Monday, February 17, 2020

ARRL DX CW contest.

It was nice to see the bands very active with DX for me it was from 15m to 40m. The Endfed I have at the moment will not get me onto 80m BUT the new Endfed I purchased (going up in warmer weather) will give me 80m and maybe more. This year I spent a bit more time in the chair operating than I usually do. I was operating as a single operator, all band and low power (100 watts)
Score breakdown:
I was not able to snag any rare DX and in fact, I really only heard manly Europe, nothing from the middle east or Asia this year. During the late afternoon on 15m, I had Central and South America open up and I was able to get some contacts from there in the log. I only made 126 QSO's I was in and out of the chair and I really have to get to the point in my CW career to feel comfortable calling CW contest and stop the search and pounce only routine. The only Murphy moment I had was when my Bluetooth keyboard's rechargeable battery when dead. I had to hunt down my USB keyboard before continuing in the contest. The lesson learned here is to set the Bluetooth aside and use the USB keyboard for contesting.  The next contests in my schedule are the North and South Carolina QSO party contests the first weekend in March.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Time to spruce up the blog.

My blog is way overdue for a facelift, many a time I have thought about it and had good intentions of doing it but other things just got in the way. This is the first kick at the can with an update and I am open to ideas and input from the blogging community.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Taking steps forward.

My last post of December had to do with some goals I wanted to get working on in 2020. It's now 2020 and as has happened to me in the past I soon will be looking back on 2020 seeing my goals worked or did not work out. One of my goals was to improve my CW and get involved with the CWops CW academy program. At this point in time, my code is not to my satisfaction. On the internet, the other day I came across a very interesting document entitled " Improving Morse code proficiency Tricks of the Trade Overcoming common problems". The author of the document is W0UCE.
He highlights 12 common problems and how to overcome them so please if you want to improve your code read over the document and see any issues come to light.
Of the 12 common problems, I was able to identify with 6 and they were:

1. Anticipating what is being sent. This is done when you copy with a pencil and paper and copy one letter at a time and not by the rhythm of a word. For example when you hear someone calling CQ most of us don't write down the letter C and Q. We know the rhythm of CQ and know the word. I have to learn the rhythm of CW and not writing letters. Learn the code as a language.

2. The inability to copy behind. This was a new one for me I never really had heard of it. You hear one or two letters and let them float in your head once you hear the 3rd letter you write down the first and second letters. In the past, if this happened to me I would panic as I figured I was getting behind in the copying.

3. Unable to increase my speed. I hit a plateau and become frustrated. The suggestion is to increase the code you are receiving by about 2 wpm above your plateau speed.

4. Lack of confidence. This for sure has been an issue with me I have found once a contact gets rolling I can get lost because of some of the issues mentioned above. Once this happens I just want to pass along 73 and TU and end the QSO.

5. Not able to hear complete words. This is just done with the practice of copying complete words and not each letter.

6. Writing each letter as it is heard. This for sure is an issue with me. I find as the speed increases I just get lost as I can't write things down fast enough. I have tried using a keyboard as I can type very fast but I have found that at a certain speed the letters are coming at you so fast you get lost between hearing the letter and then transposing it to the keyboard key.

The bottom line from what I have been reading is I have to learn how to put the pencil and paper away and copy in my heard with just writing down selective information. I really believe it's retraining your brain on how CW is understood. I relate it too when I first was learning to type and when I was to type "the" I would type "t" "h" "e" but now I don't even think about it.......well it's more like I think it and it appears on paper. I am not even thinking of were my fingers are going on the keyboard. I have to train my brain this way regarding morse code.

 The CWops is a very popular program and spaces fill up fast and at this point in time, the class enrollment is for April/May or Sept/Oct. I am trying to see if the April/May works out for me. Until I am accepted into either time slot for the class I wanted to work on my code. So I am going to work on the above issues I have mentioned.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Bring it on!

Using Dual watch 
There have been some blog posting regarding the ARRL State QSO party challenge. After looking over the ARRL site regarding this "challenge" it is something that can fit right into my schedule. My wife Julie works most Saturdays and Sundays, our weekends are Tuesday-Wednesday. This leaves me with time to jump into the weekend QSO party fray! In the past (post-retirement) the weekends were occupied with yard work, food shopping and cleaning house BUT now that I am retired all these things can be done during the week now.
The kickoff (Super bowl lingo) to the ARRL QSO party challenge was very busy with 3 QSO parties this weekend. The BC QSO party, Minnesota QSO party and the Vermont QSO party were in full swing this weekend.  The challenge to me was how to participate in 3 contests using only one contest software program?  The software I have used in the past for contests were N1MM+ and N3FJP's contest software. I did read regarding Scott's N3FJP's contest software that you can run multiple contests using API (application program interface). Now I never claim to be a computer guru and API meant nothing to me until Thursday last week when I read about it on the N3FJP software user group site. For this weekend I used N1MM+ and loaded all three QSO parties and just loaded the contest I was logging in and for the time being, it worked just fine for me until I can read up on this API thing.
Why has the ARRL QSO party challenge appealed to me:
- I have the weekends more or less free now.
- These contests are not a full 48-hour effort.
- They are local meaning North America and low sunspots do not have as much of an effect.
- Maximum power is 100 watts so most of us are on the same level of playing field.
- The modes are CW, Phone and in some QSO parties, the digital mode (FT8 and FT4) has been            embraced so there are lots of opportunities no matter what your choice of operating is.
- If CW is your forte I have found the speeds are slower and sometimes a TU (thank you) and 73 is      added to a contact.
BC QSO party shot

So how did the first weekend of QSO party contest go.......
Vermont QSO party:
This was a tough one as I made only 2 contacts both on 40 meters and I felt because Vermont is close to home my contacts would be ground wave. I was not able to hear any Vermont stations on 20m at all. I had to settle for 2 contacts with a score of 16. When I visited the contest score webpage 3830 I was shocked to see that all others had scored low as well.
Minnesota QSO party:
There was more action in this contest but for some reason, the only station I heard were ones I already worked (Dupes).  I ended making a whole 7 contacts in this contest for a final score of 98.
BC QSO party:
In this contest, I was able to hear lots of BC stations but the conditions were changing very fast such that I would make the contact but then they went below the noise level. I ended up making 6 completed contacts with a score of 116 but lots of contacts that ended up being incomplete as they were washed up in the noise floor.

The benefits of the these QSO party contests:
- It gets me on the radio as most of the time just planning to get around to it never happens.
- I want to enter the CW category this will help me improve my code.
- When CW slows and if the contest allows digital FT8/FT4 I will give this new way of contesting a       go. 
- Allows me to learn more about my Icom 7610 in contest situations.