Monday, August 31, 2020

My first digi contest was very frustrating!

Last week while making some FT8 contacts I received a message from one of the contacts I had made and he asked if I was going to be taking part in the upcoming WW Digi contest? He told me if I used WSJT-X software it was a simple matter of a few mouse clicks and I was good to good for the contest. I do have WSJT-X on my desktop but I am a user of JTDX for my digital operation. I had to update my WSJT-X software to 2.2.2 and as I was advised it was just a few simple clicks to set the software up for the contest. As I began the contest and started to send my CQ WW on the waterfall I was met with frustrations. Here are some of the issues I had:

  • At first, the auto sequence was not working and as stations that were answering my CQ were going unanswered unless I did it manually. I don't have an issue with that but the auto sequence was turned on but not working. 
  • In the frequency drop-down menu, WSJT-X did not offer the contest frequency which was 14090 to 14092.8. When I tuned my radio manually to this frequency the software had the frequency in red and not the normal green. 
  • For some unknown reason and it was very random my rig would tune back to 14074. This had me calling CQ WW outside the contest frequency. 
The above things kept happening and it was very frustrating and I ended up just shutting down. I did try JTDX and it did have the contest frequencies in the drop-down menu. I had no auto sequence issues and the rig stayed on frequency. One might ask why I just didn't stick with JTDX and keep going in the contest? The main reason was frustration but also I needed to have a contest log of the contacts to send off at the end of the contest. Maybe I could have configured it in JTDX but as I said earlier I was very frustrated. 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Issue with my feed line.

Troubling reading of coax 
Faulty PL259 

Last week I posted about a wonky SWR reading I was getting and I figured it may be the result of a loose PL259. The issue returned again but not as bad last week. Since moving my Endfed antenna to be able to extend the wire the coax was also moved and now has to be buried. I needed to place the coax in some PVC conduit and not direct buried underground. It was a nice day and I decided to place the coax in the PVC conduit. While I had the coax disconnected from the Endfed antenna to feed it through the PCV conduit I thought I would connect my Fluke multimeter to the coax. With both ends of the coax disconnected, I placed the multimeter leads across the centre and barrel of the PL259 just to make sure my reading was "OL" and low and behold it was not! 
Outdoor soldering station. 

As I wiggled and moved the PL259 the reading would rise and fall. Truth be told this PL259 was a plastic moulded factor installed connector that I was not too keen on but for some reason decided to leave it on. Just to confirm it was the PL259 I cut it off the coax and then retested the coax from the centre conductor to braid and the meter read "OL" Fortunately I just installed 120-volt outlets in my shed so it was a matter of running an extension cord from the shed to an outdoor soldering station I set up to solder in a new PL229 connector.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Skunked in the 2020 NJQRP Skeeter Hunt!

The setup 
Last weekend on Sunday was the NJQRP club QRP Skeeter hunt I received my Skeeter number close to the Sunday start date as I was not sure if I was able to participate but things turned in my favour Sunday was open for the contest. The morning here did not look too promising as there was a steady rain, but the weather reports were calling for a nice sunny afternoon. This was important as I was planning to set up in the backyard in our dining tent. 
Just in case it rained

The weather report was correct and the skies cleared and things looked just great for operating outdoor. For my set up I was going to use my Elecraft KX3 that I put together from a kit, battery power, Palm mini paddle and finally the antenna was a mag loop. I was on checking out 20m to see how it was sounding before the contest. It was not all that great but I was coping some station so the only thing to do now was to wait for the contest to start. 

My QRP signal was being heard.

To make a long story short I was on for over 21/2 hours and I did hear some skeeter station but only at the noise floor and they were soon gone. I had my Mac laptop with me and I was checking and found some spots but I was just not able to hear ANYTHING! I did check the Reverse Beacon Network to see if my QRP CQ was being heard and it was all the way in Finland as OH6GB heard my signal. 

My score for the contest was a big fat ZERO but I did get out, had my KX3 running and had a nice time outside. 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

WHAT THE HECK!!

Hard to capture wonky SWR situation
Good afternoon all, during these days of high temperatures along with high humidity comes severe weather. Storms that bring high winds, lots of rain, sometimes hail and most often lightening. When there is a threat of these storms I remove all connections from my antenna to radio and related radio equipment. I have a 3x5 card that reads "antenna disconnected" that is put in front of my power button on the Icom 7610. It's there to remind me what I did as in the past I have actually turned the rig on and was greeted with an out of this world SWR when I attempted to transmit. On the back of the 3x5 card is a list of what has to be reconnected.  

Well back to the topic at hand, I had my cables disconnected and the 3x5 card in place as we did have some severe weather roll through town the night before. I connected the cables, turned on the radio and started my PC. My plan was to get some FT8 contacts in the log before supper prep had to be done. As my rig was transmitting my LDG 200AT pro II turner started clicking which meant it was going through a tune session. This was odd as the tuner memory already selected the sweet spot and it was proven by the SWR meter on the Icom 7610. BUT......as I continued to transmit the SWR was going "wonky" and the LDG tuner was engaging to correct the issue. 

There sure was an issue and I'm not feeling good about it. My troubleshooting began and here is what I did:  

  1. I went to antenna 2 on the Icom 7610 which was connected to my dummy load. I transmitted into it at full power for about the time of an FT8 transmission. The result was no SWR issue so the 7610 seemed to be ok. 
  2. I then connected the LDG tuner between the dummy load and my transmitter. I know there is no miss-match but if the LDG tuner was acting up it may do it in this ideal matched situation. The result was the tuner did nothing when I transmitted. 
  3. I do have an LDG antenna switch (LDG DTS-4) in the maze as well. Once again I transmitted into the dummy load through the LDG tuner and then the LDG DTS-4 to the dummy load. Low and behold the tuner was trying to find a match again! 
In the past, I did have an LDG antenna switch with a bad relay and it seems this may be the case again. I examined the coax connections and there was one very slight loose connection. I also exercised the relays by switching from one antenna position to another and back again. Once this was done the SWR issue was gone. My BIG mistake was I did not check the conditions after I tightened the PL-259's before I exercised the relays. If I did it would have been clear where the issue exactly was. You know what they say " hindsight is always 20/20" I have not had the problem since but one thing for sure I have narrowed it down to the LDG DTS-4 switch or coax connection to it.