Sunday, October 31, 2010

Boy did I ever SCREW UP.......

 Below is my score from the RDXC contest after my bad calls, bad exchanges and not in the log penalties my final score was a BIG "0" !!!!!! Now that is a humbling experience,  I had limited time in the contest and only made 24 QSO's. One would think what could go wrong with 24 contacts.....below is the answer.

 VE3WDM claimed and confirmed results in RDXC-2010:
  Entry : SOAB-CW-LP

              C l a i m e d:             C o n f i r m e d:
       QSOs Points DXCC Obls  Total  QSOs Points DXCC Obls  Total

Total :   24   122  20   2     2684          8     0   7   1        0
  14  :   22   114  18   2                       6     0   5   1
  21  :    2     8   2   0                          2     8   2   0

  Penalties for:
    bad calls = 6
    bad exchanges = 6
    not in log = 3
  Other missed QSOs (no penalty) = 7
  Unical calls = 0

Was my cat Oliver in this contest while I went for breaks.....out of 24 contacts I rolled out 15 total mistakes oh then there were the missed QSO's but no penalty there.

Band Mode UTC  Station   Sent Rcvd

 14  CW  13:39 JT1CO      002  197   Your exchange was copied as 001
         ...............               002  197   Correct exchange is 167
 14  CW  13:42 UW3U      003  306   Not in UW3U log
 14  CW  14:11 RT3T        005  NN    Not in RT3T log
 14  CW  15:11 OF3G       010  151   Correct callsign is OL3Z
 14  CW  15:14 W6YI        011  200   Your exchange was copied as 044
 14  CW  15:24 OK1IC       012  433   Your exchange was copied as 013
         ...............               012  433   Correct exchange is 434
 14  CW  15:54 UZ0A        015  426   Correct callsign is UZ0U
         ...............               015  426   Correct exchange is 436
 14  CW  15:55 SK3W       016  406   Your exchange was copied as 015
         ...............               016  406   Correct exchange is 407
 14  CW  16:01 IK3W        017  418   Correct callsign is SK3W
 14  CW  16:43 LY9K        018  517   Correct callsign is LY9Y
         ...............               018  517   Your exchange was copied as 008
 14  CW  16:49 LN9Z        019  390   Correct exchange is 388
 14  CW  16:52 M5B         020  230   Correct exchange is 240
 14  CW  17:04 5G5C         021  316   Correct callsign is HG5C
         ...............               021  316   VE3DDM in 5G5C log
 14  CW  17:15 KH6BM    022  011   Correct callsign is KH6MB
 14  CW  17:32 GM3WOJ  023  716   Not in GM3WOJ log
 14  CW  18:05 HG5C       024  427   Your exchange was copied as 022

The good news is it can only get better and I sure hope it does. I will say I do like getting these score break downs as it lets me know  how I did and were things went the case of this contest I did not do well and just about everywhere things went wrong were they could go wrong.  

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Elecraft K3 diversity mode

True stereo diversity mode
A few post's ago I reviewed how my new sub receiver(KRX3) for my K3 worked. The only area of the KRX3 I was not able to demonstrate was true stereo diversity mode. At the time I was not very familiar with it. I have been able to work with it during some contest situations and regular QSO's. It was a learning curve of some misunderstandings and adjustments to how best to setup the radio for diversity mode. Thanks to many of the hams who helped clear things up for me. I found it best to listen with stereo headphones I also am using two antennas that are at different polarizations. There is a vertical antenna and a horizontal dipole. The vertical  is used by the main receiver and the dipole is used by the sub receiver. VFO A sets the receive frequency for both main and sub receivers. Also mode and filtering changes made to the main receiver will be also made to the sub at the same time. Diversity holds a lot of promise for weak signal DXing where using 2 separate antennas can help reduce the impact of fading, QRM and noise. If there is a signal that is fading in and out chances are one of the two antennas will have a receive advantage over the other. I set the K3 up so one volume control will control both receivers at the same time. Then I have a  balance control the left channel for the vertical antenna and the right for the dipole and in the center both antennas. Well enough chatting about it here are some audio recordings I did of my K3 in true stereo diversity mode. In these recordings I will be going from channel to channel as well as a balance of both antennas.

Make sure you use stereo headphones  the left channel is my vertical antenna and the right channel is my dipole antenna.  

Both these recordings were done on 40 meter at 7.030 the filter being used was an 8 pole inrad 400hz.

Do let me know what you think???

Friday, October 22, 2010

RFI issues any ideas....

As I mentioned in a previous post I had some QRN and now think it is some type of RFI. Here is what I have done up to this point.

1.The RFI is on all bands at the same S unit and it is across the whole band just not a segment. I could view this with my PowerSDR software. The whole noise floor would rise and fall in sync with the RFI pattern.

2.When I connected to the Dummy load the RFI was no longer present.

3.With the center pin of the PL-259 only connected to rig RFI was present on all bands again.

4.With PL-259 disconnected from radio RFI was gone.

Below is a recording I did not 20 meters the other day have a listen your feed back would greatly help. I hope to by the end of the weekend know what and were the RFI is and hopefully solve it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Honey do list vs contesting

I don't know about others but for me when contest day approaches there are voices calling me to do work around the house (honey do list) then there are the contest voices calling out for me. Then the inner compromise is made settling the unconscious verbal war...."Mike you need to have some down time...some rest and relaxation to recharge the batteries." This past weekend was the ARCI QRP during this contest I realized
-I have to recheck the S meter calibration again on my K-3.
-The options for the volume balance during diversity mode with the K- have to be looked into.
-My extra keyboard and mouse I use with my laptop have to be relocated so I will not confuse them with the main PC's keyboard and mouse during the contest.
-The external sound card  (E MU 0202) I use for PowerSDR software has some kind of cabling problem.
-Speaking of PowerSDR I upgraded the software and now realize a new calibration between it and my K3 has to be done.
- Finally there is some type of new QRM that showed up during the contest that I have to hunt down around the house.
At the end of the contest it seems my to do list has gotten longer.......those darn contest voices deceived me....hmmmmmmm 

Monday, October 18, 2010

ARCI Fall QSO party.......

Home for 4 hours
During the slow times working on my Elecraft KPA-100
The ARCI Fall QSO party is over for another year, this is first time I took part in this contest as well as the first time I did not use N1MM macros. I gave my Bengali Contour key a workout and it was not to bad at all. I found in this contest the code speed was comfortable. Not like in some of the major contests were the speeds are sometimes out of this world. The photo  above shows my operating setup. I had printed out what to send for reports just in case I had the deer in headlights syndrome. It worked out very well and as the contest when on I was able to add to it. As well I prepared some 3x5 cards with notes on  regarding scoring and some memory setups on my K3. I used my main PC to operate N1MM logger, Power SDR and a software program for my Telepost LP-100A. The other screen to the right is hooked up to my Laptop on that I ran QRZ.COM, a propagation website as well as the home page for  QRP ARCI group. The antennas are a 20 meter dipole in the attic and a High Sierra Sidekick outside beside my deck. I operated  for 3 hours on Saturday, I found this being my first all QRP contest I had to have the filtering just right. If not I would miss some of the contacts that were close to the noise floor. There was some slow times in the afternoon I was checking 15 meters at the top of each hour. I found just a few contacts there and at the bottom of each hour I jumped down to 10 meters. I ended up not hearing any stations on 10 meters at all. As a side note I was using the K3's Diversity reception (this uses one antenna for reception and the other for transmitting.) to do this hopping around. In the past when I did this I would have to re-tune the screw driver antenna I am using and re-tune it back to 20 meters. Now with Diversity I was able to band hop with ease and no re-tuning.  As I said there was some down time and I used that time to work on my very much ongoing Elecraft KPA-100 project. The time was spent winding 11 toroid's. After this project and waiting in line to be assembled is the Elecraft KAT-100 antenna tuner. I was only on for a few hours on Sunday had some running around to do as well I found the bands to have high levels of QRM not sure if there is something in the area that is bother me though. Mind you I do have 44 KV hydro lines out the back in a field. For the whole contest I made 17 contacts and a score of 1066 I did have a very enjoyable time. It was great seeing  how I could do with low (4 watts) QRP power. Thanks to all of you for the contacts and the understanding during my CW foo pa's.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Stop dipping my toes in the water

When it comes to CW contesting I feel it is now time to stop dipping my toes the water and just jump right in !!! A few years ago I began my journey into CW contesting and to increase my code speed. For me a CW contest was getting on N1MM logger and using the macros for all the reply's during a contest. Now and then I thought I would step out of the comfort zone and dip my toes in the water and not use the macros, I went LIVE!!!!! That was the beginning of the train derailment I would start to send my report at the same time telling myself not to mess up. If I messed up I felt I would throw off the calling stations rhythm not to mention those in line after me in their shacks just rolling their eyes.  Then there is the self talk that is spinning  around in my head as well " ok Mike it's just a report 5NN and a serial number"  "did I send a H or a 5"  by this time the serial number is a distant memory. Now self talk moves to panic. My eyes are wondering around the monitor looking at the N1MM screen......"the serial....where is the serial..." I have now fallen into the state of a deer in headlights.  As for my fellow contester's in line after me, I have given them the opportunity to refill their coffee or take a much needed washroom break or maybe BOTH!!!!
Then it's over the report and serial are out there my contact says to them self  " thank god" and for me it was like a trip to the dentist.  I now just embrace the macros of N1MM and tell myself that the next contest will be different I will give it ago then.  This weekend is the ARCI fall QSO party I have not taken part in this contest before and it is my first QRP contest. This will be my first contest were I am jumping in the pool..... no dipping of the toes. I will be using N1MM logger to score and record the contest but no macros. I feel the only way to get this monkey off my back it to get in there and just keep plowing at it. Julie is out and about most of the weekend with photography stuff so it's contest time.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Elecraft KRX3 review

KRX3 installed
My KRX3 was shipped on the 8th September from Elecraft and arrived on the 22nd , I began the install the weekend of the 25th and am going to post a separate blog posting with regards to the assembly along with pictures. Here the purpose is to report on how the KRX3 has preformed up to this point. For those of  you who are unfamiliar with the KRX3 it is a completely separate high performance sub-receiver for the Elecraft K3 transceiver. My KRX3's filters are the same as the main receiver. The stock 2.7 khz 5 pole crystal filter along with 8 pole Inrad 250, 400 and 500 Hz filters ordered from Inrad International Radio.  After configuring the K3 to recognize the KRX3 and using the K3 utility to upgrade the software to the most recent for the KRX3 (which went very smoothly) I then set up the head phones so the left ear is the main receiver and right ear sub-receiver and when the sub is not being used I would have the main receiver in both ears.

                                Receiving two separate signals on the same band
Click on each image to enlarge

I wanted to try some simple stuff with the new sub-receiver at first as I had not yet dove into the manual to learn the details of the KRX3. With the two receivers on the same filter (Dual pass band) on the main receiver I found one CW signal in a QSO with another station at 7.013 (in my left ear). Then with sub-receiver I found another station at 7.034 in a QSO (in my right ear). It worked and sounded great I was even able to use different filters and depending on noise conditions at either end of 40 meters use separate NB, NR, ATT, or other filter settings. I recorded an audio sample this is from my 20 meter dipole in the attic. At first you will hear both signals then just the sub receiver (7.034)  then both and the the main receiver (7.013). Both of these signals I used the dual bandpass filter.
The audio clips are best if listened to with stereo headphones. 

Same band separate QSO's audio sample

This feature is useful in contests when a station I want to work (a multiplier) is involved in a pileup. I can keep them on the sub receiver  and work other stations with the main receiver. The sub and main have independent volume controls. The sub-receiver can be lowered and checked in on now and then to see how the pileup is going.   When the pile up thins down I am able to hear it and then take the opportunity to work the multiplier.

                                                   Working a DX-pedition

PJ4B DX-pedition
If your not a contester this feature comes in very handy when making contact with a DX-pedition. With the main receiver you tune in the DX-pedition set the sub to their offset. You are now able to listen to both sides of the DX-pedtion. In one ear you can hear the DX-pedtion calling and answering as well in the other ear you can hear those who are calling. You will know what the DX-pedition is hearing and when to fit your call in so they can hear you and not a large pileup of calls being sent at the same time.   This is a great advantage to getting through the large pileup that is trying to make their contact all at the same time. In the audio clip the DX-pedition is in your right ear and the pileup in your left ear.

DX-pedition audio sample. 

                                   Receiving two signals on separate bands

Now because the KRX3 is a totally independent receiver you are able to listen to two separate bands at the same time. The main receiver was on 20 meters and the sub was on 40 meters. (using the same antenna) Again in contesting this can allow me to check another band to see if it is open or closed for action. You also could set the sub for your weekly 80 meter skid. While waiting for it to start make some contacts on 40 with the main receiver. In the audio example you will hear 20 meters on the main VFO then the sub were a station is calling CQ on 40 meters. The audio goes back and forth as well as both bands at the same time.

Two separate band audio sample

                                                          Diversity receiving 
 I consider having two independent receivers to be a great asset, but then there is the  ability to listen on one antenna and transmit on another this is called diversity receiving.  In my case I have a 20 meter attic dipole and a High Sierra Sidekick outside at the side of my deck. Not a super station but along side the Elecraft K3 it's getting my signal out there. I use the dipole as my receiving antenna as it is horizontal and quiet, the Sidekick is the transmitting antenna. If I was just using the vertical I found I missed out on signals that were close to the noise floor. The dipole was able to pick these up and I was therefore able to work more stations. On Thanksgiving Monday I was giving the diversity mode a workout, at this point I don't understand it well enough to go into any detail. I will dedicate more time to this mode next weekend. I will blog on the diversity mode then I just want to make sure I understand it fully so I can give this mode it's due credit.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How Nifty is that

On Sunday Julie and I were watching the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills playing. We have one of these nice flat screen TVs and Julie thought lets put the TV in sport mode. It makes the greens greener and sound is better and so on. The button pushing started and well no greener greens instead no sound and a picture of snow. Bye bye NFL game and hello NOTHING!!!  Now begins the "what the @#$%@& went wrong. There was TV remote button pushing, combination's of remote button pushing, cycling the TV on and off. Then desperation settled in and we thought about looking for the manual.
As hams how many times has this happened to you and your rig? You come into the shack turn the radio on and sometime during the night the radio gremlins paid you a visit. Your sure you left the settings alone but for some reason your memories are not there......or the rig only tunes in megahertz segments, how about  the rigs electronic keyer has reversed the dit and dah on the paddle!!!!  All you wanted to do was get on the rig for some relaxation  and get some QSO's in.  You think you remember how to fix things but at the same time your not really sure, heck your a ham so you start to push what you think are the right buttons. Hmmm things are now worse as you have somehow also changed other setting you never intended to. Not only have the  radio gremlins paid you a visit but on top of that Murphy has you changing things you never intended to while not getting the original problem fixed, you are proportionately digging your hole deeper as you try to dig your way out!!! At this point crazy thoughts are going through your head like "lets dig out the owners manual".
But wait..... this is were N6FN's Nify Mini Manuals come in very handy! I have there operating guides for my Elecraft radios and have used them many times. Not to put down the owners manuals as they are very useful and have loads of information in them. But there are times you can get bogged down with information while looking through them for a quick fix. This is were the Mini Manuals I find shines, they have a very easy to read table of contents on the front page. Here you find a list of most if not all functions you will want to use. From there you are taken to a page with red lettered headings followed by fast and concise   steps guiding you through what has to be done. For example the other day I turned on my K3 and for some reason on 20 meters CW the rig was in CW REV. I tried to be a hero ham and just push some buttons...nothing....grabbed the Mini Manual. Found "CW operation and keyer setup" in the front page table of contents, turned to page 11 skimmed over the bold sub heading" Using CW REV". There I was told to press and hold ALT key.....did that and I was back in business.  I have the Mini for my KX1 it is just larger than a business card and it is tri-folded. Easy to pack with your KX1 and again I have used it many times to refer to.  N6FN's Mini manuals are laminated for durability this allows them to be brought along for outdoor operation. The spiral binding allows them to lay flat for easy reading. These are a great "Mini" product.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The key issue

The Pelican case was my last post I installed the KX1 in the foam insert and stopped there. During my portable operations I have been using my Bencher BY-1 key.  The Elecrafts KXPD-1 portable key just does not work for me, I find I am not able to send dependable code with it. I know there are many out there who use this key with great success but for some reason it just does not click with me. Up to this point the Bencher BY-1 has been the key I use with the KX1. Not really a portable key and with the springs and pivots all exposed I am concerned that sooner or later it will get damaged. So I am on the search for a portable key for my KX1!!! I have done some searches on the net for portable keys. One site I found very helpful was the QRP Amateur Radio Club International website. They have a link to a multitude of Morse code key sites I came up with two that seemed to be mentioned often in portable use and were given good reviews. The first key Im considering is  Palm radio's Mini paddles.  They are self contained in an aluminum carry case, small in overall size (1x1x3 inches). You can adjust spring tension, contact spacing and paddle stop and they gold plated contacts. All this for 95.00 U.S. The other option is the Bengali traveler light, for those of you who are familiar with the Bengali product line they are very well made and are a high end type of keys. I'm the proud owner of a Bengali Contour Key 
I have had it for about 6 months now and yes it was pricey but it is a fantastic key. So I was pleased to see they also offered a travel key. As with the Mini paddle this key also comes standard with gold contacts. It is not as compact as the Mini ( about 1x1x4 inches). This could have me reconsidering my Pelican case size as well. Unlike the Palm paddle which has spring contact adjustment the Bengali uses magnets. Now my contour has magnetic adjustments and it's easy, fast and they stay in adjustment. finally the Traveler has nice weight to it 1.5 LBS. To me this is an advantage as I find lighter keys I am moving them all over the table.But the weighted key, magnetic contacts and the Bengali quality come with a price of 228.00 Euros.
The bottom line is which key......The Mini is smaller but lighter and does have very good reviews. I would have to find a way to secure it to the KX1 so it does not move around. They do offer magnets but the case is aluminum on the KX1. I would appropriate any input on these two keys or any other ideas you may have about a key you may be using.