Tuesday, January 27, 2009

mmmm......a 3 el yagi for 160m

With no antenna for 160m, I had to give the CQWW 160m CW contest a miss last weekend. However, I came accross this gem on the net..........OH8X and their 3 element yagi for 1.8 MHz.

Not only are they using a 3 element on 160m but they have a 5 element yagi for 80 metres above it!!
All of this on a 100 metre high tower....

.........and my favourite....
.......a rail inside the boom for walking on!......at 100 metres above ground level!.........any volunteers??
More info at this LINK.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Up and Running on Logbook of The World

Quick recap.......
1) I had updated my VQLog program so that it now contains just over 23,000 contacts. From this, I could generate an ADIF file that Logbook of The World could use.
2) In mid January, I had tried to use to use the LoTW software but I had problems with passwords at the final step when I was trying to 'sign' the ADIF file and generate a TQ8 file for upload.
3) I looked on the LoTW website but could see no obvious answer. So, I sent the ARRL an e-mail with my private e-mail account (gofree) asking for advice.
1) After 2 weeks I had no reply to my e-mail. Someone else had also said that they had not received a mail I sent with my private e-mail account. So, I resent the mail to the ARRL on Fri 23rd Jan using my Yahoo mail account.
2) Within 2 hours, I had a reply! The advice was...
Delete any and all TQ5, TQ6 and TQ8 files in your folders.
Delete any lines with a callsign.
Request a new UNSIGNED certificate for your call EI7GL. Do not use an end date and do not use a password.
Upload the resulting TQ5 to LoTW. Disregard any messages about overlapping certificates or dates.
Stand by for your TQ6.
3) So, I deleted the TQ5 and TQ6 files that had been generated. Ran TQSL CERT again, generated a new TQ5 file (with no password this time!) and uploaded this to the LoTW website. As I had been approved already, I assumed that I would have a reply in a few days.
4) Within a few hours, I had received the TQ6 file back from the ARRL!! I ran this, unlocked my certificate and then proceeded to sign my ADIF file.
5) This time, it went past the stage where I had got stuck before with the password and it began the slow process of generating a TQ8 file from the 23,000+ qsos in the ADIF file.
6) I got a lot of errors, especially with all of the Satellite contacts that I had. It didn't seem to like the format that VQLog was using for Satellite qsos. In fact, as far as I can see, it rejected all of them. Besides the Satellite contacts, it rejected 2 other contacts.....
EA1DDU.....due to "Invalid PROP_MODE (TRD)". VQLog gives the choice of 'Tropo ducting' as a propogation mode. It seems as if LoTW doesn't accept it. It seems strange as on the FAQ on the LoTW website, it make no mention of needing propogation modes.
GD0PLT.....due to "Invalid amateur CALL (GDOPLT)". My first thought was that I had entered the letter 'O' instead of the number zero in the callsign. But no, I had it correct. I have no idea why it was rejected.
7) Eventually the process was completed and I ended up with the required TQ8 file. I logged on to the LoTW website and uploaded the TQ8 file. At first, I got a message saying that it was pending but pretty soon as I was refreshing the page, I could see that the number of qsos were increasing as well as the matches.
8) I left it for a while and after 30 minutes, I had 22,449 uploaded contacts and 1,945 matches. That is about 8.7% . Compared to the QSL rates that others are getting (15-20%), 8.7% might seem a bit low. I would assume that because my contacts are over a span of 20 years, many of the older contacts will never appear on LoTW because the person in question may have gone off the air. The oldest match was for a contact on the 3rd Oct 1986! The newest was for the 13th Jan 2009.
9) So, a quick look at the matches.
These are the number of DXCC countries that LoTW found a match for on each band. Note that this is via LoTW only. There are no physical qsl cards / previous credits in there.
Looking through the LoTW matches and comparing them to my log, I now have these extra countries confirmed....
6m......1 new country confirmed (PJ7)
10m....3 new countries confirmed (3X, A6 and ZL)
12m....7 new countries confirmed (HL, J6, KG4, KL7, PZ, ST and XZ)
15m....12 new countries confirmed (EY,FP, GI, HK, J7, KL7, PJ2, ST, VP2E, ZC4, ZD8 and ZL)
17m....10 new countries confirmed ( 3B8, 4U1ITU, C31, EA8, PZ, ST, VK9N, VP2M, XZ and ZF)
20m....1 new country confirmed (YV)
30m....6 new countries confirmed (KL7, OY, ST, TF, XZ and ZD8)
40m....3 new countries confirmed (A6, D4 and V4)
80m....1 new country confirmed (D4)
160m..6 new countries confirmed (CT3, GD, GM, GW, LY and OE)

So, in total, that makes 50 'band' countries that I do not have to get physical qsl cards for.
Out of those, I now have 5 DXCC countries which are only confirmed by LoTW on any band (PZ, ST, XZ, J7 and VK9N)...i.e. I do not have physical QSL cards for them.

After messing about with the LoTW website for a while, I eventually found the page to link the LoTW credits with my existing credits. Again, I thought I would have to wait a few days for someone to process this request but it was done within about 1 hour.

My combined record now looks like this....
I have applied for DXCC on 40m, 10m and 6m before so the overall numbers are high for these bands. For example, what the above chart is saying for let's say 10 metres is that my current DXCC credit is 113, I have another 31 credits from LoTW and when I enable them, I will have a total of 144 DXCC on that band. This of course, does not take into account any physical qsl cards that I may have here for additional countries. For bands where I do not have DXCC, like say 20 metres, LoTW brings my DXCC credit from 14 up to 83. So, if I was to apply for a 20 metres DXCC today (100 DXCC minimum required), I would only have to submit 17 extra QSL cards rather than 86.

Overall Conclusion....By using LoTW, I have got 50 new band countries confirmed and it has reduced the need for me to submit physical QSL cards for future DXCC awards. Overall, it was well worth doing and in my opinion, it really is vital that anyone who has a serious interest in the ARRL DXCC award programme should get going on Logbook of The World as soon as possible.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Short Wave Listener QSL cards...

Having recently gone through a backlog of incoming QSL cards, I had the usual few SWL (Short Wave Listener) cards in there as well. I came accross one for which I could find no match in the log so I left it to the end.
Got to the end, re-checked VQLog and my paper log....no sign of the station mentioned.

This is the QSL card...

........and here is the back.

Now, the card is a bit unusal. SWL's don't usually send cards for having heard 'cw' contacts. If they have spent that much time listening to and learning morse, most have gone one to get a licence and get on the air themselves.
I knew I had worked PA1SIX before but just not on that particular day.

I was curious....so I used the 'search' function on the DX-cluster.

PA1SIX 50105.0 EI7GL 559 E 1426 29 Dec

So, PA1SIX had spotted me but did not call me. Note the time, 14:26, the exact same time as what was on the qsl card. So, was this SWL just picking callsigns off the cluster and sending them qsl cards???

So I dug a bit more.......

I found this on an AMSAT forum...
Hi all , this is JH3DJX/Yuki . I received SWL card from DO2OTH . The report was the QSO via SO-50 worked with JH5DAH over Japan .How could he hear our QSO at Germany ?I send e-mail to DO2OTH , but no reply . Can anyone explain this mystery ?

Now, SO-50 is in low Earth orbit so it is impossible to hear it (70cms) in Germany when it is over Japan. Again, a quick check on the cluster suggests an answer...

JH3DJX-@ 436800.0 JH5DAH VIA SO-50 SAT (Saudisat-1C) 1211 21 Jan (2003)

There seems to be little doubt this time, DO2OTH (now DL6BT) just picked a contact off the DX-cluster and sent them a qsl card hoping that they would reply.

Q. What is the point in a SWL sending someone a QSL card for a contact they did not hear???

Monday, January 19, 2009

QSL status......19th Jan 2009

Now that VQLog is updated, I spent the last few days going through the backlog of incoming QSL cards. Out of the 200 or so cards, there were a few nice ones which confirmed a few new band countries for me. I think the one from Iraq might be the only card I have from that country. Needless to say, the vast majority were from European countries. All QSL cards have now been answered and I'll probably send them to the outgoing buro in a few weeks time.

Next step...
1) Logbook of The World. Nearly got it working but fell at the last step! I was near the end of the process and I had problems with the password that I thought I had supplied. Looks like I'll have to start again and get a new key. At least this time, it should be pretty quick.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Video clip from EI/ON5GS/P in IO55 square...

In some previous posts(here & here), I had some information about ON5GS's 144 MHz meteor scatter expedition to IO55 square in Dec 2008. I recently came accross a video clip of his on YouTube. I think the sound of the wind and the snow on the mountains say a lot about the bad weather conditions.

Irish Castles on the Air...24-25th Jan 2009

Just came accross this news item.....
Oranmore Castle activation
Members of the Galway VHF Group will be activating
Oranmore Castle from 12 mid-day on Saturday the 24th until 4 pm on Sunday the 25th of January.
Activity will be on all bands depending on conditions. The WAI locator square is M32 and the Castle number will be EI/001/C.
This will be the first activation of a castle since the launch of
CASHOTA-IRELAND. The Galway VHF Group Club callsign, EI4ALE/P, will be in operation for the duration of this event.
For further information check out their Web site at:
(Update Mon 19th Jan 09....Cancelled due to some building work)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Men's World Handball Championship Croatia 2009

On the 2nd of January, I worked 9A2009ST thinking he was just a special event station for the new year. Today (13th Jan), I heard a few more 9A2009 stations and checked them out. They are in fact special event stations for the Men's World Handball Championships and there are 7 stations, one in each city.

A special award is available to anyone working 3, 5 or all 7 stations.

Some details....
Award is available to all amateur radio and SWL stations that in the period from 1st January until 1st February 2009 establish certain number of QSOs with special stations from 7 cities in which will be held 21st World Handball Championship for men as follows: Zagreb, Varazdin, Osijek, Porec, Pula, Zadar and Split.

All modes of operation are allowed: CW, SSB, DIGITAL, MIX.

For the award it is necessary to work just one special station in each city on any band.
Special stations from before mentioned cities will operate under following call signs:
ZAGREB – 9A2009ZG, VARAZDIN – 9A2009VZ, OSIJEK – 9A2009OS, POREÈ – 9A2009PO, PULA – 9A2009PU, ZADAR – 9A2009ZD, SPLIT – 9A2009ST

More info can be found on the this website. Judging by the pile-up they had on 80m ssb this evening, it seems to be very popular.

Checking of VQLog finished...

I started the long and arduous process of checking my logging program, VQLog against my paper logs back in mid-November 2008. Now 2 months and 23,039 qso's later, I'm finished at last!! At the beginning, it was really slow as I had to enter a lot of old contacts that I had never entered into my old Fastlog logging program. Originally, I had feared the whole process would take about 6 months but in the end, it took 'only' 2. With the exception of a small number of repeater and crossband contacts, I literally put everything into the logging program....towns, counties, Worked All Ireland squares, Worked All Britain squares, US states and so on. From the rare DX contacts to the local contacts accross town on 70 cms. Lots of data that can be used and searched.

And of course, lots of graphs! Here is a breakdown of all my contacts per band.

Some observations....
1) I found perhaps 20 mistakes where I had originally put the incorrect callsign into Fastlog. 20 out of 20,000 is only about 0.1% . Perhaps I missed a few more? but the logging program is now a lot more accurate. One typo was for R1FJL. I had entered the wrong suffix and VQLog recognised it as Russia. Corrected the call and I got one extra band country on 20m. I had entered the wrong date on several contacts....not much use if they end up getting used on Logbook of the World which looks for a date and time match.

2) When I imported all of the 20k or so contacts from Fastlog into VQLog, it did not always recognise the country correctly. An example was the prefix TO which was used in Martinique and Guadeloupe. VQLog had thought they were just French stations. Correcting these gave a few more band countries. Another more obvious one was for GB stations. These are used all over the UK. VQLog presumed that they were all in England but in a lot of cases, they were not. Lesson.....if you are importing data from one logbook into another...(or even data generated by a contest logging program)....you have to check the unusual prefixes to make sure that they are recognised properly. I'm sure that holds true for any logging program.

Next step.....
1) LoTW....I received the password from the ARRL back on the 5th of January. I now have to figure how to use this Logbook of The World. Uploading 23,000 qso's should get me a 'few' matches ;o)
2) QSL's.....I have several hundred cards that need to be checked. I had a quick look already at these and there are some nice DX ones in there. As well as updating VQLog, I will also need to reply to a lot of those cards. Hopefully, I'll be sending off a batch of qsl cards to the outgoing buro at the end of February .

Saturday, January 10, 2009

E44M not in the log...

I didn't have much luck trying to work these guys in Palestine. It seemed as if most of Europe were calling them.....too many for a low horizontal antenna and 100 watts to get through on the low bands (3.5 to 18 MHz).
Here is a video clip I found. Seems as if they were getting a lot of interference from the lifts in the building they were in.....

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

BH7H...video clip from 1997

A few weeks back, I had a post about the 2007 Scarborough Reef expedition. I came accross a video clip about the 1997 expedition on YouTube. It really shows how small these rocks are.

Recent events...

31st Dec 2008.......Back on HF....
Spent the day repairing my old Doublet antenna. 3 years of neglect (.......and running over the feedline with the lawnmower ;o) had taken it's toll. Ran a new lenght of 300 Ohm twin lead cable from the shack to the feed point of the antenna. Replaced 2 other lenghts of cable. Left the antenna that evening at a mere 1.5 metres above ground level and even at that height, I managed to work DL7VPE/P near Berlin on 80m cw. Raised the antenna the next day so that now, it is roughly 5 metres above ground level. Still a bit low but enough for the moment so that I can use 3.5 MHz to 18 MHz. Even at this height, it seemed to work fine on 80m for the IRTS counties contest. Also worked OH0 and ZD8 on 30 metres over the last few days. Getting a bit more height on it should make a big difference.

3rd Jan 2009.....Quadrantids Meteor Shower...
I was on for this one. Plenty of pings and bursts. I must put up a seperate post about it soon.

5th Jan 2009...ARRL Logbook Of The World...
I had posted the documentation back on the 22nd of December to the ARRL. Received my password by e-mail from the ARRL on the 5th of Jan. A wait of only 2 weeks. I hope to be up and running on LOTW by the end of January :o)

6th Jan 2009...EI 6 Metre activity evening...
I had a listen around 21:00 and heard nothing. From what I hear from e-mail correspondance, it would seem that this activity evening is no longer supported. Seem's a pity.

Friday, January 2, 2009

IRTS 80 Metres Counties Contest...1st Jan 2009

This was my first time trying out this contest as I had been off the air for the first 3 (2006-2008). I repaired my HF doublet antenna on the 31st of Dec so that I would be ready for the contest on the 1st. I had no real intention in taking part in the contest as such, more just to get on and give away a few points.
My contest...
The contest started at 14:00 and lasted until 17:00.
14:00 to 15:00...I spent the first hour on CW calling CQ Test, worked 19 stations and gave away a few points.
15:00....Time for coffee!! ;o) I spent about 15 minutes listening around. Going from CW to SSB was like changing to a completely different band. On CW, there was hardly any contest activity at this stage. Just some G and European staions in qso mode. On SSB, the contest segment was hopping and all of the EI stations seemed very busy.
15:15 to 16:00....Back on CW calling CQ Test. Worked just 6 stations in 45 minutes with most of my CQ calls going unanswered. By 16:00, the CW part of the contest was well and truely over.
16:00....More coffee!! This CW is thirsty work ;o) The SSB section was still hopping at this stage. I was half thinking about calling it a day but seeing as how busy the band was, I decided to give away a few more points. Time to get the microphone out of the drawer ;o)
16:15 to 16:48...Tuned up and down the SSB part of the band giving away a few points.
16:48 to 17:00...Found a clear frequency and called CQ Contest so that anyone tuning around the band would find me. Worked about 16 stations in the last 12 minutes.

Totals......61 contacts, 25 on CW and 36 on SSB. 18 counties worked.

Overall Impression and thoughts.....
1) An excellent contest. 3 hours is just the right lenght, 80 metres is the right band and it was great to see so many EI stations on the band.
2) Good to see that the IRTS have not introduced that 'Sprint'/ 'QSY' rule like they did for the 2 metre counties contest.
3) After the first hour, the CW section of the contest was more or less over. If anyone is going to try CW, then the first hour is the time to be on that mode.
4) It seems a pity that for those in the Mixed contest, CW contacts only have the same value as SSB. If someone was going to try and win the mixed section, there would be a case for just working 2 to 3 CW contacts and then spend the rest of the contest on SSB to maximize the points. Perhaps if CW contacts had double or triple value, it might make things more interesting. i.e. Do you stay on CW with a lower qso rate but higher value points or do you try SSB with a higher qso rate but lower value points.
5) Looking at the results for the last 3 years, these were the entries...
It will be interesting to see what the entries for 2009 will be like. Listening to the serial numbers given in the contest, I'm guessing that the SSB numbers will be up while the Mixed entries will be low again.

So overall, a good fun event. I might try and make a serious effort at it next year.