Sunday, October 31, 2010

A little contesting this weekend

I spent about 10 hours Saturday and Sunday making some contacts in the CQ WW SSB contest. This is one of the biggest contests, where the goal is to work stations, for the most part, outside of your own country. You get two points for working a station on your own continent (if you're in North America, one point elsewhere) and three points for working stations on another continent. There are also multipliers for each different country and CQ Zone that you contact. As with other contests, your score is computed by multiplying the number of points by the multipliers. World-class competition stations typically have scores in the millions or even tens of millions for the high-power multi-operator stations. My score was quite a bit more modest, just a bit under 115,000 points. That beats my score from last year, though I've done better in the past. (Though I've also spent more time in the past.)

This isn't one of my favorite contests specifically because it is so popular. Because it is so popular, there are almost always a lot of stations calling, which makes it harder for a small station like mine to be heard. As a result, stations that I'm hearing very well just can't hear me, and it often took several minutes to work stations that under non-contest conditions could be very easy. In a lot of cases, I'd just give up and move on, sometimes coming back to try to work the stations again later.

Partway into the contest, I came up with a technique that made things a little less frustrating: I intentionally made my station "hard of hearing". Normally, although I've got a very modest antenna (my G5RV), my radio is quite good at pulling in relatively weak stations. However, in this case, there was little point in trying to work very weak stations because they weren't going to hear me. What I did was to turn off any pre-amplification (kind of like a "hearing aid") for all bands, and on some bands (particularly 40m and 80m), I put in 8db or more of attenuation. (Kind of like putting in earplugs.) There were still plenty of stations to hear, and with my self-imposed handicap, I found that I was a lot more likely to work these stations.

This technique isn't something that I'd normally recommend, but for this particular contest, it kept me from wasting time on stations that I really had no chance of working.

Here's my score breakdown for the contest. One interesting thing is that this is one of a very few contests where I've actually worked stations on all six possible HF bands.

        Band    QSOs     Pts  Cty   ZN
         1.8       2       2    2    2
         3.5      22      50   17   11
           7      62     172   39   12
          14      87     223   45   18
          21      45     113   25   16
          28       8      22    7    3
       Total     226     582  135   62
 My total score was 114, 654 points, which, as always, is subject to adjustment for any errors that I (probably) made.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A meta-post

This is a short meta-post. That is, it's a post about my posts. Actually, it's a post about some responses that I've been getting to my posts. In my recent post about how the pileups for some of the PJ stations were huge, Bill, W9VA, who was the operator at PJ2T at the time that I posted the image of my bandscope, comments about what it was like on the other end of the pileup.

On my soapbox post about how people don't seem to listen, I got a bunch of comments. Most of them were agreements with my thoughts (including a rather astonishing anecdote from Ed, N4EMG). There was also a comment from Jeremy, KB7QOA, who mentions that he hasn't jumped into the piles because he hasn't learned how to operate split on his radio. David, K2DSL, responded with detailed instructions, which really demonstrates the ham spirit.

As an aside, the reason why I'm mentioning these comments is because Blogger, the platform that I use for blogging, doesn't support an easy way for folks to see comments that have been posted after they've read an entry, and I wanted to make sure that my readers had the opportunity to see them. If you've commented recently, or even not so recently, and I didn't mention it, please don't take it personally. I do read and usually reply to most comments here and they are greatly appreciated.

Thanks for everyone for contributing.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

C'mon people, listen!

A lot has been written recently (including by me) about the general conduct of hams on the airwaves. Over the last few days, I've seen something that has just been so absurd that I had to vent here. 

I've discussed operating in pileups before, and how it's important to listen to the operator's instructions to understand where they are listening. It's frustrating when an operator doesn't listen and calls right on top of the DX station instead of on his split frequency. While there's really no excuse, the occasional call or two can be understood by operators who just send 5NN TU (on CW) or just "Thanks" on phone without giving the split often. The same can be said for those operators who don't ID often.

What I cannot understand, and to me what's totally inexcusable was the behavior that I've seen on RTTY in the pileups for the folks operating from the new PJ entities recently. The vast majority of operators at the DX end seem to be really top-notch operators and are doing their best to control the pileup. They leave nothing to chance when, at the end of a contact, they send something like "K2DBK TU DE PJ7E UP 2-4". You know who the station is, and you know that they are listening for your transmission 2-4 up. In spite of this, operators repeatedly (and I don't mean once or twice, but dozens of times) continue to call on the operators transmit frequency, not where he's listening.

I believe in Heinlein's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. I don't believe that most of these operators are calling just to QRM (create noise) on the DX station. For one thing, they are all using their callsigns, so we know who they are. (There is a chance that they are using someone else's callsign to intentionally make them look bad, but I don't think that's the case.) I think that either they don't have a good enough copy on on the DX station to be able to understand that he's listening on a different frequency, or they don't understand what "UP" means. In the former case, they shouldn't be calling at all. If you don't have a good enough copy on a station to receive what they are sending, how on earth are you going to know if you've worked them? If it's the latter, and you don't know that "UP" means that the operator is working stations using split operation, then ask someone what it means, don't just ignore it.

Incidentally, I want to mention that I've looked up a number of callsigns that are guilty of this behavior. There is a mix of stations, but a significant number of stations seem to be US Amateur Extra class, and, as best I can tell, they have been Extras for quite some time. This isn't a case of "no-coders" not knowing how to operate. It may well be that RTTY, which has increased in popularity recently, is new to these operators, but like any mode you need to learn how to use it.

When in doubt, refer to the DX Code of Conduct

Friday, October 15, 2010

P5? Nope, PJ

Now that the PJ operations have been underway for a while, you'd think that the pileups would have started to die down a bit. In some cases they have, but I was kind of surprised to see how big some of them remained. I guess it varies depending on band, propagation, and where you're located, but this morning I saw PJ2T spotted on 17m CW and I figured I'd give him a call. He nice and loud, but he had a huge pileup. This is what my bandscope looked like.

By way of explanation, what you're seeing is that I was tuned to 18.07201 MHz, which was where PJ2T was transmitting. I was set to call him split on 18.073Mhz. The big pile of green and light blue on the scale represents the other stations that are calling him. The scope was configured so that each white vertical line represents 10KHz of space. What you can see is that the callers for PJ2T were spread out over around 20Khz of space. Those of you who are DXers will appreciate how big that is, but normally for a "routine" DX operation you might see callers spread out to 2, 3, or maybe 5KHz. It's only when a really "rare one" comes on that you typically see something like this. (Hence my reference to P5, North Korea, in the subject.) Oh, and keep in mind that these are only the callers that my radio can hear. Imagine what it must sound like on his end? I do want to say that the operator is doing a terrific job.

As a reminder, I've been collecting web sites and other internet presence information for the PJ DX operations on a special page here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Some info for the current PJ operations

I've started collecting a list of the websites for the ongoing operations from the new DXCC entities in PJ (Netherland Antilles). I originally intended to do this for myself (so that I could make sure that my contacts were in the logs), but realized that it'd be useful for others. (I apologize if this has been done already, I couldn't find a simple list myself.) The list as it stands is definitely incomplete and I'll be adding to it as I find other websites. I've set it up as a separate page here on my blog which you can get to by clicking  Websites for 10/10/10 Operations from PJ2-7 from the list of pages at the top of my blog (or by just clicking that link).

At the time that I'm writing this, at least two of the sites have live video streams, most have online logs that seem to be updated very frequently, and one (PJ4D) even has a real-time log. It's fun listening to the op (either via the video stream or over the air) and watching the calls scroll up the screen. 

Please let me know either by email or a comment to this of any additions or corrections and I'll be happy to publish them.

Monday, October 04, 2010

One worked, one confirmed

Yesterday I worked Kouichi, JI1FGX/DU9 operating from Mindanao Islands in the Philippines. I'd worked a DU back in 2002 but unfortunately have been unable to get a confirmation from him. His US manager hasn't received logs from him in years, and as a result can't confirm my contact. Kouichi was the first DU contact since then, and I was very happy to discover that he has an active manager in Japan, so my chances of getting a confirmation from him are excellent.

Along the same lines, today I received a QSL card back from the 3C9B DXpedition to Equatorial Guinea that I'd worked in June of this year. That confirms my 295th country in mixed mode and 218th confirmed on CW. (I see that I have about 35 countries on CW that I haven't confirmed yet, I guess I'd better start getting some cards sent out.)

My numbers will change in about a week when the reorganization of the Netherlands Antilles results in a probable deletion of 2 entities and the addition of 4 or 5, but I'm very happy to be so close to 300.