Thursday, January 30, 2014

Number 125 QRP DXCC Saba and St. Eustatius PJ6/K6NAO

Great timing, got the 125th QRP DXCC worked and confirmed 100 (94 with LOTW) and 6 with cards.

Number 124 QRP DXCC JA8ISU - Need just one more QRP DXCC Entity for 125

Well, now I am looking for just one more DXCC so I can apply for the QRP-ARCI DXCC Award with the 125 Country endorsement.  I just worked Japan JA8ISU for Number 124.  My greater than  1000 miles per watt DXCC entities is now up to 35.

Power versus Operating Skill

I had not fully realized how operating skill can "overpower" power.  So for example here are the words of Tony Castellano W1ZMB:

"I work strictly CW QRP and after working 187 CW/QRP countries, I started running 100 -milliWatts (0.1 Watts) using my KX3 and 135 ft OCF antenna. To date I have worked 70 countries this way, my best being ZL1BYZ, New Zealand, with a 3-3-9 report. This equates to 88,539 miles per Watt.

Tony Castellano W1ZMB"

So until I found the article by AE5DX, I did not have the hard data to show how technically this is true.  As you can see from above in the case of W1ZMB, dramatic achievements are possible even with very low power levels.And as K4SV has always told me - it matters where you put your signal.  And it applies whether working simplex or split.  John Harper AE5X wrote the following in his blog (comments in italics and bold are mine):

"For a while now I’ve been abstractly aware of something that I’ve wanted to flesh out graphically.  Specifically, it involves the necessity – and advantages – of precisely zero-beating a station, as opposed to a more relaxed approach of just “good enough”.  When working split it is a matter of placing your signal at the center point of the DX pass band.   DXpeditioners who work large pile ups will make this as narrow as possible - perhaps 50 Hz so skill in placing the transmit signal is a learned art.

It explains the logic of how skilled QRP ops work through pile-ups when the majority of their fellow DXers in the pile-up are QRO. Luck & patience are valuable commodities but technique is worth watts beyond the QRPer’s transmit output.  It also explains the How’s and Why’s of antenna-deficient stations (like mine!) getting through pile-ups quickly when conventional wisdom says they ought not to, given all the Yagis and kilowatts in the same pile-up.
Lack of technique effectively costs watts – again, in a Real way – and often renders QRO operators as “Unintentional QRPers”.

To illustrate this and to see its scope, I injected a reference signal into the antenna jack of my K3. I then zero-beat that signal and dialed my selectivity down to its minimum of 50 Hz to simulate how a rare DX station might adjust his receiver in order to cope with a large pile-up.
Then, to simulate the numerous stations calling him with varying degrees of accuracy in their zero-beat skills, I changed the freq of the injected signal in 10 Hz increments, up & down, and measured the corresponding decrease in the receiver’s audio output in decibels.  Finally, I graphed this offset error vs. loss of amplitude in dB and then converted the corresponding decrease to effective watts based on a theoretical 100-watt transmitter.

Each receiver will respond differently and that response will depend upon, among other things, the selectivity dialed in by the DX station. Many DXpeditions use K3′s and that happens to be the rig that I have handy so that’s what’s represented here.

The X-axis represents departure in Hz of the 10.110.000 MHz RF signal injected into the K3.
A few points:
100 watts attenuated by 13 dB is 5 watts. This occurs only 40 Hz either side of zero-beat. For most people, 40 Hz is very hard to discern by ear. If a 100-watt station is calling 40 Hz from the DX station’s receive freq and a 5-watt QRPer is calling at zero-beat, they’ll both be of equal amplitude in the DX station’s receiver – only their pitch will differ.
The 100-watt op has, by virtue of the distant receiver’s characteristics, made himself a virtual QRPer by being a mere 40 Hz away from the DX station’s receive freq.
Being only 25 Hz away from the DX station’s receiver causes your received signal to be attenuated by 7 dB…..your 100-watt signal now has an effective power of only 20 watts.

Also, 13 dB is a significant (X20) loss (or gain). Look at how much effort we put into maximizing the efficiency of our antennas. Going from a dipole to a Yagi nets us only half that amount. And how much does an amp cost that boosts your transmit power by 13 dB?  At only 50 Hz away, your 100-watt signal has all the punch of 800 milliwatts.  Pretty amazing, right? If that doesn’t illustrate the importance of proper transmit frequency placement when operating split, I don’t know what will.   Granted, these attenuation levels have everything to do with the selectivity of the DX station’s receiver – but you get my point:

Failure to practice precision in where you place your transmit freq negates the labor and cost of such station improvements.

At the date of this posting, there is a thread on eHam about QRP DXing. WG5G may have luck and patience on his side but I bet he knows full well the practical application of the chart above and how to exploit it to his benefit. How else would he have worked 338 countries with 5 watts?!
The next time you work a DX station in a split pile-up, take a listen on your transmit freq to gauge the zero-beat-ability of those still calling. I do this every single time I log a rare station and am always amazed at the absence of callers on the freq the DX has just proven himself to be listening to.  You demonstrate this to yourself by working a DX simplex as long as he can discern you above the noise floor.  I just worked JA8ISU at 200 watts and 5 watts on 80 meters.  At 5 watts he can barely copy me with his system but was able to.  Noise was around S1 with the preamp.  The noise floor is the other variable in this equation.  The DX has to be able to discern you above the noise and his receiver must have enough blocking dynamic range to isolate you from strong signals near his passband.  So this is where power on your end may have to kick in.

So how to precisely zero-beat in order to maximize the effect of every single watt you’re squirting out? 

With the K3, there are four ways:
  • Use the Auto-spot function
  • Use the Spot tone to match the pitch
  • Use the visual LCD indicator
  • Tune to the station using your narrowest (50 Hz) bandwidth
I use a combination of the last two methods knowing that if I can copy the desired station in my 50 Hz passband, that the DX station will hear me when I transmit there.  Again, I often have very little competition within that little sliver of a window.  There are other add-on zero beat indicators and helpers out there but I’ve never had the opportunity to use them and can’t speculate on their accuracy or implementation.

My goal, whether I meet it or not, is to be not just zero-beat with the last station the DX worked, but to ideally be the same pitch in the DX station’s headphones as the station he previously worked. I know that DX stations sometimes tune up or down between QSO’s but I find that if I make them “not have to”, they often won’t."  by John Harper AE5X

Monday, January 27, 2014

#225 DXCC and Number 123 QRP DXCC Amsterdam and St Paul Islands FT5ZM

After a couple of days of mostly listening to mayhem - thanks to a great op and a greatly thinned herd of callers.  I even heard Tom N0TR call the DX.  My transmitter power for the initial contact was only 200 watts.  A half an hour later when the pileup started to vanish at around 0434Z I decided to call again at QRP power with the KX3 only and the KPA500 on standby.  It took a few tries on his end but he finally copied me and gave me a 579 report.

Update: Jan 29  The DXPedition just uploaded their logs to Clublog.  Tom N0TR, Matt WM4AA and I are all in there on 20m.  K4SV has them on 9 bands CW and 3 bands on phone.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

#224 DXCC Fernando de Noronha PY0F/PP1CZ

This was sort of a gift on 12m.  There were relatively few callers on DX entity that is rather rare.  Mode again is CW.  

FT5ZM on the Display

There was utter mayhem on opening day as literally hundreds are calling the DX station at the same time scattered all over about 8 kHz

Monday, January 20, 2014

New Personal Best 9500 miles per watt CE2AWW

This is my first attempt at Milliwatt DXing.  My power level is 1/2 watt.  The DX station is in Chile 4750 miles away using the grid square published in QRZ.  Which makes it 9500 miles per watt.  The rig is the KX3 and the antenna is a Hexbeam and the band is 17m.  Mode is CW.  The DX Op is Dale Green

Sunday, January 19, 2014

#223 DXCC Benin TY2BP

This was a chance encounter on 20m.  I was soldering my QSK Board when I heardhim pop in faintly on the panadapter.

First Forays Into JT65

I finally got the JT65HF Software to work with the KX3.  Here is a snapshot of the interface as shown below:

My most distant contact is right now South Africa at 8000 miles.  However, it took 20 watts of transmit power to do it. At that I was pretty low into the noise floor at -16dB.  My guess is the DX is transmitting with the same power as I was as he was at -17 dB.  It is pretty slow going as each QSO takes about 5 minutes.  With 3 watts of transmit power when I call CQ, i get mostly the US except for the one time a YV station called me back.  However, I could not do any further exchanges with that station.  I will try it on the Hexbeam pointed to Europe to see how I do with 3 watts of transmit power.

Friday, January 17, 2014

DXCC Over 1000 miles per watt

The 6th column is the distance computed by the logging program.  The 7th column is the power level.  The last column is the miles per watt.   Of 122 QRP contacts so far, these are the ones that exceed 1000 miles per watt.  The highest miles per watt is a US contact at 100 milliwatts which is the personal best.  Ironically, the personal best before that is my first DX contact on the FT817 when I was just a General Class licensee some 3 years ago.  Guam is the only one on 80m.  Most of them are on wire antennas and the 80m contact is on an inverted L. Namibia was on RTTY on a Hexbeam. The Australia contact was on phone (voice mode).  The rest were CW (Morse).

Number  Call                                   Date        DXCC Entity                                     Transceiver    Distance
1   KG9HV 20-Oct-13 USA K2 537 0.1 5370
2   VK6LC 15-Mar-10 Australia FT817 11355 5 2271
3   3B9SP 15-Oct-12 Rodriguez Island K2 10094 5 2019
4   FR5HA 4-Jun-11 Reunion I. FT897 9700 5 1940
5   5R8IC 2-Dec-13 Madagascar K2 9139 5 1828
6   ZL3IO 13-Oct-12 New Zealand K2 8421 5 1684
7   DP1POL 4-Jan-14 Antartica K2 8143 5 1629
8   ZS9MADIBA 16-Dec-13 South Africa KX3 8080 5 1616
9   KH2/N2NL 18-Jan-14 Guam KX3 7930 5 1586
10   A45XR 5-Oct-13 Oman KX3 7636 5 1527
11   V5/DJ2HD 9-Jan-14 Namibia KX3 7582 5 1516
12   D3AA 11-Oct-12 Angola K2 7289 5 1458
13   RI1ANF 17-Oct-12 Franz Josef Land KX3 6761 5 1352
14   4J5A 15-Oct-12 Azerbaijan K2 6360 5 1272
15   4X130RISHON 13-Oct-12 Israel KX3 6328 5 1266
16   5B4AHL 28-Jan-12 Cyprus K2 6080 5 1216
17   5N7M 2-Oct-12 Nigeria KX3 5810 5 1162
18   SV9/DL7UCX 7-Oct-13 Crete k2 5683 5 1137
19   UA9FGJ 29-Jul-11 Asiatic Russia K2 5433 5 1087
20   LZ9W 9-Jul-11 Bulgaria K2 5413 5 1083
21   ER1DA 2-Oct-12 Moldova KX3 5392 5 1078
22   SV2GNC 5-Oct-13 Greece K2 5361 5 1072
23   EM5HQ 13-Jul-13 Ukraine KX3 5301 5 1060
24   Z30HQ 13-Jul-13 Macedonia KX3 5281 5 1056
25   YO6LV 27-Mar-12 Romania K2 5276 5 1055
26   ZA/OK1DX 1-Oct-12 Albania KX3 5268 5 1054
27   R5ZZ 24-Jul-11 European Russia KX1 5260 5 1052
28   YT3M 11-Aug-12 Serbia KX3 5197 5 1039
29   4O3A 28-Apr-13 Montenegro KX3 5148 5 1030
30   EW5HQ 14-Jul-13 Belarus KX3 5067 5 1013
31   E77DX 1-Dec-13 Bosnia Herzegovina K2 5043 5 1009
32   HA8JV 7-May-13 Hungary K2 5012 5 1002
33   CX1AA 14-Jul-13 Uruguay KX3 5001 5 1000

Number 122 QRP DXCC - Guam - KH2/N2NL

It took about 10 minutes working in the pileup/  I worked him the day before with 500 watts.  He was still strong today about S5.   This was on 80m - my most distant contact QRP on 80m at about 7930 miles.  He dug me out though.  He was a good op and did the heavy lifting.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

JA8ISU Japan on 80m

This is contact would have been in the noise floor if the band had not been quiet.  He was another good operator - Kazuo Namoto.  His favorite is low band DXing.  Need  note to self to send a QSL card as this contact does not do LOTW

KH2/N2NL Guam on 80m

I usually don't write about a contact unless it is a new DXCC or noteworthy in some fashion.  At 7880 miles. this is my furthest contact on 80m.  The band was unbelievably quiet and the DX was about S5.  He had few takers at first and after my contact the pileup got bigger.  He was a good op working the pileup simplex.

The next day he was strong again and was able to work him with 5 watts.

His transmit antennas are all on the edge of a steep drop off as shown in the photo below.  He has an extensive beverage antenna system

Saturday, January 11, 2014

#222 DXCC Temotu Province H40FN

My first one with the KX3 at 500 watts for a DX.  You wonder how does a KX3 get 500 watts out.  The KX3 drives a Hardrock50 with 1.5 watts drive and the Hardrock drives the KP{A500 with about 25 watts.  I actually got 550 watts out of the KPA500 meter.

How I Do My PL259s

(1) First is to wrap about 3-4 turns of electrical tape right where the insulation of the shield will be cut.  This forms a backstop  for the PL259 to apply pressure while screwing the assembly.

(2) Cut open the insulation over the shield as shown below:

(3) I then spread the shield wires apart from the center dielectric and wrap a piece of tape around the dielectric only about 2 turns.  This will thicken the joint For a tIght crimp when the PL259 is screwed on later. When this is correctly done, there is a half inch of braid of shield inside the PL259 jammed up against the screw threads.  This is shown below:

(4) Now cut the dielectric off at the of the electric tape wrap and tin the copper center conductor.  Tightly wrap the shield conductors against the black tape.

(5) Insert a 3 inch piece of thick heat shrink.  This will be used to later shrink around the bottom part of the assembly.

(6) Screw the PL259 assembly over the prepared and folded up shield wires.  The center conductor should poke through a bit.  This will be cut off later.

(7) Trim the shield wires back so they are about 1/8 inch long.  Solder the center conductor to the PL259. 

(8)  Solder the shield wires to the shield of the PL259 all the way around. When the shield is soldered some of the solder will wick up through underneath the PL259 because of capillary action,

(9) Finally, wrap the heat shrink about 3/8 of an inch on the PL259.  Make a test assembly and make sure the PL259 can be unscrewed off an SO239 or similar connector.

Now we have a redundant crimp and soldered connection on the shield.  The heat shrink will give it some additional stiffness against flexing.  Stress is the enemy of soldered joints and that is why a good crimp is important.  This joint should continue to function even if the solder joint is to break.  However, with every strand of the shield soldered to the PL259 - this is not very likely.  

Note that this method has been challenged by others as being inferior.  I have only 3 years of experience as a ham but I am a very experienced engineer and builder.  I stand by my contention that this is a superior way to do it.  I also offer this internet article from a ham who has been doing something similar for 45 years without having a joint fail.  I doubt I will live another 45 years to prove this as I am already 56.  The internet article is by K3DAV

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Number 121 QRP DXCC Namibia

I am simply amazed at the capability of the KX3.  I saw V5/DJ2HD QSY to 17m in the RTTY slot.  Using the agility of the station pro 2 - I switched over to the KX3.  I did not get a chance to turn on the Hardrock for the contact.  The DX copied me with 5 watts into the paddle while the rig was sending out RTTY.  The DXr is a German - named Mathias - QRV in the African continent.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

#221 DXCC West Malaysia and #120 QRP DXCC Antartica

First the #120 QRP DXCC.  This was a double bonus.  I worked the station DP1POL a German Amateur station in the South Pole first on 20m.  Then he reappeared on 40m except he was much louder.  He was working a pileup.  And I said, what the heck, I will try him with 5 watts and just sent the letters /QRP a few KC's below where most everyone else is calling from.  I know I can't compete against the guys who send a kilowatt.  Well what do you know, he eventually wandered to where I was and asked QRP?  I called back with my full call /QRP and came back to me with a 559 report. SO this was a shade below 1700 miles per watt.  QRP DXCC confirmations are now up to 96.

#221 DXCC is West Malaysia 9M2MRS also on 40 meters.  40 meters had been very long tonight and this was a wire - ZS6BKW - and it was resonant on 40.  I did call him with the Drake L4B backing up the K2/100 with a Kilowatt.  He confirmed me the next day on LOTW.

With both these contacts, brings me up to 93 confirmed on LOTW..  I also have 6 additional cards in my possession for new confirmations on 40m which would bring my total up to 99 DXCC.  So I would just need one more confirmation for 40m DXCC with a DXCC application using cards.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Updated Shack Photo

Here is my latest photo showing both rigs connected to the StationPro2 master controller.  The panadapter is showing the RTTY contest on 80m.  I managed to fill a few holes for my 80m worked all states.  The KX3 worked flawlessly in FSK-D mode just driving the Hardrock at 3W drive.  The Hardrock did not even break a sweat as finals remained cool.  Stan KF4BY helped me sort through my issues with the StationPro2 RF switching unit.  Thanks a bunch Stan.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

#220 DXCC worked Sovereign Order of Malta - 1A0KM

This took a little bit of work as there were many callers on 17m.   I put the amp on bypass and I was only sending 50 watts when he returned my call.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Station Pro 2 - RF Switching Test

I conducted RF switching test early this morning to show that the RF paths for all transceiver - amplifier combinations are all showing continuity and acceptable SWR into a known 50 ohm resistive load.

The setup is as shown above.  the SP2  is on the left.  The RF Box is in the middle and an Array Solutions antenna analyzer (AA-200) and  a VOM were alternately fed into the transceiver SO239s.  The amplifier inputs and outputs were jumpered.

All continuity checks through all combinations show less than 0.2 ohm resistance.
All SWR tests for all combinations show less than 1.08 SWR.  The SWR calibration run direct into the analyzer is less than 1.03

The SP2 is fully functional in terms of RF switching.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

KK4PGC Tower Project

N4IQ, N0TR and I headed there to do feedline and preliminary checks of the antenna while it is still laying close to the ground.  The antenna array is a log periodic and the rotator is a Ham III.  Tower height is 60 feet and overall weight is approximately 340 lbs.

Below are some photos of the excursion to Bob's place.

The last photo below is with the tower up.  Hard to imagine the scale but the surrounding pines are 50 feet high.  I managed to work Bob KK4PGC from my QTH on 10 and 15 for my 5 Band WAS credit for which I am still trying to build a contact base on 10 and 15m.