ARRL Centennial QSO Party – W1AW QSO Tracking

To celebrate its centennial, the ARRL is hosting a year-long QSO party. On a rotating basis during the year, W1AW portable operations will be conducted from each US state and territory, and one of the objects of this QSO party is to contact as many of these W1AW stations as possible.

W1AW_Tracking_20140223b

The ARRL published a tracking sheet that was a bit cumbersome. Here is the one I’ve been using, in Microsoft Excel. Anybody wishing to give this a try can download it here.

W3SFG Tracking - W1AW Centennial QSOs

2013 Fall Contest Season

With the modest goal of bettering my previous scores, I’m enjoying the start of the 2013 contest season. If it survives log checking, I finally achieved a clean sweep in the ARRL Sweepstakes – CW event earlier this month. It should have been a fairly simple goal since I am operating in the “unlimited” category, with the benefit of spotting networks, but whatever advantage was accrued by technology was at least temporarily offset by my inexperience with the software (in this case, inadvertently filtering out needed sections in AK, HI, VI and PR). Still, I’m comfortable with my setup and looking forward to the CQWW DX CW contest that is coming up soon.

Slowly but surely I’m uploading logs and summaries for my significant contest efforts to this web site. It’s a tedious process that may need to be replaced with something a little more elegant (and using online logging resources that are already in use).

Field Day 2013

Field Day seemed like a good opportunity to put my portable station through some hoops, so I combined a few hours of operating with a weekend camping trip in Williamsport, Maryland. Although most of the station components have been used on previous outings, there were a few glitches that kept my number of QSOs in check.

Field Day 2013

I planned to use my Icom IC-7000, relying on the easy-to-erect Buddipole on a 10 foot mast as my HF antenna for the duration of the event. As usual, I was going to rely on N1MM Logger for rig control, CW keying and logging. In preliminary tests, though, RF was playing havoc with my laptop, causing either a loss of data connection or software crashes even at significantly reduced power. After a few frustrating hours, I traced the primary culprit to a USB extension cable. Removing that (and adding a few ferrite cores for good measure) solved the problem on most bands, but 20 meters was virtually unusable. Since I was not able to move the antenna much further from the travel trailer, I threw an end-fed multi-band antenna into the trees. Finally, after resolving a few com port issues and updating some software, I was in business.

At the end of the “contest” my modest 1B operation (single transmitter, portable, commercial power) I had booked 131 QSOs and 574 points over the course of about 7.5 hours of operating time (much of which was spent resolving problems). Two of the QSOs were on RTTY in a quick test of digital capabilities, but the rest were exclusively CW. Not an impressive performance, to be sure, but I am satisfied that a number of irritating problems have been fixed and I can enjoy portable operations for the rest of the summer. No doubt, I’ll be investing in some more high-quality coax and a handful of ferrite chokes in the near future (and possibly a longer mast for the Buddipole).

IC-7000 Remote Head Desk Stand

IC-7000 StandMy portable rack mount IC-7000 Go Kit has been working well, but I wanted to make better use of the limited space within our RV. Shown here is a simple stand that allows the remote head to be placed on the table with the rest of the kit stowed below. The Icom MB-105 control head mounting bracket is secured to a small piece of scrap wood (sanded and stained) with a single bolt. The end of the bolt is capped with rubber to protect the tabletop, and the control head is now presented at a comfortable angle. With this setup, I should have plenty of space on the table for my laptop and key.

Signs of our Times

PlaquesThese two plaques are now proudly displayed in my shack. Both are prototypes created by a woodworking company interested in getting into the business of creating customized callsign plaques – these were intended to test the capabilities of a new CNC router. More complex versions are in the offing once they’ve mastered the process. Very cool stuff!

Log Jam

Log Books

Log Books

Given the convenience of digital log books and the increasing use of online QSO databases, I decided that it was past time to digitize all of my paper log books. These date from the time of my first novice call (WN2UCR) in 1974, through the date of my last hand-written entry in 1996. Fortunately, some lengthy periods of inactivity have reduced the burden, and I’m somewhat more than halfway through this project.

All of this was accomplished through the largely inelegant process of transcribing these logs into a spreadsheet (one tab for each of my former callsigns), cleaning up data formats with a few formulas, renaming columns to conform to ADIF specifications, adding data to populate station location information (latitude, longitude, grid square, address, etc.), and converting to ADIF format (using DL1HW’s excellent and straightforward ADIF-to-Excel-to-ADIF Converter). Logs are being uploaded to LOTW and eQSL as they are completed (and I was thrilled to see some waiting confirmations from teh 1990s).

Upgrading the Shack

After replacing our steam radiators and furnace with a couple of heat pumps last summer, our basement had a little more (theoretically) usable space available for something more productive than storing crates of long-forgotten household goods. So, I decided to move my shack from the spare credenza in my home office and my workbench from the closet in that office and create a new space. W3SFG New Shack

We sealed the raw cinderblock against water leaks, added 3 new 20 amp circuits, ran ethernet cables from our upstairs router, added insulation beneath the living room floor (as much for sound-proofing as for insulation), erected a wall to separate this corner of the basement from traffic and tool storage, repaired and painted the cement floor, and painted the walls. We then built a desk and workbench using solid core wood doors.

Finally, I ran new antenna feedline and set up all of the equipment. After doing battle with some of the quirks in my new Windows 8 computer, everything seems to be in good working order. Lots more that can be done, but I now have the space to pursue some new radio-related project.

Portable Operation from Otter Lake

Otter Lake, Pennsylvania

Finally, operating portable from our travel trailer, at Otter Lake in the Poconos. The IC-7000 “Go Kit” has been wonderful, facilitating rapid deployment and easy storage of the station (e.g. when we needed to clear the table for meals). The only glitch to be resolved is due to the RF sensitivity of the CW Touch Keyer I chose to include; reducing the sensitivity of the paddle was insufficient to overcome the effects of stray RF. I assume this is due to a combination of poor shielding in the camper and proximity to the antenna (the feed point of this end fed antenna is just a few yards away).

Addressing the extreme RFI when operating in the trailer was a bit more challenging – noise levels were so high as to make operation virtually impossible, with only the strongest signals emerging from the high noise floor. Eventually, I was able to map this to the AC to DC converter, and simply turned off the appropriate circuit breaker when I wanted to get on the air (although this also killed some of our AC outlets).

After a few initial CW QSOs, I decided to test my configuration for digital modes. Using Ham Radio Deluxe + DM780, PSK31 is working well (as is CW using the K1EL Winkeyer). And, JT65-HF is now setup and operating. Although I haven’t yet attempted any phone contacts with the IC-7000, all seems to be working on HF. Next time we’re out camping I’ll try to get VHF/UHF working, and maybe try to make some satellite contacts. In the meantime, my next project is to get the IC-7000 setup for mobile operation (the Little Tarheel II antennal, GeoTools stake pocket mount, and a set of PowerPole cables / adaptors should arrive next week).

IC-7000 Go Kit – Version 1

I’ve been taking my recently-acquired Icom IC-7000 on a number of trips lately, but really wanted a more elegant approach to transporting and connecting the various components. After reviewing a number of examples on the internet (which were primarily intended for emergency communications, with a focus on W3SFG IC7000 Go Kitportable battery power), I opted to build this in an aluminum-framed rack bag. Components include:

Case: Gator GR Rackbag 4U with a single Raxxess universal rack tray UNS1.

Rig: Icom IC-7000, HF/VHF/UHF all-mode transceiver

Tuner: LDG IT-100

Power Supply: MFJ 4125 (25 amp)

Keyer: K1EL Winkeyer USB

Digital Interface: Tigertronics SignaLink USB (located behind the K1EL Winkeyer)

Keyer Paddle: CW Touch Keyer P1BS

The IC-7000 is secured to the shelf using its mobile mounting bracket; the power supply and tuner are secured to the bottom of the case with industrial strength Velcro. All other pieces are attached with velcro strips or cable ties, as is excess wire / cabling. A USB hub is mounted in the rear so that the only cables that need to exit the pack are a single USB cable (for rig control, sound card interface and K1EL keyer), a 110v power cord, and the antenna coax.

I’ll be field-testing this soon. In the meantime, I spent a few hours at the dining room table with a makeshift antenna to configure everything (mostly. learning the IC-7000 menu system), and have DM-780 working for the usual suite of digital modes, plus JT65-HF. I’ll play more later, but at least I now have a portable station that can be on the air in minutes.

 

CQ Worldwide DX Contest

Despite numerous conflicts, I managed to spend a couple of hours playing in the CQ WW RTTY contest this past weekend. 10 meters was wide open on Saturday and Sunday, and is where I spent the majority of my time (once I mastered the basics of N1MM + MMTTY).

Today, an unexpected surprise in my mailbox – a certificate from last year’s CQ WW DX CW contest, showing a first place finish in the obscure Region 3, low power, assisted, 10 meter category! Not an impressive effort by any means, but the first time I’ve managed to garner a certificate of any sort in one of these events. Maybe this is the inspiration I need to take this year’s CW contest seriously.

 
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