Friday, 30 December 2011

Worked a QRP legend – GM3OXX

I had the pleasure of working one of the QRP legends a few moments ago. I was monitoring 28.060 MHz as I often do and I heard some weak signal calling CQ and the /QRP stood out like a sore thumb.

On careful listening I could make out that it was George Burt GM3OXX/QRP

I called him on QRP and was surprised that he immediately came back to my call. I gave him a 559, but in all honesty he was more like a 339 with QSB.

I then checked him out on Google and QRZ and was pretty chuffed to find that he is one of the great QRP pioneers.

Not sure what power he was using. I will review the recording I made; maybe it will reveal more info.

Who said QRP is for the birds?

73, Pierre ZS6A

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Tribute to the VHF Pioneers

 I stumbled across the following web site and it reminded me just how much has changed in our wonderful hobby.

Those pioneers of old must have been seriously committed, note the size of the equipment and the antennas used. Today the equipment we use is miniscule by comparison and most likely more sensitive with much lower noise figures to boot.

We also have excellent weak signal tools such as the WSJT suite of programs to assist us further.  Working on VHF today is a walk in the park compared to the early days.

I salute the pioneers of the past.

73, Pierre ZS6A

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Radio sport / Amateur Radio contesting, what’s the point?

I have been licensed for since 1975 (36 years) and never quite understood why anyone would want to consider exchanging a quick “599 001 TU” as satisfying?  Now, that I have participated in a quite a few local and international contests I find them most rewarding. So much so, that I really don’t get involved in any rag chews anymore.

Taking part in contests is not only about outright winning or achieving a good place it is also a great way to work new DXCC countries in a short period of time. It is also a very good test of one’s own skills and station capabilities. The great thing about this radio sport is that one does not necessarily need to be in the big gun category. We all have a place, whether QRP, antenna restricted to the unlimited stations, we can all have fun.

Looking at where we are now at in cycle 24, I can only imagine that the next two or three years should be most rewarding and I am looking forward to see what can be achieved.

73, Pierre ZS6A

Saturday, 17 December 2011

T32C East Kiribati – LoTW

I was very pleased to discover that the few QSOs I had with T32C has already been confirmed via LoTW.

I worked the DX expedition on several bands and I am extremely pleased to see that they uploaded the logs to LoTW so soon after the event.

Well done and thank you. A shining example of how it should be done.

73, Pierre ZS6A

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Using the DX cluster during contests.

In most or all contests one must chooses to work in either the assisted or the non-assisted class. Making use of any form of spotting network or using the DX cluster put one in the assisted class.

I always find that a fairly difficult decision to make. Having the advanced tool such as the contest logger N1MM with its band map that is automatically populated with spots from the DX cluster is a most valuable tool. Not only does it show the spotted call, but the colour is used to identify the station as being worked or un-worked or as a not yet worked and needed multiplier.

Unfortunately this same tool is being used by most other contesters. Within seconds of a nice rare multiplier being spotted the poor caller becomes swamped with callers that need work the station. This normally results in a pile up of note.

In some cases, some rely so heavily on the accuracy of the cluster information and don’t even listen to see if they hear the station and simply calls blind on the frequency causing QRM and spoiling it for many others.

That brings me to another gripe. Why do some stations insist on calling repeatedly, over and over, without listening to the direction given by the station at the other end of the pile up? No wonder so many rare stations give up in disgust and simply go QRT, spoiling it for the rest.

IMHO using technology to its fullest is the way to go and that includes using the DX cluster, but we really need to have some discipline of when to spot and when not to spot. Then as mentioned, making sure of that the call is correct, making sure that you are in fact copying the DX station and follow the instruction given by that station. Etc…..

I think as a rule I will be using assisted in the future for all contests unless it really becomes unattractive or illogical. For example: The ARRL 10M contest. Using assisted automatically places one in the multi op category. That does not make too much sense to me. It would have made more sense to have a single operator assisted class?

I guess it does not matter all that much. Contests are not only about competing and winning. They also provide us with an opportunity to see the bands come alive with activity and this is the ideal time to seek those outstanding DXCC’s, states, zones or whatever other goals we have…….

73, Pierre ZS6A

Monday, 12 December 2011

ARRL 10M 2011 Contest

Contesting from the slow lane……

I had a lot of fun taking part in the contest. The conditions on 10 metres were pretty good in my humble opinion. I  managed to work quite a few stations despite my mediocre setup.

The only antenna I have for 10 meters is a simple rotatable dipole up at 7 metres above the ground. This is obviously far from ideal and I would have done much better with a decent multi element gain type of antenna.

I operated CW only and was single operator, unassisted using high power.

I managed to make: 411 CW QSOs and managed 110 multipliers. This includes 62 DXCC countries and 47 USA states.

I have mixed feelings about not being able to use the cluster spots as a single operator. It would have been handy to find new multipliers, but on the other hand there were hardly any major pileups to contend with. I do like using technology to its fullest and I certainly enjoy working with N1MM and using all the tools it provides including the real-time updating of the band map. I hope that in the future the ARRL will permit single operator in the assisted class.

My CW is most definitely not as good as it should be. I find that as the contest progresses that I become more relaxed and the speeds seem to be less hectic. I cannot help, but wonder if the contests took place at a slightly slower pace if the “throughput” would not be better? The speed demons have to repeat so many times and that could possibly been avoided if the sending speed was a bit slower.

I can only admire the skills of most of the running stations. On most occasions I only needed to drop my call once and the reply came back immediately. How do they do it? I cannot decode a full call that fast, let alone decode and enter the call into the contest logger. I guess I still have a looooong way to go.

73, Pierre ZS6A

ZS6A ARRL 10M 2011 QSOs vs Time