Monday, March 23, 2020

The weekend of radio

Russian CW contest was Rockin the band
Another weekend passes and another QSO party in the bag! This past weekend it was the Virginia QSO Party. In this QSO party, you had to pay a bit closer attention to the contact information as it was not the standard 599 and county that was sent. In this contest, you had to listen for a QSO number and the county. In other QSO parties where the exchange is 599 or 5NN (cut numbers) and their county if you miss the county just listen to his next contact and you are golden. When QSO numbers are involved if you miss it or part of it and ask for "NR?" and they are lost in the mud.........well then it's a matter of counting his next contacts and listen to the number you can hear and then subtract from that number to figure out what your number is. Believe me, I have been there done that and it can be a challenge!
So how was the Virginia QSO Party you ask.........well on 20m things were really hopping but not with the QSO Party but the Russin CW contest. The band was packed with DX and very tempting to just jump in BUT I wanted to keep up with my goal of working all the QSO parties this year, I jumped up to 40m and worked a few Virginia station ground wave from my location. I was able to get 4 in the logbook only on 40m as I did have some "to do" items that needed to be done around the house. I checked in again on Sunday and went back to 40m but the strange thing was on Sunday I could only hear the stations making contact with stations in Virginia?? Oh well, propagation can be a funny thing at times.
Other related radio adventures were I was able to work fellow blogger John AE5X from Texas. John was working POTA and activating location KFF-3054. I was not able to hear John at all on CW but it was great he grabbed his laptop for the trip as we made contact on FT8. On Sunday I checked out the POTA cluster to see what was up and I was able to contact KB3WAV and at the time I did not realize it until I went to the POTA website and found that Kerri is a top leader for POTA activations.
His stats are:
Activations       1266
Unique parks      446
Total contacts   4730 Now this is an old number I would believe after this past weekend activation.

I also noticed on Sunday 20m was dead again as the Russian Contest had ended but it goes to show propagation is alive and well.
If you are like me and trying to work all the QSO parties this year by taking part in State QSO party challenge make sure your seatbelt on during the weekend of April 3-5. The QSO Parties for the weekend are Nebraska, Missouri, Mississippi, and Louisiana!  There is also the Florida State Parks on the air as well.
Finally, on a lighter note, today is a milestone for me.........I'm 60 today! My car dealership sent me an email birthday wish bright and early this morning way before anyone would have been at work. Darn computers programs just don't sleep...:))

Friday, March 20, 2020

Social distancing.....things are getting interesting.

One site I have booked marked and is a link on my blog is Southgate Amateur News. I was browsing it this evening and came across but yet another change COVID 19 has brought about. This time it's contesting and to tell you the truth I was wondering when this was going to come about. The RSGG or the Radio Society of Great Britain to which I might mention I am a member of. It was released today by the Society that contest rules regarding Multi op entries will no longer be accepted with immediate effect. The post does say it is until June 2020 but I imagine this is a fluid date. Single op from a shared station will not be accepted unless certain criteria are met. This is all to practice social distancing to which I support. I have not yet heard if Canada (RAC)or the United States (ARRL) will follow and any of the Europian countries as well. Speaking of social distancing I was watching the news and it seems like Spring Break is underway, here in Canada a gaming company released 2 new games. The message was "you just have to come and get your hands on it" This had young people in very long lines go purchase the game. I just don't get it I'm not a fear monger but we have to stop COVID 19.
Here in New Brunswick a state of emergency has been instated all stores are closed excluding pharmacies, hardware stores, automotive gas stations and finally grocery stores. Things are getting interesting!
Keep well my fellow Hams.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Comparing 2 Endfed antennas.

At my location with the lot size, the best antenna for me is an Endfed. Now I am not at all complaining because just a short time ago I was in a condo using the MFJ 1788 loop antenna. My first Endfed antenna was the W1SFR 6m-40m. I will once again repeat myself saying this antenna is great I have kept mine for portable operations once the summer comes.  The top rating for this antenna is 100 watts and since I operate digital at power levels that could be beyond this antenna rating. I did not want to overdo it and lose this great antenna. I then purchased the DXextreme Endfed from DX antennas. Mine is the 33-foot version which is the shortest but is the right size for my lot. While using my W1SFR Endfed on FT8 I monitored it's results on PSK reporter and captured these results with pictures. I wanted to see if there were any noticeable differences in results between the two antennas.  The new antenna went up on February 28th and I have been monitoring PSK reporter and taking pictures of the new antenna results. The mode of operation has been FT8 and the power output for both antennas was 60 watts. The location for the new antenna was the same as the old and the old antenna was 35 feet long and the new antenna is 33 feet long. I was not really expecting any differences but I was surprised when I compared the results.
The first comparison was 20m during the day between 14:15-14:45 local time. The first picture is from W1SFR's Endfed antenna at 14:16 and the second picture is at 14:40 from the DXextreme Endfed antenna.
W1SFR 20m

DXextreme 20m

To my surprise, the DXextreme antenna seemed to make it into Europe and a few other spots the W1SRF EndFed did not. I do have other pictures from other times as well that show the same results but I did not want to fill the post with them as I have other bands to show.
The next band is 30m and again these pictures are from early afternoon at 14:50 local time for W1SFR's antenna and 15:40 using the DXextreme antenna.
W1SRF 30m

Once again I noticed that my spots in Europe were more with the DXextreme antenna over the W1SRF.
Regarding 40m I was happy with the W1SFR antenna compared to my balcony mounted MFJ 1788 back in the condo as I really had no luck reaching Europe on 40m with the loop antenna. The W1SFR allowed me to get into Europe and I was happy with that. But the DXextreme really opened things up for me overseas.
DXextreme 30m
Overall I am very happy with the performance of the new antenna it also allows me to rest at ease knowing I am not overtaxing the W1SFR Endfed in the digital modes.

W1SRF 40m

DXextreme 40m

Friday, March 13, 2020

Why did I overlook the simple?

What is going on?
Back in November 2017 I ordered and built the Funk Amateur FA-VA4 antenna analyzer kit. The kit was built and passed the smoke test without issue. I then went through the calibration process and it was successful (so I thought). I was not able to get the unit to work and I felt it was due to user error and tried to run the calibration again but without success. No matter what band I checked the SWR was off the scale. I even connected the device to a dummy load without success. I read and reread the manual and even checked out some YouTube videos and was just getting more frustrated so I was thinking of selling it to someone who knew how to operate the unit. As I watched more Youtube videos it seemed like a very straight forward unit to operate. Over the course of a year or more, I picked up the unit and tried to figure it out but just could not.
The issue
This past week I picked it up again and was looking it over but in so doing for some strange it occurred to me to open up the kit and look over my work. It's embarrassing to say but as I looked the board over I saw that the female BNC connector  I did not solder the BNC center pin to the PCB board!!! I soldered this pin, did a reset to the unit and then ran the calibration again BUT this time the calibration took a lot longer. Once it was done I connected it to my Endfed antenna and checked 15m this is a band that I know the SWR is decent. Low and behold the unit worked as it should way back in 2017!! I just can't believe that I overlooked the obvious to open the kit up and have a look around. I now get to discover this great unit that I built years ago.
All is well