CW Again

I have been practicing Morse code on and off for the last several years. Most of the time has been driving in the truck listening to some very old cassette tapes that were given to me back in the 80’s. I converted them to MP3 files years ago and have kept them on my audio player. Also I have left the HF rig or one of the online WebSDR sites play on some CW contacts. W4AX is my favorite.

When I was first licensed fifteen meters was loaded with CW contacts every afternoon. Although I never made a lot of contacts, I did have a good bit of fun with my Argonaut 509. So some of my motivation comes from that fun. Also if one wants to make a lot of points in many of the contests CW proficiency is necessary.

My last real CW contacts, two, were back in Tennessee about five years ago. I did make one contact for the 2012 CW November Sweepstakes. I listened to one slower station for a while getting his information. Then I called him and gave him my information. Fortunately I was able to copy him asking for a repeat. I was running five watts from the truck with a Hamstick. I did try doing this again yesterday for the ARRL CW DX contest, but could not find anyone slow enough to copy from the truck.

Last week I connected a straight key and put it on the seat of the truck. On the way home I started calling CQ on fifteen meters running ten watts. After about five calls a station near Houston, Texas responded. Thankfully he was sending as slowly as I was sending, about five words per minute. I have had several contacts in years past where I started the contact around ten words per minute and as the conversation continued the other station sped up and I missed most of the end of the conversation. I figured I could always pull over to the side of the road, but since I was driving I did not want to push the speed.

Amazingly I only missed the last comment perhaps due to traffic. I was just entering St Cloud as we ended the conversation. I was pretty happy during and after the contact. It reminded me of my first CW contact. It was a lot of fun. Unfortunately I can not use CW from home with the set up over the internet so for now I must continue to operate mobile or portable. I am looking forward to many more contacts and improving my code speed.


15 meter CW

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November Sweeps and January NAQP

November Sweepstakes has come and gone. I did actually make one CW contact this last time. For the phone contest I made 131 contacts. The map will be posted below.

This last weekend was the January North American QSO Party, NAQP SSB. It is a fun 10 hour contest in a 12 hour period. The object is to contact as many stations in Canada and the US as possible. Stations can be worked on each HF band and each state or province counts as a new multiplier for each new band.

Unfortunately I was called into work after the first two hours of the contest due to high winds and power outages. The connection to the radio equipment was intermittent during that time and the audio cut out more than normal through out the rest of the contest. I was able to work 165 contacts and still had a good time. The map for NAQP is also posted below.

November SS SSB Map

Sections Nov SS SSB 2012and

January NAQP

naqp-Jan13Still hoping for a clean sweep someday.


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2012 State QSO Parties

Here is a rundown of this years QSO Parties worked with the Kenwood TS-590 with a few exceptions.

Alabama, June 2 and 3. This is one of the exceptions. This was worked mobile on the way to Tennessee with the IC-703+ and Hamsticks from Indiana and Kentucky. 4 contacts from Indiana and 4 contacts from Kentucky. 40 meters was just too noisy for any contacts from Tennessee.

Arizona, October 13 and 14. 7 contacts.
Arkansas, September 8 and 9. 9 contacts.
British Columbia, February 4. This was during the Minnesota QSO Party so only 3 contacts.

California, October 6 and 7. 156 contacts, 7 counties short of a clean sweep.
Colorado, September 1 and 2. 37 contacts including KD0BIK of PARP.
Delaware, February 4. This was also during the Minnesota QSO party so only 2 contacts.
Florida, April 28 and 29. 55 contacts including the 15 special 1 by 1 call sign stations.
Georgia, April 14 and 15. 15 contacts and then 4 contacts while mobile in Wisconsin.
Hawaii, August 25 through 27. 3 contacts.
Illinois, October 21 and 22. 85 contacts.
Indiana, May 5 and 6. 4 contacts.
Iowa, October 20. 18 contacts.
Kansas, August 25 and 26. 33 contacts.
Kentucky, November 10 and 11. 8 contacts.
Louisiana, February 11 and 12. 5 contacts.
Michigan, April 21 and 22. 45 contacts.
Minnesota, February 4. 189 contacts. It was fun for the first time to be the center of a few pile-ups for Sherburne County.

Mississippi, February 25 and 26. 20 contacts.
Montana, April 14 and 15. 2 contacts and 2 contact while mobile in Wisconsin.
Nebraska, April 28 and 29. 1 contact.
New England, Vermont, May 5. 2 contacts.
New Hampshire, February 11 and 12. 8 contacts.
New Mexico, April 14 and 15. 10 contacts.
New York, October 20 and 21. 25 contacts.
North Carolina, February 26 and 27. 27 contacts.
Ohio, August 25 and 26. 28 contacts.
Ontario, April 21. 1 contact.
Pennsylvania, October 13 and 14. 56 contacts.
Tennessee, September 2 and 3. 26 contacts.
Texas September 29 and 30. 37 contacts.
Wisconsin, March 11 and 12. 68 contacts.

There was also the North American QSO Party, January 21 and 22. 68 contacts.

This last weekend was the November Sweepstakes. I will report on that in the next post.


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Ubuntu 12.04

Just a short note to file in the Linux category. I have been switching all my Linux Mint computers back to Ubuntu. Ubuntu 12.04 with the Unity desktop seems to work very well so far. On my old eeePC 1000 the latest Mint distribution that would run was Linux Mint 9. So I was surprised to see that the latest from Ubuntu runs well on it.

I did download the free Windows 8 image and we’ll see if it will load on the oldest computer I have. Ubuntu 12.04 does run on it, but it is a tad slow.

Added 30 August 2012: I did finally get Win8 running. Had to buy a new network card for the computer. Can’t say much about it except it is exactly what you expect from Microsoft. I am typing this on my home Ubuntu computer. This machine dual boots to Win7. I use the Win7 side to connect to work and the Kenwood TS-590 at work.


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Field Day 2012

QRP portable zero Field Day plans were washed away by some very large, but ultimately imaginary storms and some not so imaginary hungry mosquitos. So for the first time since our first year in Alaska, Field Day 1990, I ran one hundred watts with the home radio and a G5RV antenna. It was probably a good idea considering the band conditions. The solar flux had been around one hundred forty, but just a few days ago took a dive to to the nineties and then eighty eight. Part way through the event the solar flux dropped to eighty four. These Field Day numbers are not that far from what we saw during the last solar minimum. A reminder is that in 1976 when I was first licensed fifteen meters was packed every afternoon.

The results are on the map below with the white areas those not worked. Not on the map, but also not worked were Hawaii and the Virgin Islands. Sections heard, but not worked were Delaware, San Fransico, Northern New York, Alberta and Quebec. I did talk to Maritime, but it is not permitted to count contacts between home stations on commercial power. I did pass up easy contacts in search for new sections. My total was one hundred two contacts in sixty sections. Bands used were 20, 40, 80 and 15 meters.

The G5RV is situated to favor stations to the east and west although since the ends slope down the pattern is a bit more omnidirectional. The ladder feed line is hanging on the east side of the tower. So the interesting thing was how many Mississippi and Louisiana stations I heard. Considering past years I don’t think I have ever heard so many stations from Mississippi. Perhaps W5JDX has had an effect in his home state? Another section that I found interesting was the number of San Diego stations. They were all over fifteen and twenty meters. There is always a desire to hear and work Santa Barbara county since I lived in Santa Maria when I was first licensed as WA6PPU. This year I was able to make contact with the Santa Barbara club. Thanks to the San Joaquin Valley station who kindly let me do so as he was also calling on the same frequency.

Because of the setback of not being able to operate portable QRP I was a bit disappointed when the contest began. Thanks to a friend who encouraged me by getting on and making more contacts than I had before he had to go to work.

Even with the band conditions the contest was a lot of fun.  I am hoping that by next year I can make arrangements for a location that is great for antennas and camping with few mosquitos.


Here is the map.

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Mobile HF

A friend suggested that I put an HF radio in the truck for a work trip to Milwaukee. The next morning while getting ready to leave I went out in the light rain and installed a twenty meter hamstick on the top of the topper. A wire was added going from the antenna mount to the back of the truck with the rest of the wire just thrown inside the back of the truck. The mount is intended for hamstick dipoles.

The Icom 703+ was placed on the front passenger seat with the faceplate mounted on an old ruler just under the truck radio.

For the first two hours of the trip I thought that the radio had been damaged some how as the radio would not put out any power. Finally I realized that I had not checked all of the menu items and found that the mic gain had been set to zero while attempting to set up a digital mode a month before. After that everything worked very well.

My first contact was with a Georgia station I had worked the day before from the home station for the Georgia QSO Party. He noted me as a duplicate contact and then I explained that I was now mobile with ten watts in Wisconsin and not in Minnesota. That is when he stopped contesting and asked me about my amplifier. I explained that the output was just ten watts and using a Hamstick on the top of the F-150 that I had installed earlier in the day. I did mention that I added the wire to the antenna base. He said that I should not touch anything as I had a very good signal.

Similar reports were received from six other contacts during the trip. Since this was a spur of the moment decision to take the radio I will say that I am very glad that the radio has a good noise blanker and decent noise reduction, DSP. This was the first time I have tried mobile HF since 1991. It’s a great way to practice CW listening with the real thing.


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Minnesota QSO Party

The new TS-590 was installed Wednesday. It was fully tested and running by remote over the internet by the end of the day Thursday. I made a few contacts Friday to get a feel for how it worked and set up the N1MM logging software. I had never used any logging software before, but I needed to do so for the Minnesota QSO Party. The hardest part to deal with was the switching back and forth between the radio control software and the logging software.

It was a lot of fun and a nice change to actually be the station called in a few pile-ups. I am very used to running QRP and that usually means wondering up and down the bands finding contacts. My 100 watts of power experience is limited to the short time I owned the FT-897D and many years ago when I owned the TS-140. I chatted with 189 stations in forty three states and four provinces.

The Minnesota Wireless Association is a pretty cool group. They are divided into three teams. There is a team for Minneapolis, basically Hennepin county, and then the other two teams are split with the north and the south parts of the state. It is a very active group and they have a lot of fun and camaraderie. It was great meeting a few friends on the air during the contest including my neighbor from back when we lived in Minnesota in the nineties. It will be interesting to see which team scored the most points in this QSO party.

Below is the map of the sections worked. I have to say it makes it easy to see. Not on the map are Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, none of which I heard or talked to in this event.

Sections worked for MNQP 2012

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This last summer and fall I discovered the State QSO Parties. It started when I was outside at the local club building operating portable when I heard a California station call “CQ California QSO Party”. The contest is known as CQP. I made forty eight contacts for CQP that day. Then another weekend I worked the Arizona and Pennsylvania QSO Parties. After the weather turned cold I worked one contact in the Kentucky QSO Party from the apartment. Bad audio made that one contact difficult. Some modifications and over the air help have improved the audio. So yesterday was the North American QSO Party.

I really did not know what to expect. The Minnesota Wireless Association, I am now a member, was putting together teams. I guess I really thought it would be a much smaller activity. There were times however that the bands sounded a lot like Field Day. Forty meters was totally loaded with contesters last night. It was crazy.

The only thing that I did not notice in the rules was that there was a QRP class. So operation was at full power for an Icom 703+, ten watts, using the G5RV antenna that is all set up at work. I learned to unkey the transmitter about one second after I give my call. There is some lag over the internet with the audio and if I unkey the mike like I would when physically using the radio the last letter in my call was cut off. After I started doing that everyone came back with my complete callsign.

The results were that I made seventy one contacts in fifty one different sections. Not included on the map below are Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. In this contest California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Washington, Texas and Florida were just one section for each state. I think the only section that I heard, but did not eventually work was Quebec so conditions were pretty good. I was expecting the solar flare that was supposed to open up six meters would pretty much kill the HF bands. Twenty meters is still dead at night though. I was surprised that I did not hear any contesters on 80 meters until just after 0200 UTC.

By the way, during the afternoon I periodically checked six meters. Conditions were favorable for six and two meter activity for a while. I made two contacts for the January VHF contest. One was a local contact and the other to Florida. I did hear New Mexico but they could not hear me with just ten watts. I was limited to six meters as the FT-897D has been sold, see previous post. Plans are in the works to purchase another one hundred watt HF radio, but I am not sure what I plan to do for VHF/UHF yet. I do want to participate in VHF/UHF contests. As I type this the HF bands have dropped to only fair to poor now as there is mid latitude aurora.

NAQP Sections

NAQP Sections Worked. Add PR and VI.

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Some Challenges with Remote Operation by HRD

If you have read any of the previous posts you know that I operate by Ham Radio Deluxe to a remote location. Recently I tried swapping the Icom-703+ with the Yaesu FT-897D. I ran into two problems.

The first problem was that I have the FC-30 add on tuner. There is currently no way to tune the tuner remotely with HRD. I was able to hook the tuner to the CAT/Tuner connection and make that work. I was also able to use the mic connector as a CAT connector for HRD. By the way, it will not work if you do not supply twelve volts to the CT-62 serial cable. It needs power and the mic connector, unlike the CAT connector, does not have twelve volts available. With out the tune button in HRD you can not tune remotely. Two options include going through all the bands while at the radio site and pre-tune all of the band portions. I have done this. There also may be an option to tune every time you transmit, but I did not like that option if available.

The other problem was that the FT-897 would not tune with the G5RV antenna on any bands except 20 and 12 meters. I have a typical G5RV with 102 feet for the top wire, 31 feet of 450 ohm ladder line and then a 4:1 balun. From there it is all RG-6 to get inside the building to the radio. Last week I made another G5RV with 33 feet of 450 ohm ladder line and a new 4:1 balun. The results were the same. After reading a few post on Reddit about other people’s problems with the G5RV I noted that some seem to have success using a 1:1 balun rather than the 4:1 balun. Besides the benefits of a choke I think what this really does is to just add line length. Some articles on the G5RV insist on as much as 70 feet of coax. I think this just adds line loss and thus lessens the affect of SWR?

I may give the 1:1 balun a try. The other problem may be best solved by selling the Yaesu and replacing it with a radio that has a built in tuner. Anyone interested in a relatively new FT-897D?

Otherwise I am having a good time making contacts with the 703.


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Sweepstakes by HRD

I live in an apartment with an S8 noise floor. So local radio operation has been replaced by locating the radio, an IC-703, and a G5RV antenna at work and using Ham Radio Deluxe and the Kenwood audio over IP software.

The week before the ARRL November Sweepstakes SSB contest I tweaked and tested the audio at the radio location. This also included a test with another person speaking from the computer I would be using back at the apartment. So I thought that the computer and radio connection was all ready to go. The first contact said nothing, but the next two complained about very distorted audio. I dropped the audio level a good bit on the computer I was using and continued to tweak those setting as I made more contacts.

Seventy eight contacts in forty six sections was pretty good for running QRP and operating with out being able to see the radio. I did forget to write down one complete callsign. So I was only able to count seventy seven contacts. We also experienced three internet interruptions each lasting at least thirty minutes. Loss of internet is pretty unusual here and the problem has since been repaired by the supplier. There were a number of short interruptions as well. On a couple of those the radio was stuck in transmit mode. So if the audio link was still active I shut that down killing any possible stray transmissions.

Most of the contacts were made on 10, 15 and 20 meters. Only a couple of contacts were made on 40 and 80 meters. Since the contest I have replaced the computer that is hooked to the radio. It was not really quite able to handle all that was needed and thus the audio cut out about every fifteen seconds. That required me to repeat myself a good bit and to ask for repeats occasionally. The contest was still fun. I would like to have more choice of antennas next year. I have been hearing some good things about the MFJ-1026 to help cancel noise. It could also make possible the ability to check the transmitted signal with a local receiver. That might make operation from the apartment possible. The only benefit then for having the station at work, an important one to me, would be the ability to use full size out door antennas.


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