Thursday, September 30, 2010

Plenty of new DX entities coming

Because of the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles as single political entity effective 10/10/10 (one of those dates that you don't have to worry about whether that is in "American" or "rest of the world" format), the status of some existing DXCC entities will change. The details of this have been discussed elsewhere and the ARRL has said that there will be new entities formed for DXCC award purposes. All of those locations are in the Caribbean, and all are easy to work from the US, particularly from the east coast where I'm located. Because of the way that the DXCC program works, anyone who wants to keep their DXCC totals up will need to work all the "new" entities in order for them to count for award credit. To help out all those who will be interested in contacting these new entities (and there will be a lot of us), DXpeditions have been planned to activate all of those islands starting on the 10/10/10 date. I hope that everyone keeps in mind the DX Code of Conduct that I wrote about last week. It's going to be tempting for everyone to try to force their way into the pileups, but it's important to realize that: A) The operators working the DXpeditions are experienced and in all likelyhood they will work you and B) Even if you aren't able to work those DXpeditions, all the islands have regular activity and they'll be on the air again soon.

The different DXpedtions agreed on a bandplan to minimize the interference between themselves. My recommendation is that you print out a copy of this document (PDF file) and keep it at your operating location. By following the bandplan, you'll have a much better chance of working the station that you think you're working. 

Be patient, you'll work them, these are not difficult islands to get to and it's not worth getting into an on-air fight in an attempt to work them. Be courteous and you should have a good shot. Good luck.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The DX Code Of Conduct

It's been several years (about 2 1/2) since I last editorialized about DX behavior in this blog. I try not to get on my soapbox too often, but I think I can write again on that same subject now that some time has passed.

Actually, I'll let someone else do most of the work for me this time, after a bit of an introduction. In response to the increasingly poor standard of operating practice being heard on the bands, particularly when working DX, the First Class CW Operators Club formulated a draft DX Code of Conduct that they are trying to publicize. You can follow the links on their website, but they've also created a website at that has a number of useful resources (as well as the code itself, of course). I recommend that you visit their website and click around to learn more.

DX Code of Conduct
  • I will listen, and listen, and then listen again before calling.
  • I will only call if I can copy the DX station properly.
  • I will not trust the cluster and will be sure of the DX station's call sign before calling.
  • I will not interfere with the DX station nor anyone calling and will never tune up on the DX frequency or in the QSX slot.
  • I will wait for the DX station to end a contact before I call.
  • I will always send my full call sign.
  • I will call and then listen for a reasonable interval. I will not call continuously.
  • I will not transmit when the DX operator calls another call sign, not mine.
  • I will not transmit when the DX operator queries a call sign not like mine.
  • I will not transmit when the DX station calls other geographic areas than mine.
  • When the DX operator calls me, I will not repeat my call sign unless I think he has copied it incorrectly.
  • I will be thankful if and when I do make a contact.
  • I will respect my fellow hams and conduct myself so as to earn their respect.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    2010 September VHF Contest - Yuck!

    This is going to be pretty short, because there's not a whole lot to say. I had a few hours of free time this weekend to work in the ARRL September VHF QSO Party contest. I'm not really sure where the name "QSO Party" comes from, but this was one of the most boring parties that I've even been to. (For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is just another contest, hence my question about the name.) Typically band conditions for VHF contests aren't terrific in September, but usually there are a reasonable number of people to work. This year wasn't typical.

    As with most of my contesting efforts, I participate on a part-time basis. I had a few hours Saturday afternoon and more hours Sunday afternoon. I think that my total operating time was around 6 hours, and for those 6 hours, I managed an average of about 7 1/2 QSOs per hour, for a grand total of 45 contacts. That was just plain awful. I only worked 6 meters, and had a total of 10 grids for the contest. Most of the folks who I spoke with were having similar results.

    I generally like the VHF contests, particularly on 6m, because you never know when the band might open up and you'll suddenly be able to work across the country. This year, the farthest contact that I had was in FM18 in Virginia to the south, and FM43 in Maine to the north. Usually there will be an opening down to the south or southwest, and typically I'll pick up a few grids in Florida, but not this year.

    A lot of that six hours was spent with either the voice or CW keyer sending my CQs while I occupied myself otherwise. (Sharon's glad, because it gave me a chance to finally upgrade her computer from an ancient version of Eudora to the current version of Thunderbird. But I digress...)

    The only consolation that I have is that it seems that the folks in my area were all in the same boat, but I can't say that this was one of the more fun contests in recent memory.

    Here's my score summary:

            Band  Mode  QSOs    Pts   Grd
              50  CW       3      3     1
              50  USB     42      42    9
           Total  Both    45      45   10
    Score: 450
     450 points? Seriously? Ouch. I miss 2006. (Ok, those were earlier in the summer, but they sure were a lot more fun.)

    Tuesday, September 07, 2010

    You should be ashamed of yourself

    The title of this entry is a phrase that I recall hearing numerous times, probably from a grandparent, when I was growing up. It was usually in response to me doing something that I shouldn't have done, and it was a form of punishment that relied on my own sense of guilt for doing something that I knew was wrong. 

    As adults, we learn about things as we go through life, and part of what we learn is to distinguish between things that are right and things that are wrong. We also learn that life is complex, and that sometimes the distinction between right and wrong isn't very clear. The philosophical implications of that ambiguity are beyond me and something better left to the professionals (such as my uncle and cousin, both of whom have chaired the philosophy department at a major university). However, there are some fairly well-defined things that we all agree are wrong. One thing that we all know is wrong is cheating. Cheating can be defined as "Acting dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage, especially in a game or examination". 

    Recently, the sponsors of the CQ World Wide DX contests have begun to do something that should have been done long ago. They are publicly identifying and punishing those who cheat in their contests. A recent article on the Radio-Sport blog discusses how a number of well-known contesters have been either disqualified or moved into different categories because they were caught cheating. In a very few cases, the operators involved accidentally broke the rules, but it appears now that the majority of them knew what they were doing was wrong, and didn't expect to get caught. In the past, when such things happened, they weren't well-publicized, and often the only way anyone ever found out was by noticing that a well-known station was missing from the final results. Even then, the contest sponsor would not comment on the reason for the disqualification. It just "happened".

    From the information published in the Radio-Sport blog, it would appear that most amateurs are pleased with CQ's new policy of naming and publicly punishing the offenders. I am certainly among them, and I'd like to congratulate CQ for this new policy.  Just like in "real life", if you cheat and get caught, you will have to suffer the consequences. CQ has done a good job of shaming those involved in cheating, which I think is warranted. In ham radio contests, we aren't competing for multi-million dollar prizes, we're competing for the right to be proud of our accomplishments. If you cheat, removing that pride is pretty much all that can be done.

    I would like to encourage the ARRL and other contest sponsors to follow CQ's lead. The technology exists today to catch cheaters, and it should be used wherever possible to do so. Quietly disqualifying someone is a disservice and an insult to the vast majority of operators who contest honestly and with integrity.