Sunday, September 27, 2009

Scandinavian Activity Contest

After an unusually stressful week at work, I thought that I might try to find some time to participate in the CQ WW DX RTTY contest between taking care of some errands and other "weekend things". As it turns out, I didn't do that, but I made around 40 contacts in the Scandinavian Activity Contest. The folks participating in that contest were very friendly, with a few occasionally stopping to briefly chat, inquire about how their signal sounded, and even tell me that I had a good signal. (That's always nice to hear.) Since I hadn't planned on participating in the contest, I looked only briefly at the rules and had to check their website to see how to submit my log. For folks submitting a Cabrillo format log (which most contesters using an electronic log will do), they provide a simple form where you can upload your log. The r
eally slick thing is that as soon as you upload it, they do an immediate syntax check (so you'll know if there are any errors), then post your claimed score on their website along with everyone else in your category.

I submitted as Outside Europe, Single Operator, Multi-band, low power and I guess I'm kind of in the middle of the pack at the moment. Of course, this is subject to log checking (I may have made an error logging a station or two) and it will change as others submit their logs, but it's nice to get immediate feedback. Another excellent use of technology by the contest organizers.

One nice side-effect of just "playing around" in the contest was that I did not only work OH0Z on Aland Island on 75m, but as soon as I uploaded my log to Logbook of The World this afternoon I got a confirmation of that contact, bringing me to 97 countries confirmed on that band. I'm getting pretty close to being able to submit for the 5 Band DXCC award.

Posted via email from K2DBK's Ham Radio Blog

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Here's why you should use Logbook of The World

I've been a fan of Logbook of The World (LoTW) since it was announced by the ARRL, and have written about it in previous posts. I've gotten a lot of stations confirmed by the use of this electronic QSL method, but today was, I think, the first time that I've gotten a confirmation for an all-time new entity via LoTW prior to receiving a physical card. By way of explanation, for new entities, I always send out a card to the station that I worked. At this point that's a relatively rare occurrence, so I normally mail my QSL card to the other station pretty quickly. Under the best of circumstances, I'm thrilled to hear back from the other station in 2 or 3 weeks. It's not unusual to wait 3 months or even longer (sometimes a lot longer; I'm still getting cards back from stations that I contacted in 2000), but in this case, I got confirmation via LoTW today for a contact made just 3 days ago. In fact, the total elapsed time between me "sending" my QSL record to LoTW and the confirmation being made was a grand total of 36 hours. (This information is available within the system.) You can't beat that kind of turnaround time.

It's not that unusual to get a confirmation from a domestic US station within minutes of a contact (especially at the end of a contest, where many stations all upload their log information at once), but this is a confirmation of a contact that I made with a station located in the Solomon Islands. Wow.

And yes, I will send for a physical card for this contact as well, just because it's fun to have the cards.

Posted via email from k2dbk's posterous

Sunday, September 06, 2009

A Rosetta Stone

As I mentioned in my post earlier today, I'm using a new service that allows me to post to multiple locations at once. As I mentioned, I'm still "tuning" that service a bit, so some of you saw my post about ham radio who hadn't seen any of my previous posts.

For a while now, I've been posting to a blog about my ham radio activities. If you care to read it, it's located at In many of the posts, I'll either directly post an explanation about an unfamiliar term, or at least provide a link to a place where you can learn more information about that term. In the post earlier today which many of you saw via Facebook, I used a fair amount of jargon without explanation. So far I've gotten one "Huh??" (sorry Mona) and I suspect that there are a bunch of you who were thinking the same thing. In an attempt to provide at least a vague idea of what the heck I was talking about, I'd like to try to explain a few of the terms that I used.

DX - DX is ham radio shorthand for "distant station". In the context of the subject of my last post ("Finally, some new DX"), it means that I have made contact with a station relatively far away, and in this case, as the posting goes on to explain, I contacted a station in a new country.

Country isn't actually accurate. I participate in a program where you can earn awards for contacting stations in different locations. For the most part, a "location" is a country, but because of distance and other rules that I won't go into here, Alaska and Hawaii, although both states, count separately from the continental US. These locations are referred to as DXCC Entities, because DXCC is the name of the awards program. (If you're still interested, drop me a note and I can explain further.)

20m - That's short for 20 meters, which refers to the general radio frequency that I was using. It's a shorthand way to tell fellow hams where the contact was made. 20 meters is pretty much the same as saying 14 megahertz, and megahertz (abbreviated Mhz)is a term that you might be a little more familiar with. For instance, in the US, broadcast FM stations transmit between around 88 to 108 Mhz. (e.g., in the NY City area, a popular Classic Rock station is Q1043, which broadcasts on 104.3 Mhz.

CW - Most people know this as Morse Code. The abbreviation of CW stands for "Continuous Wave", which is a description of how morse code is actually transmitted most of the time on the radio.

Split up 2 - I'm going to gloss over this (because I'm trying not to write War and Peace - The Amateur Radio Years), but it has to do with where the operator running the remote station is listening for people calling him versus where he is transmitting.

K2DBK vs. K2DB - Ham radio operators (or hams) are licensed by their country governments. (In the US, the FCC issues licenses). By international convention, each station licensee receives a callsign, just like a commercial radio station. In the example above, the station known as Q1043 is actually licensed as WXRK, and if you listen, even though the DJs refer to the station as Q104 or Q1043, they will "ID" using the WXRK callsign periodically, as required by law. Callsigns for all types of radio stations (including amateur, or ham stations) are determined by international convention. Part of that convention says what a callsign can look like, including numbers, letters, and so on. Skimming over a lot of things, in the US, most callsigns start with W, N, K, or A, and there are rules that specify that there must be so many letters and where the number goes. (For any fellow hams reading this, yes, I am oversimplifying this.) My personal callsign is K2DBK. In this particular case, it's what's known as a vanity call (very much like a vanity license plate) with the "DBK" at the end being my initials. It turns out that K2DB is also a valid call, which is assigned to a nice guy named Paul.

599 - When two stations make a contact with each other, each station has to make sure that they have received the other station's callsign correctly, and generally there is an exchange of a report of signal strength. (How well can the other station hear me, and how well do I hear him.) 599 is a shorthand that basically says "I hear your loud and clear". As it turns out, quite often, a 599 report is sent even if you don't hear the other station that well, but it fills the requirement.

Solar Flux, A and K index and solar conditions - Solar Flux, A and K are numbers used by those interested in propagation. For long distance communications, we bounce our radio signals off the ionosphere. In very simple terms, the more sunspots there are, the easier it is to bounce our signals. You may have read that we are at a point of very low solar activity (virtually no sunspots), which makes communicating via radio over these long distances much more difficult. A simple way to understand this is to imagine someone holding a mirror 10 feet above you at night. If the mirror is dirty (bad solar conditions), a flashlight beam will bounce off of it, but not very well. On the other hand, if the mirror is nice and shiny, the beam will travel better.

So I hope this is helpful to some of you. If you're interested in more information, please don't hesitate to ask.

Posted via email from k2dbk's posterous

Finally, some new DX!

It's been quite a while since I've updated my blog, but I did have something worthwhile happen this afternoon, so I thought I'd do a quick post about it. (As an aside, I'm testing a service called "Posterous" which will auto-post this update to several places, including Facebook, my blog, and others. I'll tune the postings as I learn how this works, but you may see this post multiple times until then.)

Sharon and I were out doing a little shopping and running a few errands, then I came home and figured out how to fix the leaking toilet (the washer connecting the fill line seems to have dried out), then sat down at the radio to see what was on. It turns out that the conditions to the South Pacific in generally were pretty good, and I saw a spot for H44MY in the Solomon Islands on 20m CW.  I tuned there, and sure enough, I could hear them surprisingly well. They were working split up 2, so I figured I might as well give them a call, despite the relatively large pileup. After only about 5 minutes of trying, the operator returned my call (or part of it, he initially only came back with K2DB, and while Paul (K2DB) is a nice enough guy I wanted that contact!) so I resent my call a couple of times, he "rogered" and sent the call back along with the pro-forma 599 report, and we were done. My rather loud "Yahoo!" surprised Sharon who was sitting next to me, since to her, CW is just "beepy stuff".

In any case, this is yet another example of being able to work some surprisingly good DX even when the solar conditions are awful. (As I write this, there are no sunspots, the solar flux number is 69, which is pretty much where it's been for the last year or so, the A index is 4, and K is 0.) At the moment, there a lot of stations on from that general part of the world, operating in the All-Asia DX contest, so I'll see if I can get double-lucky and perhaps pick up another new one.

Posted via email from k2dbk's posterous