Friday, February 26, 2016

ARRL CW 2016

Call: HA7GN
Operator(s): HA7GN
Station:  HA7GN

Class: SO Unlimited HP
QTH: Matraszentimre
Operating Time (hrs): 
Radios: SO2R

Summary:
 Band  QSOs  Mults
-------------------
  160:           
   80:   15     8
   40:  110    32
   20:  688    59
   15:  264    49
   10:           
-------------------
Total: 1077   148  Total Score = 478,188

It became a part time activity due to a couple of reasons. Originally wanted to enter in SOAB to test the brand new setup and practice dueling CQ, but the low band antennas are far to be ready for an ARRL DX. Thus, decided to go for 20m only.
Started Saturday on 40m and kept checking if 20m is open during the dark, but it was not..those days are gone.. this privilege is for the Scandinavian stations for the coming years. So, started late morning on 20m like everybody else and closed the day with 490 QSOs and 56 mults around 22:00UTC quite disappointed, anticipating the second day QSO count total would be below 1,000. Tought it is better to go back the original idea of testing the EA4TX interlock and practicing alternate CQing on 20/15. It was found to be fun, and gave a good learning experience after the Morse Runner simulator..

73.
Gabor
HA7GN

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

WW DX CW 2015

Call: HA7GN
Operator(s): HA7GN
Station:  HA7GN

Class: SOAB(A) HP
QTH: Matraszentimre
Operating Time (hrs): 45
Radios: SO2R

Summary:
 Band  QSOs  Zones  Countries
------------------------------
  160:  181     9       53
   80:  304    14       59
   40: 1007    36      117
   20:  843    34      105
   15:  618    36      122
   10:  315    28      101
------------------------------
Total: 3268   157      557  Total Score = 4,905,180
First serious SOAB(A)HP effort. Managed to get a three hours sleep only before the contest. 
Planned more, but rather spent time on chasing the RF-daemon in the shack.. not much other 
choices since the monitor randomly switched on and off while transmitting on 160m, either 
the USB hub for the station control shut down time to time for a mysterious reason.. It was 
a good decision finally to tackle all the issues even if needed to stop for a three hours
sleep during Sunday morning. The station was running flawlessly and it was a great pleasure
to operate it. Required much different strategy than for the previous years' single band 
entries and living the category made it clear there is a long way ahead to learn.

Low band aerials have been improved by the contest and on by adding, (actually doubling the 
number of radials), but due to space limitations they are in fairly close proximity and got
detuned by each other. I was putting up the inverted L first for 160m. On the same night I 
was able to work three JA stations within 15 minutes with no separate rx antenna. With 
additional radials I was able to increase efficiency (bandwith), but no DXing anymore since 
I erected an 18m vertical for 80 around 20m away. I really had difficulties to hear W3LPL 
during the contest on 160. I was trying to trick the thing by short cutting the 80m radiator 
to ground while using the inverted L, but no help. The one for 80m has been working quite 
well, but still need a good rx antenna. That's challenging, because of the space again. I 
gave a try to an EWE, it's been put up for the winter to see if it makes a difference. 

The 40m 2el is a great improvement for the station for both DX-ing and contesting. Running 
40m was the greatest thrill during the entire contest. There are learnings around it though. 
The two main antenna masts are 20m apart, they were carrying in the past a 4L20m monobander 
and a KT36XA tribander. They have always been erected to the same height with no disturbing 
interference to each other. That was the case when the 4L got replaced by another KT36 as 
well. But when the 2nd KT36XA got replaced by the 2L40 (and a UB 20-6) a strange interference 
popped out. The mast with the 40m antenna needs to be erected a few meters higher to avoid 
them coupling.

This contest was a great debut for a series of other equipment in a common setup. I own the 
BPFs and the triplexer for a few years now and have already been used for other SO2R entries, 
but with low power only. This was the first time though I pumped them with the two amplifiers. 
Being honest, I was a bit worried keying down on 20m while listening on 15m with the same 
antenna. The KT36 is a great tribander and is quite close in performance to monobanders of 
same boomlength. With the BPFs & triplexer the same antenna can be used as 3 individual 
monobanders for a real SO2R operation. Aditional antenna (possibly another tribander) is 
required only for multidirectional beaming or multiplier hunting.

Besides the learnings with the low band antennas the biggest takeaways are still around 
operating technique. I was spending several days with analyzing past year logs of top 
competitors and was trying to match up their operating schedule with each other and the
propagation prediction to prepare mine. I believe I was disciplined to follow the schedule,
but the result is behind my expectations. I need to acquire substantial experience in this  
particular category by practicing more to grow the score. I was having hard time to collect 
this number of multipliers while kept having the feeling I lose valuable time from running.
Maybe it's time to learn how to manage alternate CQing on two radios like those guys do.

73,
Gabor - ha7gn


Friday, March 6, 2015

ARRL DX CW 2015

Without extensive expectations I have chosen 15m single band entry for this year. Knowing that the band will be open for much shorter than on 20m I set a goal of 1k QSO only and achieving a 15m WAS. I used (almost) the same setup as for the WW CW; inband SO2R and one of the KT36XA's.
As the upgraded 2nd KT36 had been damaged during retraction after the WW event I decided to do the repair in the mornings before the band would open.
The weather was lovely during the entire weekend from Friday till late Sunday promising perfect time for tower works in February. I assembled the mobile scaffolding; and once I was close enough to inspect the defects I recognized that the boom had cracked at the mast bracket. Plenty of the elements also needed repair and finally made the decision to dismantle it completely. Being prepared for this I have transported the 2 el 40m antenna with me to the hill for in case.. I made a good use of the time during the weekend and put up the new antenna. I also found some time to try the recently built K3 qrp trcvr and its remote head K3/0... this is awesome!!! Once it is further tested I put a report on the remote page.
The contest itself was somewhat different compared to previous years experiences on 20m. Spending 35+ hours on 20m producing 1,2-1,3k qsos at very slow rates while the same can be done during 18 hours on 15m...just the band needs to be open to Europe.
The rates were below 60qso/hour between 11 to 14 utc giving the chance to look around on the second radio; which was probably for the sake of illusion only that I kept the rates high.. since all multipliers answered to my CQ.. The next 4 hours were going between 100-130 qso/hour keeping me busy. The rates started to slow down again after 19utc, so I began to seek for non-worked stations on the second radio. The first day ended with 718 contacts in the log with 56 multipliers at around 22:30utc much later than the band closing been expected. Actually, the signals were going down for approximately an hour between 19:15-20:15utc and opened up for another hour and a half. The figure below is taken from the RBN spot analysis tool; showing my signal strength at K3MM on the first day.


The second day shown similar propagation conditions and closed even somewhat later than Saturday. The qso rates were slowing down relative to the first day as it normally happens. Sunday was producing less than 400 qso and 3 more multipliers. The final figures became: 1,105 contacts, 59 multipliers giving a total score of 195,5k points. As seen some of the claimed scores on 3830 and r5ga.com this result will not upset the guys at the top spots this year..
This coming weekend is planned to participate again on 15m in the SSB round and some 40m antenna trials besides hunting E3A!!!

73
Gabor
HA7GN

Sunday, February 1, 2015

CQ WW CW 2014

The preparations started in April when the 4L20m monobander has been dismantled in order to create space for the second KT36XA. I bought it used from HA0NAR Laci, purchased an upgrade kit from M2 and spent approximately the entire summer to clean/refurbish the old parts and make the upgrade.

Being confident of experience gathered during the previous antenna assembly; I simply moved the semifinished parts to the distant QTH without performance trial.. This decision costed eight full days (and nights) on the hill in wind and rain in a period of three months. Planned to participate in the SSB part, but the antenna was not ready by that time.

This part is for people planning to upgrade their KT34XA to a KT36XA:
The old KT34XA has several dimensional differencies compared to the M2..36XA. Before transporting to the hill the individual elements were sub-assembled in the garage and carefully marked. During the onsite installation though, the resonance frequency were off by 4-500kHz on 15/20m, but was almost perfect on the entire 10m. I would not detail each different adjustment step made during the three months; including the complete disassembly and rebuilding the antenna to its original specified dimensions; I was even comparing its physical lengths to the earlier installed antenna which works flawlessly from day one. (they were identical within 1-2mm in length, but still..) As consistent modifications of the individual elements did not lead to an acceptable compromise among all three bands; finally all have been reset back to drawing callout. At the end rootcause been identified was the length of phasing lines between the two driven elements. Infact, the assembly is straight forward in case all components are newly supplied by M2. However, when vintage KT34XA components are to be used; some of them are different in length, diameter and needs to be resized (cut) as per the new specs. (Even if M2 says it does not have any effect.. it really does have.) Neither the old nor the new phasing lines tuned the antenna to the published curves, but their implication made me suspect that is where I need to investigate. Without changing the distance between the two driven elements I started experimenting with extended length flexible phasing lines (insulated stranded wire). After a few hours of wire-chopping I was able to find the optimal resonance for all three bands.

Besides the "antenna bug" there were a few more Murphy's this year. But, at least I did not tear my biceps off this time. The night before the CW round the main amplifier has blown fuses twice and made me think I should use the spare for the contest after cca. four hours of repair and trials. A complete board needed to replace later.
Earlier the year I have taken lessons online to learn ten-finger typing. On a Hungarian keyboard the position of the Z and Y are reverse to the English one, so I needed to replace my "old ham keyboard" to a new where the letters are at the "right" position.. The old one had PS2 plug the new has USB... and it does not like RFI... One hour before the contest a few turns of keyboard cable thru a snap-on ferrite did not seem strong enough to stop a repeated CQ... Once I started to transmit the keyboard lost its connection with the PC.. Fortunately, this happened only on 20m where I was mentally set for a year to participate. The gear was sharpen for single band assisted high power category with inband so2r; all pieces tested in advance, but the keyboard..
I gave the thing one last chance 30 minutes before the start; checked the setup for 15m, found no RFI there, downloaded quickly a propagation prediction and drafted the first 24 hour operating strategy. I should say I was lucky with this option since I gained a few extra hours before the band opening. Otherwise I could have started immediately a 48 hour session on 20m with zero sleep. These last couple of hours though, made me think a few times it had been better to pack and go home.
At 00UTC I went to bed finally having in mind "I owe somebody with this" feeling and had a very good sleep.. while others started the contest.
15m had decent conditions during the entire weekend; except the Sunday closing that came earlier than expected. The recently installed satellite internet worked flawlessly throughout the contest providing enormous amount of RBN data for S&P enabling me to collect 154 countries and 39 zones. Multiplier hunting was much different with the inband SO2R than anytime before with the 2nd VFO. Shack ergonomics have also been improved since the last event, made me less exhausted by the end. The QSO count became 2,010 adding up to a total score of 872,030 claimed. It looks to be enough for a world 10. / Eu 5.

CU soon in ARRL DX CW.
73/DX
Gabor
HA7GN


Friday, January 30, 2015

ARRL DX SSB 2014

The weekend of March 8-9th, 2014 became a casual participation in the SSB round of ARRL International DX Contest. Actually, the day before the contest I was not sure of the band I would choose. Still no full set of aerials were available for all-band categories. Propagation predictions anticipated excellent conditions for both 10 and 15m as well as the weather forecasts for the weekend in the Matra was promising.
The program has finally been optimized for hiking and some WAS-hunting on 10m. The weather was like in late March, perfect for a good walk on the hill, and by the time I got in front of the radio I was almost fallen asleep.. 
I did not spend much time for preparations prior to the contest, only a fast installation of the radio, PC for logging and the PA, no electronic voice keying as no soundcard in the PC, only my own "voice-memory" after a decent flu. 
I needed to stop sometimes for discussions with goodwill neighbor hams that how terrible my audio sounds.. Finally, had some good runs, I mean relatively, as it was my first phone contest I have ever participated in my 27 years of ham radio. Managed 1.300 valid contacts and all 60 multipliers came back to my CQ. The 10m WAS target has been achieved. Heard plenty of QRP stations with no problem and received S9+20 reports several times. The setup was moderate this time; only one tribander fixed to NA, the old FT2000 and the PA set around 800W.
The band was extremely crowded and was very difficult to find an empty spot for CQing. Once found one; the rx filters needed to be set very narrow to hear a thing besides the close big signals.
I was far from the rates produced by the experienced stations in SSB contesting (HA8JV & HA3NU), but enjoyed operating a lot and understood how much important is practicing callsing reception thru contesting.
The station super location has accountably brought its benefits again (regardless of the weak operator); I was still able to hear W5/6 stations clear and loud several hours after sunset.
For me the CW part is the real thrill and will always be the priority to participate. It was fun trying something "new"; but the close two weeks difference between the two events will probably will make me focus on the first. I am planning to try in 2015 the SSB round in remote operation.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

ARRL DX CW 2014

The first ARRL CW contest when I did not need to spend the entire weekend with antenna building a week before the event! So relaxing.. I used the time for preparations though. I checked the past 30 days SSN numbers to run propagation predicitons at K6TU's site. The software uses by default the predicted SSN figures which seemed to be a bit conservative this time based on the last 30 days historical data. I decided to run a prediction for SSN 130 to see a best case scenario. The reality ended up with even higher numbers than I expected, which did not change much on the outcome, but was helping me to define a worst case sleeping strategy.

Relative to the previous year's contests when the night openings were quite rare and limited to a few hours on one of the two nights only I expected higher activity this time. The predictions have supported the theory plus the high SFI numbers have already indicated that 15/10m bands will be open to attract people working there for the shorter daylight openings. Therefore the QSO rates during the local daytime openings on 20m were even slower than normal. But the nights.. sometimes S7-9 signals with very low noise levels and decent rates.

I made a post contest "prediction" to compare propagation conditions of mine with the two high scoring competitors in Europe (OH8L & 9A2NA). I set the same station configuration (antenna heights/number of elements/output power) for all three predictions to see purely the propagation diversities provided by the station location latitudes.

The prediction files contain 3 x 24 pages for every single hour during the day. I did not want to insert all of them in here; the daytime conditions are quite close among the three, so I picked the timeframe of 22-23UTC to show the real difference.. this is really unfair guys !!!(hi)
Again; in this simulation there is nothing to do with antenna gain and output power and tower heights, terrain (plains and hills).. it is purely propagation diversity of the same continent!

OH8L @ 22:00 UTC



9A2NA @ 22:00UTC
 

HA7GN @ 22:00UTC


 
A weekend after the contest I spent a few hours to run a "spot analysis" with the related support program of the Reverse Beacon Network. I found it an extremely useful tool for:
 
- Confirming the signal strength prediction accuracy of the K6TU program thru the actual spots of real CW skimmers.
- One can compare signal strenght of his station to other competitors
- Visual feedback on antenna stack performance per target area (applicable if subject skimmer detection is providing adequate readings with minimum standard deviation)
- Comparing the operating/sleeping strategy with other competitors (assuming the skimmer was able to detect all subject stations in the period of examination)..was it a good idea or not to switch off for a nap at 9:00UTC as such..

The post contest analysis included checking all the North American skimmers being active during the contest weekend. As I did not see the claimed scores of UA5C on the listing at 3830, but quite few spots reported with strong signals; I thought would be wise to involve him in the comparison besides OH8L and 9A2NA. Here below is a few of the lot can be viewed at the RBN site. All of them clearly (sadly) showing that at around 21:30 UTC my signals are declining remarkably relative to 9A2NA and OH8L; just like in the prediction. (The numbers besides the vertical axis represent the signal-to-noise ratio in dB) The program is Beta experimental version; they may fix it later that the legend can be moved out from the graph area.. I did not check how far the database is searchable back in the past, but I was able to run queries for the 2012 ARRL CW just now..
 
N6TV skimmer spots at Reverse Beacon Network - 15FE2014
 
 
VE6AO skimmer spots at Reverse Beacon Network - 15FE2014


 
 
N8MSA skimmer spots at Reverse Beacon Network - 15FE2014



I have run a comparison analysis to see the differences among Hungarian contest stations for benchmarking my signal levels relative to the big boys. HG5D, HG1S and HG7T were entering in all band competition, thus if no spot appears in the timeframe where mine are displayed it could mean they were on a different band. Without extensive analysis it looks that it is not that bad.. (my setup was: KT36XA + 4L longboom monobander + OM2500A)

N7TR skimmer spots at Reverse Beacon Network - 15FE2014
 

AC0C skimmer spots at Reverse Beacon Network - 15FE2014
 
 
VE6AO skimmer spots at Reverse Beacon Network - 15FE2014




NN3RP skimmer spots at Reverse Beacon Network - 15FE2014
 


All in all it was a great contest with rarely experienced good conditions. It gave me the best QSO count ever, even if it was not enough to beat the guys at the top spots. I congratulate to them and will try to catch up to their scores in the coming years. My claimed scores are 234,030 ( 1,345 QSO / 58 multipliers).
CU in the SSB part this weekend.

73/DX
Gabor - HA7GN



Monday, December 9, 2013

CQ WW DX CW 2013 contest story


The chosen category of this year became the Single Op Assissted 20m High. It was my second entry in this category and the first time from my hilltop QTH. Last year I operated form the rental house in Matraszentlaszlo (812m asl) from where I participated in the past seven major contests.

The whole thing started with the preassembly of the KT36XA (M2) sometime in July. The antenna arrived a lot earlier than expected; in about a month after the order placed. The boys went with my wife for a few days summer holiday to the grandma enabling me to free up some time after work to sort the components. The whole house was empty for a few days so I used the place in the living room..

I have limited space on the yard at home so needed to assemble the antenna on a temporary "mast" to see if all components arrived, they fit and work OK, and get a basic understanding of how long it was going to take to reassemble it on the hill. When it was complete I did a quick check with an antenna analyzer and my HF rig. Everything must be fitted as per the factory specs diescribed in the manual giving not much potential for additional adjustments. Regardless of the low testing hights the antenna performed decently promising not much surprises for the later installations. Before dismantling to shipping sizes I carefully marked the corresponding pieces. I had to learn in the past several years that assembling my antennas twice on a decent sunny day takes always less time than doing it only once (saying "it is so trivial..") on a cold windy day up on the hill.

In the meanwhile I did some inspection of the other antenna components; my old 4L monoband Yagi which I built some years ago based on the specs of OH8LQ. Before the KT36 it was my primary contest antenna on 20m. Due to the rental QTH in the past I needed to build and dismantle all my antennas before/after the event. It was very very tiring. Many cases finished just by the start of the contest.. best case only no sleep.

This year was going to be different!!!

The land was cleared off bushes during the summer, and by September the service road and fences have been built.
Then I could finally install the two 20m crankup masts and the security system.

One weekend before the WW DX SSB I put up both antennas as I used to do it - alone. The weather was like in September, never best time to do it. In the neighborhood a group of young people were having a weekend party; cooking a very delicious stew on open fire. My creatures pulled their attention and they kindly invited me for the lunch.

The coming weekends were mostly spent with something unusual: finetuning the station setup and improving ergonomics in the caravan.

In the meantime I always had in mind; it is going smooth..too much smooth.

Then the K9W weekend came..
When rare expeditions are on air I feel the urge to get the first contact asap and then wait a few days to work them again on other bands if possible. The first weekend is always crazy due to the QRMers and the high traffic, but it is difficult to stay away, if I see on the cluster they are out there. I sweared so many times I will rather be with my family instead.. My home QTH antenna is always half way erected to avoid trouble at high winds. When expeditions are on air I used to lift it up to its total height. This was taking place November 3rd; while working with the winch by a bad move I managed to get my left hand biceps completely torn off. That time it was not very painful actually, till I got to see the doctor who said that the thing needs a surgery and an arm fixing for 4-6 weeks. Ooh, Yees..this is what I was waiting for.. Current lifestyle does not let much of a rest with the two small kids (3,5 years and 6 months old) and high season at work 80km away from home..
For a moment I gave up the plans to go for the contest, too. But, that took for a moment only. A few days experience with my "wood-hand" in our busy life gave me the confidence that it will work out..


The WW weekend was extremely painful though. Ergonomics were not ready for my one-handed mode in the 44 hours of operation. I was not able to sleep Friday night before the contest and jumped into the first 27 hours with headache..again, but that seems to me normal by now after all those previous contests. I always get so excited the night before that could not get any sleep most of the cases.
My running rates were not going beyond 3 QSO/min or occassionally to 4 QSO/min due to my temporary limited abilities.
Other than the internet connection on Sunday everything was working smoothly. I use RBN since a while when entering assissted mode. Having most of the multipliers collected on Saturday did not feel the urge to go for additional mults on Sunday when there was no 3G connection for the entire day. The final score seemed to be degraded by approximately 50k points due to the missed potential mults. Improving the 3G signal strenght by an external logperiodic will be a task for next year. Or maybe a local SDR and a CW skimmer.. I will see.
The two large indexable aerials; with the simultaneous multiple direction beaming towards Asia and North America plus the perfect location were paying off though. The final claimed score is 882,000 points with 2,405 contacts, 37 zones, and 140 countries, hoping to be enough for a World 6th, Europe 3rd and a new Hungarian record.

This is the contest I can hardly wait to begin every year and it takes only for a weekend. This is also the one of with the winter arrives and HAM radio goes to standby a bit till the end of February when the next challenge is due; ARRL International DX CW. CU in the bands!
Till that it is time to be with my lovely ones who let me live this crazy hobby.

73 / DX / HNY 2014
Gabor HA7GN