Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 - A Tale of Two Charts

Well 2016 is almost over and I can't find any more DX I can work QRP for a new one.  Even with the waning of the sunspot cycles - I find myself having worked 19 ATNOS in 2016.  2016 is the year I broke 300 and 2016 is also the year that I was able to get the 5 Band Worked All Zones Award from CQ Magazine.  The DXCC slope will be much flatter in 2017 than in 2016 and I will be lucky to get to 310.  Being at 303 - I should be able to muster another sticker (305)

Chasing DX QRP was a lot of fun in 2016 and really just became an off shoot of the 100 day Challenge I started at the beginning of the year.  It looks like I will be closing out the year with having worked 166 DXCC in 34 Zones for a nice round score of 200.  I may get lucky and get one more.  I finally got Greece working PSK.  I am glad he kept calling CQ.  With the band conditions up and down on 40m - it took quite a bit of answering his CQ at 5 watts.   The band did get better 20 minutes in and he was finally able to get my call.   I still don't have European Russia and European Turkey.

I checked all my entries and now ready to submit.  My goal was 200 and I was just able to squeak that out.  I was surprised as to how I got there - having worked ZL, VKs, 4S7, EL, E5 along the way.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

DX Marathon Submission Almost Ready

Well I have analyzed the log for invalid call signs and submitted it to QScope to check for pirates, invalid call signs, etc and everything seems to pass.  I still have a couple of days and perhaps I may be able to muster another DXCC or a new Zone.

So far 34 Zones out of 40

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Paraset Replica Project - Bayou Jumper

First a little bit of history:

Parasets are so named because they were spy radios built by the British in World War and were typically deployed behind enemy lines via parachute - hence the name "Para-set".  Power output was 4-5 watts.

From Wikipedia:  The Paraset was one of the first successful miniaturized radio sets for Britain's Special Operations Executive which conducted espionage and other activities behind German lines during World War II.
The set, known as the Whaddon Mark VII, was used for clandestine radio communication primarily in Norway and Europe, developed at the Royal Signals Special Communications Unit workshops at Little Horwood and the workshops of Whaddon Hall, Buckinghamshire in the early stages of World War II. The equipment is known as the “Paraset” because it was dropped by parachute for field agents.[1][2][3]
A number of amateur radio operators build and operate replicas of the Paraset.[4]

The original parasets were regenerative receivers with crystal controlled transmitters.  The two tubes on the upper left are the receiving tubes and the larger tube on the right is the transmitting tube.  In the middle is a socket that is meant to take FT243 crystal holders for the single frequency that will be used for transmit.  The regenerative receiver has very few parts and is built on the principle of regeneration by providing positive feedback with its output connected to its input through a feedback loop..

The project I am building is a modernized version of the Paraset which uses MOSFET transmitter section based on the NS40 transmitter designed by NM0S of the 4 States QRP group.  The receiver is still a regenerative receiver.  The transceiver is a single band single frequency transmitter.  The transmit frequency can be changed by plugging in a different crystal.    Here is a short demonstration video from the 4 States QRP Group.

The modernized version is shown above.  Gone are the vacuum tubes.  The main PCB is shown below:

I am still awaiting the arrival of the kit.  As you can see, the board is a tight fit into the Hobby Lobby Chinese made boxes the PCB was sized for - so I made my own box.  The box is US made in SC by me. In addition to accommodating the PCB, the box I built have compartments for a battery and antenna wire. I have crystals for 7030 (NAQCC), 7055 (SKCC), 7122 (QRP-ARCI and Bayou Jumper calling frequency).  Larry Hastings, the kitter tells me my kit will go out in tomorrow mornings mail.

I tested the antenna wires today.  It was set up as a resonant antenna for 40m as a quarter wave ground plane.  I had a QSO with WA1HFF in Massachusetts transmitting 3 watts on my K1.

Monday, December 26, 2016

As the year 2016 .... comes to an end

Thanks to all the stations who, for whatever reason, decided to take time to dig my little signal and get me into their logs.  Here are but some of the notables:

  1. E51WDC on 17m for a new DXCC for DX Marathon
  2. ZL4YL - 15 y.o. young lady Xenia for a new DXCC for DX Marathon 
  3. VK2DX - a new DXCC and a new Zone
  4. VO2NS - the ever so rare Zone 2 (so close yet so far)
  5. TL8AO and TL0A - a very rare DXCC entity - Central African Republic
  6. EL2DT - Liberia - favorite frequency is 14.042 - worked him with the K1
  7. CY9C - Expedition to Saint Paul Island
  8. 3B9FR - Close to being an antipode from where I am at over 10000 miles
  9. JM7OLW - Japan - 6713 miles and CQ Zone 25
  10. RI1ANR - Antartica -8800 miles and CQ Zone 38
  11. 4S7AB - Sri Lanka - 9313 miles on the grey line
  12. 3D2AG/P - Rotuma Island - 7736 miles and  1st time into Zone 32

DX Marathon QRP - Down to the Wire

This has been a very enjoyable year - even if I don't get anymore.  Getting into Zone 32 with my puny signal is always a welcome sound - hearing the DX send NY4G 5NN.  This is Milan OK1DWC in the South Cook Islands using a Spiderbeam.  I was able to secure the QSO calling in between strong stations on 17m CW.  I was surprised he came back to me - but he did.

In the photo below is his daughter Natalie - already able to send 12 wpm at the age of 12.  Notice the propagation map VOACAP on his computer monitor.  Definitely a TS590 in the photo although the amp shown is a KPA500, he says he is using an SPE Expert 1.3FA in his QRZ page.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

KU4XO's 2 Year Timeline to Top Band DXCC

Matt KU4XO is a guy one has to just write about.  Here is his story.  A picture is worth a thousand words - need I say more.

Matt is the epitome of planning and tenacity. Once he gets his mind focused on one thing - he goes at it 100%.   I am both impressed and inspired - Kudos to Matt KU4XO.  This is the amp he used Triple 3CX800 ceramic tubed.  A monster power supply in a separate enclosure.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Testing the HiPerMite CW Filter

This is a test of the HiPerMite - W1ZY calling CQ on 7013 kHz with strong stations calling a VU (India) station on 7012 KHz.  This is a before (Filter in) and after (Filter out).  Hear the strong station after I take the filter out.  Bandpass is 1.5 KHz with the filter out.  The filter narrows thew bandpass to 200 Hz without ringing.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Senegal 6W/UA4WHX/P

Vladimir has a solo DXpedition to Senegal and he is there Dec 16-23 according to NG3K.   According to Bernie W3UR the end date was not clear.  In any event I was able to work him on 30m CW.  He was signing /P.

Worked New Zealand QRP - 15 Yr Old YL - ZL4YL

Well this was a neat surprise.   A very good fisted young lady from down under -8800 miles.  At first I thought it was long path since my beam was pointed northeast.   Then I realized I was not on the beam and on the 30m Delta loop on 15m.  One more contact for DX Marathon.  A better photo of Xenia below.  Xenia is very talented - top shelf - licensed just over a year (when she was 14) and has worked 204 DXCC.  She was the leading contender from Oceania in the SO HP 10m Contest.   Her father is ZL2IO, her mom is ZL2YL, and she has a sister who is also a ham ZL2GQ. I am going to get her QSL card.  She is 99% CW - made 6000 contacts already.  She blows a lot of people away.

Friday, December 16, 2016

QRP DX Marathon - They are harder and farther

As I accumulate DXCC, the QSO's are harder and they are also farther.   In the chart below, the Y axis is distance in miles.  The X Axis is time in days.  As of the last 25 QSO's they averaged over 6000 miles per QSO.   This is a smoothed through averaging - blue dots.   I plotted a least squares linear trend line.  The spikes in the 25 day moving average are influenced by long path QSOs.  The trending over time is clear - the contacts are getting further and further as shown by the dashed trend line.  We are now on day 350.   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.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Elecraft AutoTuner Tuning Ranges


The reactance configuration for all Elecraft ATUs is an L-network of series inductance, with a capacitance connected to common before (radio side) or after (antenna side) the inductance (but not both) by a relay. It is a classic low pass filter.  The following is based on my research and the latest firmware for the KXAT3, KAT100, KAT500, KAT2 which I own,

KAT1, Configs=1020, L=0 to 4.9 uH (16 steps), C=0 to 300 pF (32 steps)

KAT2, Configs=131068, L=0 to 20.7 uH (256 steps), C=0 to 2420 pF (256 steps)

KAT3, Configs=131068, L=0 to 17.4 uH (256 steps), C=0 to 2600 pF (256 steps)

KAT100, Configs=131068, L=0-20 uH (256 steps), C=0-2400 pF (256 steps)

KXAT1, Configs=124, L=0 to 4.5 uH (8 steps), C=0 to 140 pF (8 steps)

KXAT3, Configs=131068, L=0 to 17.4 uH (256 steps), C=0 to 2624 pF (256 steps)

KAT500, Configs=131068, L=0 to 17.37 uH (256 steps), C=0 to 2701 pF (256 steps)

T1, Configs=32764, L=0 to 7.5 uH (128 steps), C=0 to 1300 pF (128 steps)

So for both the KX1 and the K1, the T1 will offer a wider tuning range than either internal autotuner.

As always, it is always best to minimize the mismatch between the antenna and not force the autotuner to work so hard because the transmitter may be happy but the precious few watts of a QRP rig may be burned up significantly in the autotuner reactance.  The word to the wise is to use matching baluns to facilitate the better match.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Looking at 2015 DX Marathon Top Claimed Scores

It would be interesting to compare the 2015 top claimed scores against the 2016 top claimed scores come January 2017.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Joining the 300 Club

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

Looking forward to 2017

Bouvet and Baker and Howland are the big DXpeditions.   Besides that we have:

ZS1BCE (ZD9A, ZS8Z), David has signed a 17-month contract to be the
communications technician on Marion Island.  He will depart Cape Town
on December 20th and will return to South Africa in May 2018.  

ZC4 - U. K. Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus -
G0GSB, Steve, updates us on his trip to ZC4 early next year.  He'll
reactivate his ZC4SB call from the Akrotiri Area between January 11
and 25.  

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

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.