with a platform to discuss any topic relating to our great hobby. There are other local groups using face book groups, but they all are limited to a particular aspect of the hobby. The initial idea was to have a focus was on the Southern Africa region, but there is no reason why anyone from other regions may not take part.

The ZONE 38 group might just be the thing to get more people involved in the culture of sharing interesting bits of information with each other.

We do have local amateur radio forums, but for various reasons they have become ineffective. The main forum is the one run by the South African Radio League (SARL). Unfortunately, recently they decided to restrict access to non-members and allow only members of the SARL access to the forum. This was a very big mistake in my humble opinion.

The FB group "ZONE 38" is open to all. Any Radio Amateur is welcome to join the group if they feel so inclined.

The group is in its infancy and it is way too early to know if it will succeed.

73, Pierre ZS6A

Richard G3CWI - QRPp PP3 Magic

The information below is quoted from the SOTA reflector.

Wow !!

This is a very remarkable achievement IMHO. Imagine all those QSOs with one single tiny 9V PP3 battery powering a 100 mW transceiver.

And some still don’t say QRP is for the birds?

73, Pierre ZS6A

Great short skip again today.

Battery: #1
Activation: #23
Summit: G/SP-013
Band: 30m
Finish Voltage at room temp: 7.79 Volts
QSOs: 25
New DXCCs: None
Cumulative QSOs: 268
Cumulative DXCCs: 18 (ON, S5, OK, PA, G, DK, I, LA, F, OE, HB9, HA, SM, 9A, EV, EA, OZ, GW)

**New World Record**

Thanks to all the regular callers - it's much appreciated!



Saturday, 12 November 2011

The adventures of Steve wG0AT

I have not seen any activity from Steve wG0AT and his goats for quite a while now. He was very active at on stage on his blog site and later on, on YouTube. He produced many a very interesting documentary on various QRP outdoors activities and escapades.

I was a little concerned that he had lost interest in this, but fortunately I see that is not the case. I see he has placed a few photos on picaseweb of very recent escapades.

Sorry Steve, I feel a bit like a ‘lurker’ but I missed your interesting contributions, looking forward to seeing much more.

Keep up the good work.

73, Pierre ZS6A

Saturday, 5 November 2011

RaDAR contest - Nov 2011

I have just returned from taking part in the RaDAR (Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio) event. The RaDAR event is a fun activity designed to test one’s ability to rapidly erect a small field station and to operate independently from normal power sources. Ideally the entire station must be transported by human power to the operating site.

I chose to use my homebuilt K2 transceiver a small 6AH SLA battery and a link dipole antenna. I operated both on CW and SSB. All the QSOs were made on 40M. For some reason most participants are hesitant to try the higher bands.

The event took place over 6 hours, but after 2 hours I had enough of sitting flat on the ground and decided to call it quits.

I did manage to make 34 QSOs, 28 SSB and 6 CW QSOs. There is something very special about working CW, whilst being outdoors.

I was hoping to make a few DX contacts on 10M, but my untested antenna seemingly had a high SWR and I did not want to subject the K2 to this. Pity, since the 10M band seemed to be alive with CW activity.

Had fun all the same….