Saturday, December 3, 2016

Propagation Magic - 4S7AB Sri Lanka on 40m QRP

Flash - I saw 4S7AB get posted on the cluster - Sri Lanka - Zone 22.   Instantly with a click of a mouse button - the rig, power supply, StationPro, antenna tuner spring to life.  He is  working a station - after the 73s I send my call twice - holy cow - he comes back to me NY4O  - I send my call again twice - NY4G NY4G - then he comes back NY4G NY4G 5NN 5NN - acknowleding that he heard me (not my signal strength) - I returned TU TU 5NN 5NN 73 (although he was really 539) - but who cares - when you are excited the only thing that comes out of the paddle is 5NN.  After the QSO and some reflection - oh wow - this is grey line magic.  Here are a couple of images showing both the DX and me on the grey line.  Notice that I am probably maybe 15 minutes past my sunrise.  Add that to my Marathon totals.  You know what the feeling is like?  Ever play golf?  If you do, it feels like you just hold out your iron from the fairway - that kind of feeling.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Looking Back at Cycle 23

Cycle 23 was a much bigger cycle with higher sunspot numbers than Cycle24.  1998 was at the beginning of that sunspot cycle and 358 stations and 167 unique DXCC were announced at NG3K's website.   There are many notable DXpeditions - among them Somalia, Scarborough Reef, Juan de Nova, Saint Peter and Paul Rocks, Revillagigedo, Palmyra, Midway, Kure, Heard Is, Burundi, and Amsterdam Island.

In 1998, Baker and Howland was activated and Amsterdam Island was activated again.   Other notables included Crozet, Kerguelen, Kingman Reef, Kermadec, Saint Brandon.  Zorro had his 10th expedition to Myanmar XZ1J.  332 Stations were announced in NG3K website and 152  were unique.

In 1999, Glorioso Island and Johnston Island were activated along with Tromelin.

In 2000, Yemen, Pratas, Bouvet, Johnston, along with Chesterfield Island were all activated.

In 2001, Malpelo, Mellish Reef, Niger, North Korea, San Felix, Spratly, Tromelin (again), Syria, UK Bases in Cyprus,

In 2002, there were several expeditions to Afghanistan, and an expedition to Macquarie, South Orkney

In 2003, there were several expeditions to Christmas Island,

In 2004 Aves Island was activated

In 2005, Clipperton was activated. In 2006 Lakshadweep was activated along with the UN HQ. In 2007, Jan Mayen was activated.

In 2006, Aves Island was again activated.  Glorioso Island and Peter 1 were also activated.

In 2007, Syria, Spratly and Scarborough Reef were again activated.

The only entity, as far as I can figure out, that was not activated in Cycle 23, was Navassa  island.  The last activation of Navassa was in 1997 which arguably can be part of Cycle 22.  The bar graph in the plot is a "what if" projection based on the ratio of sunspot numbers between Cycle 23 and Cycle 24.  All the DXCC I am missing now were activated in Cycle 23.  It would have been possible to get to Honor Roll in one solar cycle and Cycle 23 is that one.   It may have been possible for other solar cycles but I do not have the DX activation data to prove it.  Everyone I know who is in the honor roll got theirs partly from Cycle 23 or before and they are all old timers who have been hams for a long time.  The latest inductee into the honor roll who I know well is Vlad N3CZ.   He got to 300 in Cycle 23.  He got the remaining 30 in Cycle 24.  Amongst the people I know - he is the standard bearer for the shortest time to Honor Roll.   It looks like I will have to wait and slog it out through cycle 25

Pitcairn Island VP6J, CAR - (TL8AO) and Solomon I. H44GC Now Uploaded Log to LOTW

#296 CY9C - St. Paul Island - confirmed LOTW
#297 VP6J - Pitcairn Island has now confirmed in LOTW
#298 XX9TGM - have QSL Card in Hand
#299 TL8AO - Central African Republic confirmed  in LOTW
#300 H44GC - Solomon Islands - confirmed in LOTW
#301 5U7RK - Niger - awaiting card (no LOTW)
TL0A - Central African Republic - need to send away for card for QRP QSO
#302 T31T - Central Kiribati - awaiting LOTW confirmation
#303 XZ1A - Myanmar - awaiting LOTW confirmation

3 Days Chasing Grenada

J3/VE7ACN has been lurking around for days.   First I tried him to work on 40m from home in the evening.  That was 3 days ago.  Yesterday - I saw him spotted on 30m but he either could not hear me or is focused on working EU and JA.  Earlier today on 17m, I saw him again spotted.  I quickly dialed into my home station and was able to work him.  When I got home, he was really strong on 40m and I was able to work him QRP with just a couple of calls.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Worked Liberia EL2DT - while logged in remotely

I usually keep a browser window on a DX Cluster site which I check once in a while for workable DX.  I saw EL2DT spotted once in the morning on 20m CW but quickly went away.  Late afternoon, I saw him again spotted and this time more stations are spotting him, not just the automated skimmers.  Within about 2 minutes I was logged into my home station turning the VFO to to his TX frequency.  And there he was - loud and clear as a bell working station after station simplex.  I swing the yagi to 95 degrees by clicking on the icon on my computer and saw the indicator swing around to bearing 95.   He is even louder now working split up 1.  The transmitter is set at 5 watts.  I send my call twice.  He responds immediately.  Here is a photo of Dickson Tarnue - EL2DT.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Propagation and Station Entitlement

It is interesting how the double peaks of Cycle 24 coincide with the double peaks of the ATNO DXCC I worked for the corresponding year.    Considering how modest my station is in terms of antenna systems and power levels, I have done well.  But I am afraid that my station capability combined with my skills have reached entitlement.   With the propagation of Cycle 24 - 300 DXCC is probably all that this station is entitled to max out at.   Any antenna upgrades I can do is limited because of my HOA situation and limited land.  This same station in Cycle 23 however could have probably reached Honor Roll - all things being equal.  In Cycle 23, propagation makes up for a lot of station shortcomings.  How I may have done in Cycle 23 speculative, and a fruitless one at that since I cannot turn back time and enter the amateur ranks 15 years earlier.  In the mean time - I will try the few ATNOs I can still muster from this station and perhaps reach 305.  Chasing DXCC can still be a lot of fun through the DX Marathon as stations are on a more level playing field (various classes of power and antennas), dealing with the same propagation we are all dealt with.  Everybody gets a fresh start as the clock turns over at the first of the year.

CQWW DX Contest CW for DX Marathon (Formula 5)

Thanks to all the following stations who decided to dig me out of the noise floor during the CQ WW DX Contest:

So far - as of 1220 UTC 11/27 - the following stations have been added to the DX Marathon Log

PJ7/K0CD Sint Maarten
8R1/AG6UT Guyana
ER4A             Moldova
YL2SM          Latvia
LY2K             Lithuania
4U0WFP        ITU HQ
ZA/OG1N Albania
4O3A              Montenegro
4X0W              Israel

Friday, November 25, 2016

TS480 Now Remoted

Here is a photo of remote TS480 up in my loft.  True that the separation is perhaps 70 feet or so from my basement shack.  Everything has to work in the local network before  I proceed to remote it to many many miles away.

I had to dedicated most of the afternoon trying work out all the bugs:

(1) No connection - I had the wrong address in the SIP contact.   The ethernet port was flashing yellow indicating it was waiting for a connection

(2) Light on the ethernet port is solid yellow now.  I should be connected.   Radio won't turn on.   Well the RJ12 jumper I made was wired backwards.   I inadvertently wired the jumper correctly but it took several trials and errors to correctly identify it was the jumpers fault.

(3) It seems to be keying but no RF seems to get out.  I tried calling some Mediterranean stations that I should be able to work with 5 watts - no success.  I turned upo the wick to 80 watts.   The output meter indicated power and low SWR - what gives?  Well the keyer output from the Radio side RRC has to be connected to the Keyer input - straight key with a stereo plug - duh.  The Radio RRC gets its input from the built in Keyer in the Control RRC.  I now had to prove to myself that everything is working.

I worked 6Y, 5H, FJ stations all with 5 watts - now all is well

(4) Now comes the harder part, moving the control station 25 miles away to my parents house.  First I set up the router to see the RRC as a DMZ such that all traffic in and out will not be blocked by the firewall.   While I was at it, I put port forwarding to port 17152 for N4PY to work as a client-server.

Now - it is time to drive to Simpsonville armed with a Wifi router extender and the remote head, RRC control box, etc.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

More Stations for QRP DX Marathon

This week of Nov 13 has been pretty productive with ZD8W Ascension Island as new DXCC, SU9VB Egypt another new DXCC and a new Zone (34)..  Antartica RI1AND was booming in on 20m.  I did not need Antartica for new DXCC but I did need it for new Zone (29).   So here we are on day 322 with 43 days to go.  I am hoping to get 20 more DXCC and at least 3 more zones.  To be realistic -  Zone 19, 22, and 23 should be doable.

On Friday (Day 323) - while logged in remotely - bagged 5N/PA3TG on 20m CW.  The Nigerian station was pretty strong into the east coast.  He was slow but very deliberate with very good ears.

On Saturday (Day 324) - added Sardinia IS0HQJ.  I did not need Central African Republic but I worked Ken TL8AO on 20m as he was coming in strong from Africa.   It took a few tries to narrow down his QSX frequency to get into his log.   This is at least a new band and QRP to boot.

On Sunday (Day 325) added Zambia 9J2BO.  This was on 40m CW - I was just barely above the noise floor as he dug me out and gave me a 339 report.

The following week

On Tuesday (Day 327) added Tanzania 5H1WW on 15m CW.   Propagation was just starting to set in from Africa early in the day.   Propagation on 40m became really long during the evening hours as I was able to add Asiatic Turkey TA3/LZ3ND, Suriname PZ5V and as a bonus I was able to work VO2NS (Nazair) - Zone 2 - long missing on 40m to fill in that needed band zone combination for 5 Band Worked All Zones.

Thursday (Day 329) - Thanksgiving Day - added Cyprus 5B4AJC - really strong on 20m S9+

Friday (Day 330) - added Trinidad and Tobago - 9Y4/VE3EY on 40m CW.

#303 Myanmar XZ1A Confirmed in Clublog

Only 268 CW QSOs made to North America out of 6119 and the openings to the east coast were primarily on 17m.  I was not lucky enough to get a 17m QSO.   Any openngs to NA east coast were very weak.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

QRP DX Marathon - They are harder and farther

As I accumulate DXCC, the QSO's are harder and they are also farther.   The Y axis is distance in miles.  The X Axis is time in days.  As of the last 25 QSO's they averaged 6000 miles per QSO.   This is a smoothed through averaging - blue curve.   The per QSO distance is the orange curve.  As you can see there is a large amount of day to day variation.  The trending is clear - the contacts are getting further and further as shown by the blue curve.  We are now on day 324.   There were two periods of inactivity.  The latter one is shown during the summer months during which I was forced to take a hiatus from amateur radio to be a part time caregiver for my dad and help my mom.

The Trials and Tribulations of Setting Up a Remote Station

I was finally able to set-up a client-server arrangement for N4PY such that the N4PY control software is operating at the control end computer rather than the remote desktop option of taking over a remote computer on the internet.  The problem with remote desktop is latency - perhaps 25 to 50 milliseconds.  It may not seem like a lot but the shorter the latency the better.  I was able to test all the functionality from within the network:

(1) Functionality of the Griffin Powermate Knob on the client (control) computer
(2) Functionality and speed tests on tuning the VFO and sending CW over the network.

Now I was  eager to exercise this option from outside the LAN.  I fired up the LogmeIn client and found that the remote desktop is offline.   What happened?  Did the computer sleep?  The only way to find out is to go home.  Now to figure out a way to wake the computer from the internet - a concept called Wake on LAN (Local Area Network).

Upon returning home - the computer was in sleep mode.  I set up Windows device manager to wake the computer up via the Local Network or LAN - we will see how that works

In the video below I demo using the Griffin Powermate as a tuning knob.  The small Microsoft Surface tablet is the Client computer on the control end.  There is no need for a remote desktop connection. There is a need still for audio voice over IP (VOIP) through Skype.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Updated Shack Photo

Here it is crammed to a small space.  The newest addition to the stable is a Kenwood TS480SAT with the control head near the StationPro2.   This is the rig I plan to remote using Remoterig by Mikrobit for Christmas.   Right now I can perform remote operation using "remote desktop" software LogMeIn or TeamViewer which is limited to CW only on the K2.   I can control power from 100 milliwatts to 500 watts using the K2.  I use N4PY as the control software for the K2.   I don't have an amplifier keying cable for the Kenwood TS480 yet and the serial cable to enable CAT operation is on order.  I will use Kenwood's ARCP-480 software for the TS480.  For the KX3, I plan on using Win4K3.   Turning it on is is a bit of chore and I plan to do it with some trepidation since I will apply 12V into Ring 1 (PTT) of the Mic plug using a Canakits USB operated relay.   I was assured by Elecraft that this will work.  I have to be certain I don't apply 12V to the tip of the Mic plug.  The computer chores are done by a CDO tower with 2 serial ports and 8 USB ports.   All the USB ports are used up in some sort of fashion

Serial 1 - K2
Serial 2 - TS480SAT
USB - KAT500
USB - KPA500
USB - RRC Rotator Control
USB - Powerstrip to Turn On Shack Power Supplies
USB - Snowball Microphone
USB - Computer speaker

Monday, November 7, 2016

Remote Station Ragchew Into Madagascar - 5R8AL

This was my first successful ragchew with a DX station on 15m CW while remote into my station through the internet.  It was one I needed for DX Marathon.  Having to deal with the latency on the internet while typing on the keyboard was sort of strange but worked nonetheless.  The Op on the other side was Alain.   Thanks Alain for a new one for DX Marathon.

Friday, November 4, 2016

VK2BJ - Australia for DX Marathon

This was a nice surprise.  At 9417 miles away, he was surprisingly loud - peaking at S7 on my meter.  His name was Barry and liked to ragchew.  He was much stronger long path and that was the S7.   Long path distance was 15438 miles.   Double bonus in that he was also a new zone.  This was not too shabby for QRP.