First 2 m ES and new ones on 6 m

Finally the first 2 m Sporadic E this year that made it into JO73! 😎 Although we were almost too close to the clouds I managed to work a few QSOs. The opening started earlier to stations more west so kept monitoring 144.300 CW/SSB as well as 144.174 FT8. When suddenly strong ES signals from Russia popped up on .174 I quickly QSY’d to 144.300 SSB but … nobody there?! Calling CQ brought up RN3QR, tnx! Also Alex, UT8AL/EO10A, responded to my own CQs. Besides this all in & out for a few seconds each only … been too close to the clouds centered above KO21/22 and MUF not high enough to support a shorter distance path. Artur, UR3EE, was quite weak when I heard and worked him and sounded almost like Ionoscatter but it probably still was ES (scatter) as he was working OZ & SM7 at the same time handing out s9+ reports.

Switched back to FT8 only after the opening was over. RX3QFM popped up there for few minutes only. Signals were weak so that’s when FT8 makes sense! Else only stupid to stay on FT8 with big sigs … hope people stop being lazy and get back to more efficient modes! Yes, CW/SSB is way more effcient when the band is open with big fat signals and you want to provide as many QSOs as possible. We might still be lucky in JO73 as station density is much less than around the well populated activity centers of JO30/31 or JN49/JO40. There were a number of like-minded angry comments on MMMonVHF concerning the chaos on FT8 and I agree with most of the them … the problem is probably not the mode itself but the people using it wrongly. So as usual the problem is sitting in front of the computer (which much reminds me of some QRL episodes, hi).

Here’s my DX yield:

------------------------------------------------------------------
TIME   CALLSIGN      LOCATOR   TX    RX    BAND   MODE  PROP.  QRB
------------------------------------------------------------------
08:11 RN3QR          LOØØBK    59    59    2 m.   SSB   ES    1797
08:17 EO1ØA          KO61WP    59    59    2 m.   SSB   ES    1340
08:17 UT8AL          KO61WP    59    59    2 m.   SSB   ES    1340
08:40 UR3EE          KN88DC    52    57    2 m.   SSB   ES    1648
08:45 RX3QFM         KO91OO   -11   -10    2 m.   FT8   ES    1696
------------------------------------------------------------------

What drove me into the shack this weekend, too (besides the AGCW VHF contest yesterday), was the IARU 50/70 MHz Contest. German RegTP (our radio license regulation authority) just recently officially allowed contest operation for German radio amateurs on 6 m, at least during the summer month’. So made a few contest QSOs in CW & SSB. Great to see so much “analogue” activity, real fun! πŸ™‚ Condx were rather bad yesterday and still quite spotty today but we also had a few double and triple hop openings although once again JO73 was not very favoured propagationally compared to other regions in Germany and Europe. Most of the spotted DX was simply not audible. But it still was good enough (with a little patience) to work two new countries with VU and RA9 😎 although in FT8 only. Besides RD9D there was also RL9F (LO87) active and besides RK4PR a few other UA3/4, too. Not sure if there were some changes concerning license rules in Russia (most knowledgable people say no, 6 m still not allowed) or if the Russian guys just got impatient and simply started operating despite no official licenses. Cannot imagine that with current politics in Russia but we will probably learn more about it soon. Anyway, a clear case of WFWL – work first, worry later. πŸ˜‰

Here are the more interesting QSOs made on Six today:

------------------------------------------------------------------
TIME   CALLSIGN      LOCATOR   TX    RX    BAND   MODE  PROP.  QRB
------------------------------------------------------------------
06:45 TA9J           LN1ØMN   -03   +10    6 m.   FT8   ES    2575
07:22 EK7DX          LN2ØGE   599   599    6 m.   CW    ES    2697
07:26 EX8M           MN62WT   559   539    6 m.   CW    ES    4446
07:52 EK1KE          LN2ØGE   -13   -11    6 m.   FT8   ES    2697
07:55 VU2DED         ML88ON   -06   -11    6 m.   FT8   ES    5731
08:02 A41ZZ          LL93IF   -22   -03    6 m.   FT8   ES    4990
11:43 EA8/DM8MM/P    IL18AT    59    59    6 m.   SSB   ES    3765
11:44 EA8BPX         IL18SK    59    59    6 m.   SSB   ES    3717
16:19 EA8JK          IL18CP   +10   +04    6 m.   FT8   ES    3771
17:00 RD9D           LO99XS   -04   -18    6 m.   FT8   ES    2840
17:08 RK4PR          LO64FO   +07   -05    6 m.   FT8   ES    2479
------------------------------------------------------------------

There were 3 or 4 other EA8’s audible nicely over more than 2 hours but I concentrated on working a few tropo QSOs on 4 m for the contest inbetween. Furthest has been Dick, PA4VHF, over 530 km in CW (!) which was a real challenge and needed many repeats due to my QRP only signal but we finally made it. 😎 It was only after the contest’s end that 4 m also opened via Sporadic E to the Balkans. Nice to catch George, LZ1ZP, on CW. I could literally feel how excited he was to work somebody on CW although we had numerous QSOs before during past years, be it on 4 m or 2 m with our first contact dating back more than 20 years when besides HSCW (high speed CW, i.e. 1000+ lpm) even SSB Meteor Scatter was very popular … good old times. πŸ˜‰

------------------------------------------------------------------
TIME   CALLSIGN      LOCATOR   TX    RX    BAND   MODE  PROP.  QRB
------------------------------------------------------------------
14:39 LZ2NW          KN23TB   +14   +00    4 m.   FT8   ES    1405
14:42 SV2JAO         KN1ØDN   -17   -01    4 m.   FT8   ES    1530
15:04 LZ1ZP          KN22ID   599   599    4 m.   CW    ES    1454
------------------------------------------------------------------

There was some great double-hop to EA8 on 4 m, too, but only Alex, EA8DBM, was audible with up to s9+ signals and only on FT8. Wished I could have worked him in the contest but he was not participating and not willing to hand out just points, quite a pitty …

Now keeping fingers crossed for another chance to work some Sporadic E on 144 MHz. The season has been really bad so far (even on 6 & 4 m). Nevertheless happy as I try to catch one opening per season at least. Mission accomplished for this year. 😎 But of course more is better. πŸ˜€ πŸ˜‰

Posted in DX, Propagation, Sporadic E, VHF | Comments Off on First 2 m ES and new ones on 6 m

AGCW VHF June Contest ’19

When doing the AGCW VHF contest last year after stumbling across it by coincidence I had so much fun I put a marker on the calendar for this year’s date to participate again. Had a late start, i.e. 20 min into the contest only, but compared to last year found activity rather lacking. Condx were not good either, I was challenged by heavy thunderstorms around my QTH and according thunder crashes which made copy of weak signals a real challenge. Nevertheless made a few nice QSOs in the most analogue mode we have. πŸ˜‰

Contest Report from DH8BQA in JO73CE at 144 MHz
===============================================

Contest : AGCW VHF July '19
Date    : 2019 Jun 15
Section : 144MHz Single OP
QTH     : Woltersdorf

TX      : Elecraft K3, K144XV + PA, 600 W
RX      : Elecraft K3, K144XV
Antenna : 9 ele G0KSC LFA Yagi, 10 mAGL, 60 mASL
Log     : TACLog by OZ2M, 1,995, http://www.qsl.net/oz2m

QSOs    :   24
-invalid:    0                                       Points/QSO
-valid  :   24     QSO-points (*1)    :  10880              453
AGCWs   :    3     AGCW bonus (0)     :      0                0
WWLs    :   16     WWL bonus (0)      :      0                0
DXCCs   :    4     DXCC bonus (0)     :      0                0
                   ---------------------------           ------
                   Total score        :  10880              453

ODX     : G4SWX in JO02RF at 865 km

Worked AGCWs:
A     :   1   B     :  12   C     :  11

Worked World Wide Locators:
JN39:  2   JN59:  2   JO30:  1   JO41:  1   JO51:  2   JO63:  1
JN49:  2   JN99:  1   JO31:  4   JO42:  2   JO61:  1   JO72:  1
JN58:  1   JO02:  1   JO40:  1   JO50:  1   

Worked DXCCs:
DL  : 21   F   :  1   G   :  1   OK  :  1   

Top 10 QSO-points:
20190615 1647 G4SWX         559  024 559  003 C   JO02RF    865
20190615 1432 F6HOK         559  005 599  011 C   JN39OC    667
20190615 1445 DK2GZ         529  006 599  014 B   JN49GB    606
20190615 1427 DL3ASM/P      599  004 599  010 C   JO30FQ    600
20190615 1626 DJ2IT         599  023 599  029 C   JN58TD    590
20190615 1420 DL6WT         599  002 599  011 C   JN39VV    575
20190615 1500 DK9TF         599  011 599  022 B   JO31NF    530
20190615 1449 DH7FFE        419  008 599  006 A   JO40FC    525
20190615 1553 DK4EF         519  021 599  016 C   JN49KW    517
20190615 1529 OK2KW         559  017 599  006 C   JN99BL    494
Posted in Contesting, Propagation, VHF | Comments Off on AGCW VHF June Contest ’19

New toys

Heiko, DG1BHA, and I decided to buy an Icom IC-9700 for the club QTH to replace our old venerable IC-7400 that served as our main 2 m radio for quite some years. We did some modifications to the latter for better stability, i.e. adding an external oscillator reference and such. It will still be serving us in the future, either as a dedicated EME radio or in Heiko’s small garden QTH. Currently the ‘9700 is still with me but I will take it along to the club in early July when going there for the VHF contest to give it a real test drive. 😎

First function test of the IC-9700. Seems all’s okay. 😎

Second new toy is a Flex 6600 that I want to use at the remote station. I had tried out DO4DXA’s Flex 6400 remotely for a short while (Thanks Marc!) to get a feeling if I could imagine using one myself. As you might know I usually prefer “knob radios” but the spectrum display in the ‘7300 got me hooked and I’m really missing it on the remote station, especially when monitoring the VHF bands for openings. There are M versions with front panels of the Flex radios but the front panel is of no use remotely. I might buy a Flex Maestro Console one day which is a front panel for the Flex 6000 series that can be operated remotely (much like the K3/0 mini I currently use to operate my remote K3 but with the spectrum display included) but due to it’s price tag decided to try it without one first. πŸ˜‰ The Flex software is quite nice and after all it might just be a case of getting used to … will see and report back. πŸ˜‰

No knobs no nothing, entirely relying on “remote” software.

For a little while I was undecided between the 6400 and the 6600. The price difference is quite a bit! But I finally decided for the 6600 as it has 2 SCUs which will allow me to monitor 2 transverter bands in parallel, i.e. 4 & 2 m at once, as well as doing real SO2R on HF with just one radio.

A big thanks to Frank Dathe of Funktechnik Dathe who was again a pleasure to deal with and as usual delivered everything in a timely manner. I bought a lot of stuff from them in the past and can wholeheartedly recommend them!

Posted in Equipment | Comments Off on New toys

A little VHF propagation and activity

Bands were rather quiet during the week and QRL kept me busy anyway. A little more propagation today but still all very selective. Anyway, nice to see 4 m opening to Greece at least (also heard/saw two Maltese for about 2 minutes) with JM99 as a new square (now #186), too. 😎 Even 6 m provided a new one with KM29 (#663) today and even in SSB, who would have thought that? πŸ˜‰ I have to admit I lost interest in 6 m a little as I think things changed not for the good during the last two years or so operations-wise and besides JO73 being the 6 m blackhole anyway. No fun to listen to all the other guys working the DX while it never pops up over here. It seems we’re always half a hop too close or too far. There are typical spots that always get the good propagation even if people there are complaining, too. πŸ˜€

------------------------------------------------------------------
TIME   CALLSIGN      LOCATOR   TX    RX    BAND   MODE  PROP.  QRB
------------------------------------------------------------------
15:43 SV4AAQ         KM19LI   +12   +02    4 m.   FT8   ES    1675
15:51 SV2JAO         KN1ØDN   -04   -17    4 m.   FT8   ES    1530
15:56 SV8CS          KMØ7JS   +07   +03    4 m.   FT8   ES    1787
16:04 SV8PEX         JM99VR   +09   -03    4 m.   FT8   ES    1555
16:27 TA2AO/4        KM37QB   599   599    6 m.   CW    ES    2061
16:50 J48GEO         KM29WF    59    59    6 m.   SSB   ES    1787
------------------------------------------------------------------
Posted in Propagation, Sporadic E, VHF | Comments Off on A little VHF propagation and activity

My third world win this year? WPX-CW claimed scores :-)

Boy, that was fast! WPX-CW claimed scores have already been posted on the CQ WPX website. I never would have thought I could ever win the 10 m category from Germany! Usually it’s either the South American guys who take the win, profiting from propagation to Europe as well as North America, i.e. the two most densly populated regions, at least when it comes to amateur radio contest activity, or someone from the Balkans or Southern Europe with usually much better propagation than northern Germany, too. Seems this time the (Sporadic E) propagation god was with me. πŸ™‚ Not only that I’ve probably won the SOSB10(A) category (margin to second place is big enough to survive the log checking process) but also have posted the highest 10 m score overall. 😎

Posted in Contesting | Comments Off on My third world win this year? WPX-CW claimed scores :-)

Some normal VHF DX this weekend

Well, still no Sporadic-E on 4 & 2 m overhere. πŸ™ Peter was quite active on 6 m but even there only very patchy openings. Luckily there were a few smaller VHF contests this weekend that allowed to work some nice DX contacts nevertheless using good old troposcatter. Managed almost 100 QSOs quite leisurely and besides CW & SSB also did a few FT8 contacts inbetween. This is a mix I do like. πŸ˜‰

Here’s the listing of the “better ones”, i.e. QRB over 600 km. There were a lot of QSOs > 500 km, too, especially in CW/SSB in the contests, but that would have made the list just too long. πŸ˜‰

------------------------------------------------------------------
DATE       TIME  CALLSIGN      LOCATOR     BAND   MODE  PROP.  QRB
------------------------------------------------------------------
01/06/2019 09:56 EW3AA         KO12TC      2 m.   FT8   TR     646
01/06/2019 14:27 PE1ITR/P      JO21WF      2 m.   SSB   TR     608
01/06/2019 14:37 S57O          JN86DT      2 m.   SSB   TR     724
01/06/2019 16:15 F4KJP/P       JN29LN      2 m.   SSB   TR     757
01/06/2019 16:21 OM3RM         JN88QA      2 m.   SSB   TR     616
01/06/2019 17:00 F6KFH         JN39OC      2 m.   SSB   TR     666
01/06/2019 19:07 S57M          JN76PO      2 m.   CW    TR     736
01/06/2019 19:19 S59P          JN86AO      2 m.   SSB   TR     743
01/06/2019 19:54 DL1SMA        JN48GL      2 m.   FT8   TR     657
02/06/2019 08:43 HAØIL         KNØ7SU      2 m.   CW    TR     787
02/06/2019 08:47 OMØAS         KNØ9WC      2 m.   SSB   TR     701
02/06/2019 08:55 HG1DRD        JN86KU      2 m.   CW    TR     729
02/06/2019 09:01 HG6Z          JN97WV      2 m.   SSB   TR     711
02/06/2019 10:11 ON6NL         JO21UE      2 m.   FT8   TR     620
02/06/2019 10:12 DM7RM         JN48HD      2 m.   FT8   TR     684
02/06/2019 10:15 DJ2KUA        JN49FD      2 m.   FT8   TR     602
02/06/2019 14:06 EU3AI         KO22CE      2 m.   FT8   TR     682
02/06/2019 14:08 SP8NTP        KO12SA      2 m.   FT8   TR     643
02/06/2019 14:44 G4CDN         JOØ2SS      2 m.   FT8   TR     848
02/06/2019 14:46 SM6BFE        JO68DQ      2 m.   FT8   TR     623
02/06/2019 14:53 G4DML         JOØ2OJ      2 m.   FT8   TR     877
02/06/2019 15:26 PAØVHA/P      JO21BX      2 m.   FT8   TR     694
------------------------------------------------------------------

While scanning the band I also stumbled across YO2LEA in KN06 on CW who unfortunately couldn’t hear me. πŸ™ Quite a pity, that would have been 930 km and the ODX of the weekend. Maybe next time …

Posted in Contesting, Propagation, Tropo, VHF | Comments Off on Some normal VHF DX this weekend

Cleaning activities and antenna alignments

Another day without any interesting VHF propagation so we used the time for some cleaning activities long overdue. Heiko (DG1BHA), Uwe (DL3BQA), Peter (DM5DX) and myself had blocked the days after Father’s Day for several small to medium things that needed attention. We cleaned and emptied two complete material shelters and moved two loads of heavy stones as can be seen on the picture to the right. We had put them around the shack a few years ago for some nice stone walls etc. but meanwhile recognized they are more disturbing than helping (or pleasing the eye, hi) so decided to finally put them away. There are probably nicer spare time activities but what needs to be done needs to be done. πŸ˜‰

Another “needs to be done” was realigning some antennas. Our 20 m beam and the 17/12 m duoband Yagi above are mounted 90Β° twisted to minimize interference between both. They were misaligned by about 15Β° now so an easy fix. Much more disturbing was the 15/6 m antenna mast. While the 6 m beam had an offset of about 10Β° against 15 m, too, which is just not nice but otherwise no problem concerning functionality the whole set of antennas had moved about 100Β° against the rotator reading in one of the last storms. So getting it back to the correct heading was needed, too, making it much easier when trying to beam for certain DX. πŸ˜‰ We also made sure that such movements do not happen in the future anymore. Big thanks once more to Heiko who is our tower guy and always doing a great job!

Heiko on the 15/6 m tower to realign the rotator heading

His new climbing safety gear is much better than his old one as he admitted

 

Posted in Antennas, General stuff | Comments Off on Cleaning activities and antenna alignments

Father’s Day / Ascension Day activities

Today was Father’s Day (Ascension Day) which is a nationwide holiday in Germany. We usually use it for some gathering of one of the local radio clubs here at our clubstation. Lots of discussions over coffee and cake in the afternoon and then some more with a nice BBQ in the evening. This time a little less people than expected attended but nevertheless lots of fun! Uwe, DG1BRB, even brought his drone along and made some cool photos from the sky perspective of our small antenna farm. 😎

Coffe and cake in the afternoon, weather was excellent, not too warm, not too cold

Heiko (DG1BHA), Uwe (DG1BRB) and Olli (DH8BQA) watching the drone’s live video

Quite a cool perspective, isn’t it? 😎

 

Posted in General stuff | Comments Off on Father’s Day / Ascension Day activities

Rotator interface by remoteqth.com

No condx today so I used the time to finally cobble the rotator interface together that I bought from remoteqth.com last December together with the Band Decoder II. It’s a neat kit not too expensive including a nice enclosure. I could not do it cheaper myself besides all the time needed so why not use what’s available on the market already. πŸ˜‰

The kit comes with all parts included. It consists of two PCBs that need to be soldered with through hole components only. It also includes an Arduino Nano which holds the firmware and all logic. You only need to solder the pin strips on that one. It took about an hour to complete everything, easy going soldering-wise. 😎

Ready soldered display unit

Main board without the Arduino Nano yet

Both PCBs cobbled together

Both PCBs cobbled together

Mounted in the enclosure

Professionally looking, that’s for sure!

My idea was to use it together with the Raspberry Pi based RemoteQTH server and then not just this one but 4 four of them to control all of our rotators from a simple web interface. I do have the rotator interfaces by DF9GR in place that have been working perfectly well for a few years now already (can highly recommend them!) but do require Windows software and virtual COM port drivers at the control side to be used. I wanted to become a little more OS independent, i.e. having it all web-based and thus being able to use whatever OS is available including Android, iOS and MacOS besides Windows to be more flexible at the control side. On the other hand it’s quite expensive to buy/build 4 of these interfaces plus the RaspPi so another approach might be to just set up a small PC at the remote side or even in the cloud that holds all the Windows software (I need a Windows program to switch on the 2 m amp, too) and gets connected to by RDP which is available on all platforms. Just need to think it through for another while. πŸ˜‰

Back to the remoteqth.com rotator interface. I had some trouble getting it all to work. Three main issues:
First the interface is configured for a South end stop by default. It took me almost an hour to find out how to change that as all of our rotators have their end stop at North and are 450Β° capable. Modifying the Arduino firmware didn’t do the trick as I had expected (I probably missed some code to change). It turned out there’s a command to do it (that was easy to find) when connected serially and yet another one (that was hidden in the source code and only found by coincidence!) to also save it to the EEPROM so it’s a persistent setting. There’s a lot of documentation on the web (the interface is based on the K3NG code) but nowhere a single page where you get all the options at once (or I was just to stupid to find it, hi).

Second thing is the calibration. By default you can only calibrate 0Β° and 450Β° (also through serial port commands only!) and all values inbetween are calculated by the firmware. Now we all know that no potentiometer is really linear (except maybe the more expensive and/or 10-turn ones usually not used in rotators) so there are a few directions where the heading is off by a few degrees. It is probably acceptable on the rotator tested with overhere but could be a problem elsewhere. You can correct it by measuring the voltages inbetween and then setting up a correction table in the firmware, compile it and upload it to the controller. Well, that’s not for the faint-hearted! I do have some experience with PIC programming and doing it on an Arduino is not too different but thinking of all the average Joe’s I’m not sure if this really is a “mass market” solution. Rather for experienced DIY’ers …

Third problem is I do not get stable direction readings yet. πŸ™ The interface is powered from the USB port but it does not matter if it’s from the PC, the RaspPi or a powered USB hub, readings are not stable but varying by +/- 7 degrees all the time and +/-20 degrees every now and then. It probably is a voltage problem somewhere but I did not have a known-to-be-stable external 5 V power supply at hand here at the radio station so this one will have to wait a little longer to be checked in detail (all of my power supplies and measurement stuff are packed for our move already).

I have to say I was quite a bit disappointed with the outcome and these problems as I had expected a directly and perfectly working unit and not needing to dig into the source code etc. first. At least this was my expectation after our great experiences 😎 with the DF9GR ERC rotator interfaces (we built 6 or 7 of them in the past, always easy going, never a problem and well documented). On the other hand all Youtube videos on the remoteqth.com interface do show stable readings so it must be something overhere. I would not blame remoteqth.com, they are just providing the hardware kit and do rely on the K3NG firmware, too. Nevertheless a little disappointing … Will check into it later again, probably in autumn when all set in Hamburg and having all needed tools available again …

Posted in Equipment, PIC projects | Comments Off on Rotator interface by remoteqth.com

Sporadic-E is in da house …

Well, sort of. 4 m was open almost all day long and 2 m saw a nice opening in the afternoon, too … just not here. I was at the very edge and only every now and then signals on 4 m came up enough to do a few QSOs. It was kind of frustrating with all activity concentrating on FT8 only. Still don’t get it – if signals are beyond -04 dB the opening is good enough for CW & SSB contacts!

This is what it sounds like if there are two S9+ FT8 signals:

Luckily the band opened a little stronger later on with a few stations getting active in the “analogue” modes, too, which was way more fun. And the bandscope helped again to spot openings as well as stations across the band. 😎

SV2JAO/B pounding in on 70.087 MHz

EA1FDI popping up on 70.180 MHz SSB

It even opened via double hop ES to the Canaries as well as to West Sahara for a few minutes several times! Fun fact: I ran across EA1TX on 70.200 trying to work him when suddenly EA8TX answered my call! Would you believe this coincidence? πŸ˜€ 😎

EA8TX answered instead of EA1TX:

A pity that EA8YT was only heard but his signal was weak and the .200 a little crowded at that time. But hey, rather crowded than empty. πŸ˜‰

I did work squares IN93, IN60 and IL38 for new ones today, now at #185. 😎

------------------------------------------------------------------
TIME   CALLSIGN      LOCATOR   TX    RX    BAND   MODE  PROP.  QRB
------------------------------------------------------------------
13:15 EA1CRK         IN73DM   +07   -24    4 m.   FT8   ES    1812
13:46 SV1QT          KM17UW   +13   +02    4 m.   FT8   ES    1846
14:44 EA1CRK         IN73DM   +10   -04    4 m.   FT8   ES    1812
14:51 EA2EI          IN93JA   -03   +00    4 m.   FT8   ES    1602
14:54 EA2XR          IN83KI   -01   -13    4 m.   FT8   ES    1677
14:59 SØ1WS          IL46RD   -16   -03    4 m.   FT8   ES    3638
16:01 EA1FDI         IN53TF    55    58    4 m.   SSB   ES    1993
16:47 EA3AWT         JN11CQ   -12   -08    4 m.   FT8   ES    1560
17:13 EA1UR          IN53TF   +10   -05    4 m.   FT8   ES    1993
17:39 EA3BMU         JNØ1OC   +10   -03    4 m.   FT8   ES    1659
17:46 EA1UU          IN83GJ   +13   -16    4 m.   FT8   ES    1692
17:51 EA5EF          IM99SM   579   559    4 m.   CW    ES    1883
17:56 CT7ASX         IN6ØFD    55    55    4 m.   SSB   ES    2187
17:57 EA8TX          IL18QI    55    55    4 m.   SSB   ES    3734
18:04 CT1QP          IM59KJ    57    55    4 m.   SSB   ES    2339
18:17 EA3EW          JNØ1OG   -13   +03    4 m.   FT8   ES    1643
18:23 EA8YT          IL18SL    51   HRD    4 m.   SSB   ES    3714
18:30 EA4LU          IM68TV    57    59    4 m.   SSB   ES    2231
18:36 EA8JF          IL38FX   -08   -16    4 m.   FT8   ES    3512
------------------------------------------------------------------
Posted in Audio recordings, Propagation, Sporadic E, VHF | Comments Off on Sporadic-E is in da house …

Some patchy 4 m openings

Not much to report today. 4 m was nicely open between Western Europe and the Balkans in the morning but only very patchy over here. 9A4ZM got stronger and stronger during that particular small opening so I sent him “PSE QSY SSB” a few times on FT8 which he finally did, thanks Maki! Much appreciated to hear some voice on the band, not only computer tones. πŸ˜‰

------------------------------------------------------------------
TIME   CALLSIGN      LOCATOR   TX    RX    BAND   MODE  PROP.  QRB
------------------------------------------------------------------
06:40 SV3AQO         KMØ8UF   +01   -08    4 m.   FT8   ES    1759
09:23 9A4ZM          JN64WU   -09   -22    4 m.   FT8   ES     927
09:30 9A4ZM          JN64WU    59    59    4 m.   SSB   ES     927
10:45 4O6AH          JN92PL   -04   -11    4 m.   FT8   ES    1249
------------------------------------------------------------------
Posted in Propagation, Sporadic E, VHF | Comments Off on Some patchy 4 m openings

CQ WPX CW 2019

Boy, THAT was fun, what a weekend! We had continous Sporadic-E on Saturday for over 16 hours straight, very wide-spread, open to almost everywhere all the time, no matter where the antenna was pointing to!

Big signals and stations wall to wall

Would you believe this is sunspot mimimum?

I had set a new German category record in 2016 with a bit over 800 QSOs and 507k points. Well, I went to bed with 800 QSOs under the belt already Saturday evening. 😎 So a new record was in reach although points-wise I was much behind as there was more DX to be worked 3 years ago. So kept my fingers crossed during the night that propagation would continue. But with Sporadic-E you never know … that’s why they call it sporadic. πŸ˜‰

A less crowded band on Sunday

Sunday was much slower and thus hard(er) work. The band was still open almost all day long but more patchy and it felt like much less activity. Or maybe it’s just the limit of workable/available stations in Europe? At least when “sitting in the middle” which is certainly the case with my location. That means too little distance to the main activity centers for normal Sporadic-E. Luckily it was even shortskip this weekend and I could work a few inner-DL contacts as well which helped the QSO total and multiplier count a bit, too, I guess. Shortest distance worked where I’m sure it was via ES (mainly due to signal strength, you don’t produce S9+ signals over that path on troposcatter, but also judging from ES cloud locations monitored on dxmaps.com) was around 350 km west of Hamburg. Cool stuff! 😎

94,8 % of the QSOs were made within Europe. Contacts outside Europe included DX like HS, 4L, 4J, 4S7, 9K2, BY, EX and VU in Asia, PY and LU in South America as well as 8P6 and KP4 in North America. Except the usual “nearshore” countries like EA8, CT3, 7X and CN nothing else was worked from Africa. Details can be seen in my SH5 analysis.

Finished with over 1.200 QSOs in total, never would have thought to make that many QSOs this weekend! Easily broke my own old German record and am eager to see how the competition did. Fortunately the preliminary results, i.e. before log checking, should be available within a week or so …

                   CQWW WPX Contest, CW - 2019

Call: DH8BQA

Class: SO(A)SB10 HP
QTH: GERMANY
Operating Time (hrs): 30:30

Summary:
 Band  QSOs
------------
   10: 1215
------------
Total: 1175  Prefixes = 574  Total Score = 742,182

Club: Bavarian Contest Club

Comments:
RIG: IC-7300, PA + 6 ele G0KSC OWA Yagi @60ft.
Posted in Contesting, Propagation, Sporadic E | Comments Off on CQ WPX CW 2019

Old & new, strange QRM plus some 4 m contacts

Arrived at the station early this afternoon. Brought the IC-7300 along for WPX-CW this weekend as well as (hopefully!) some fun on 4 m during the next few days (a week of holidays next week). Second radio I took with me is my old Kenwood TS-660 which has been in storage for the last few years. It’s kind of a collection item, took me a few years to find one in good condition and finally bought it from someone in Italy around 2011/12 if memory serves me well. It’s one of the few “special” transceivers produced during the early 80ies that served the (back then) big market of Japanese Novice licensees with providing QRP power level (10 W) access to 15, 12, 10 & 6 m. There was a TS-670 (based on the TS-430) with 40, 15, 10 & 6 m, too, but I liked the design of the ‘660 (based on the TS-130) much better. I even used it with a small power amp for one or two seasons on 6 m and was quite satisfied. We also put it into temporary duty for the DB0UM/B beacon for a few month’ a few years ago. Now packing everything for our move of house it was about time to get it on the air once more. πŸ˜‰

New and old: Left the Icom IC-7300 modern direct sampling SDR of 2018, right the Kenwood TS-660 discrete components transceiver of 1981. Exactly the same size, but 100 W on all bands from 160 to 4 m in the ‘7300 while only 10 W on 4 bands in the ‘660. Now quite some features missing but still very enjoyable!

It still works perfectly well. I made a few QSOs on all of it’s four bands this afternoon. And it still gets unsolicited good audio reports! Nevertheless I meanwhile prefer all the new technology and don’t want to miss the bandscope in the ‘7300 on 4 m anymore. It was a clear advantage this afternoon again seeing the SV beacons suddenly pop up as well as SV’s calling CQ on 70.200 as well as signals showing up on 70.154, the FT8 frequency. Nice to get a feeling for band conditions visually, too!

Speaking of 4 m we had a nice 1 hour opening today providing 2 new gridsquares with KM19 and KN13. Another new one was JO44, good to see some more DL activity, too! Seems all the new stuff on the market including 4 m (IC-7100, IC-7300, IC-7610, TS-890S, FT-DX101D plus several new and reasonably priced transverters) help a lot … Unfortunately only 1 non-FT8 contact. 😐

------------------------------------------------------------------
TIME   CALLSIGN      LOCATOR   TX    RX    BAND   MODE  PROP.  QRB
------------------------------------------------------------------
12:52 SV2KGA         KN1ØGG    59    55    4 m.   SSB   ES    1567
13:01 SV4AAQ         KM19LI   +06   -09    4 m.   FT8   ES    1675
13:03 SV1OH          KM18VA   +13   -07    4 m.   FT8   ES    1839
13:04 SV2DCD         KNØØPL   +04   -03    4 m.   FT8   ES    1510
13:09 SV4AAQ         KM19LI   +02   -16    4 m.   FT8   ES    1675
13:16 LZ2OG          KN13RH   -16   -06    4 m.   FT8   ES    1291
13:24 LZ2WO          KN23AL   +16   +06    4 m.   FT8   ES    1298
13:25 YO7BSN         KN15PB   +06   -02    4 m.   FT8   ES    1117
13:50 DL7UAW         JO62OM   -01   -12    4 m.   FT8   TR     100
13:52 SV3AQO         KMØ8UF   -01   -11    4 m.   FT8   ES    1759
16:19 DL8FBD         JO4ØKA   -09   -16    4 m.   FT8   TR     509
16:22 DL7ULA         JO62RR   -06   -11    4 m.   FT8   TR      72
18:02 DL6LAG         JO44XG   +06   -08    4 m.   FT8   TR     304
------------------------------------------------------------------

While scanning around 6 m I stumbled across some strange QRM, see the following screenshot. Think it’s some kind of OHR (over the horizon radar).

Spectrum of some wideband QRM, probably caused by an OHR.

I know there are a few OHRs in Russia (often to be seen on 20 m) as well as the famous one in Cyprus that regularly killed parts of the 10 m band during sunspot maximum. But I have never seen one on 6 m yet?!

Posted in Equipment, Propagation, QRP, Sporadic E, VHF | Comments Off on Old & new, strange QRM plus some 4 m contacts

Some youth work

Well, I didn’t post much personal information in this blog yet. After all it’s about amateur radio and related activities and not my personal life. But with this blog entry both combine perfectly so let’s get a little more personal. πŸ˜‰

My girlfriend Frauke (who also joined me on our last radio activities abroad) has 3 children, 2 boys and a girl. Annika (Annie) is the youngest one and now 13. Different to her brothers she’s also interested in how things work. She attended a school practice last year where she learned how to program a little game on a Raspberry Pi. She told us she liked it a lot so buying a Pi and digging deeper into it is on our to-do list. πŸ˜‰

A few weeks ago her smartphone developed a fault – the speaker was not working anymore. Unwilling to buy yet another phone I had a different idea: I ordered a small audio amplifier kit designed for smartphones and MP3 players and told her she would have to build it on her own but of course I would be helping her. The kit arrived last Monday. She was excited about it and told us daily how much she was looking forward to learning to solder! Finally yesterday was the big day: mom was working and Annie and I spent a great father/daughter afternoon together. 😎

The kit is called SOL-EXP 78669 and available from Reichelt Electronics, one of my favourite electronics suppliers. It consists of some wood work for a nice enclosure as well as the soldering part. It is well thought out and includes very good step-by-step instructions. I can really recommend it as a beginner’s and fun project. It took us about 3 hours to complete working carefully.

Here are a few impressions …

Annie eager to finally start.

The kit comes complete with all parts.

First some woodwork …

… glueing the parts together.

Enclosure preparations done.

Enclosure preparations done.

Soldering the first component.

A few parts only, great for beginners.

PCB and wiring done.

It’s a snug fit.

Great looking, isn’t it? 😎

They even did labeling on the wood. πŸ˜‰

I only soldered the first resistor to show her how to do it. Afterwards Annie did all the other parts on her own and she did it like a pro! I checked the soldering every now and then and it was really perfect! To be honest I would not have expected that as the vias on the PCB were not that big. Seems she’s a natural. πŸ˜‰

Here’s a short video of her first component, see how excited she is!

She already asked what our next project will be – now how cool’s that? 😎 Unfortunately the soldering station is now packed already so the next one will have to wait until we’ve moved to Hamburg. Thinking about it I still have some transistor and small valve radio kits in one of the boxes … maybe that will get her even interested in amateur radio? πŸ˜‰

Posted in Equipment, General stuff | Comments Off on Some youth work

No VHF May contest this year … at least for me

Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to the guys last weekend as I was bound in QRL. Must have been a first in over 20 years. πŸ™ Thus no story nor results from me this time but Uwe, DL3BQA, wrote a few words in his German language blog, see here.

Posted in Contesting, VHF | Comments Off on No VHF May contest this year … at least for me

CQ WPX SSB 2019

Travelled the 2 x 700 km to and from our contest station last weekend again to take part in this year’s CQ WPX SSB contest. Uwe/DL3BQA and Peter/DM5DX had done a small multi OP activity during Russian DX two weeks ago and had set up an 80 m groundplane about 100 meters away from the main antenna towers with big help of Heiko/DG1BHA. It was still up so Uwe decided to be active as an SOSB80 entry with the special event callsign DR5ØDIG (50 years Diploma Interests Group).

I was not sure what category to choose initially. To be honest I rather took the opportunity to take part in the contest to get away from it all and free up my mind from all the current QRL stuff as well as relocation preparations (we will move from Cologne to Hamburg in summer as I’m changing QRL). So I took it leisurely having a good night’s sleep Friday night before starting into the contest well relaxed on Saturday morning. 😎

As the 80 m GP was far enough away from the other antennas we did not have any interstation interference this time and I could make use of all other bands in parallel to Uwe. Quite nice for a change. πŸ˜‰ So I started handing out points on 40 & 20 m with Fourty providing most of the fun (and QSOs) especially during the midmornings and early afternoons both days. Great to be called by juicy DX like ZL, BY, YB, etc. with just a simple dipole. 😎 Condx on 20 m were not too good and 15 m was basically closed on Saturday. The latter saw a nice Sporadic-E opening Sunday morning with great signals from OH, UA3, EW, etc. and even a few South Americans later on. But activity was sparse, seems nobody expected it thus not many people checking the band regularly (a common problem during sunspot minimum). Unfortunately the E-skip MUF didn’t rise up to 28 MHz although I checked 10 m regularly, too.

This time I also remembered to switch on the QSOrder application to record the contest QSOs again πŸ˜‰ (except the first 4 or 5 as I had initially chosen the wrong soundcard as the recording device). All the QSO snippets have been uploaded and are available on the QSOrder Cloud Search page.

As in “real live” appetite comes with eating πŸ˜‰ so the more I was into the contest the more fun I had and soon set the goal of 2 mio points, exactly what I needed to reach the BCC’s Frequent Contester Goal with WPX-SSB already. As 20 m was not very productive concerning QSO numbers as well as North America openings (the NA’s normally provide about 40-50% of the prefix multipliers) it indeed took until Sunday evening. When I finally reached it and thought of closing down Uwe dropped by into my shack (we have two separate rooms) to tell me he was too tired to continue until the end and would go home now as he needed to get up very early for QRL Monday morning. So I used the opportunity to also do a few QSOs as “fresh meat” on 80 m. Made 180 QSOs in 1 hour … boy, THAT was fun! 😎

A few minutes of the 80 m pileup:

Even maintained a 30 min rate of 200/h and the 10 min rate meter was up to 220 once! While I did rates > 200/h even for 2 and 3 hours in sunspot maximum on 10 m during WWDX-SSB contests in the past (good old times, sigh) it is much more difficult in WPX-SSB with serial number exchanges and no prefilled CQ zones. Quite an adrenaline rush … definitely did not have any signs of fatigue when driving back to town afterwards. πŸ˜€

So this is my final result. SH5 contest analysis is available here, too.

CQWW WPX Contest, SSB - 2019

Call: DH8BQA

Class: SO(A)AB HP
QTH: JO73ce
Operating Time (hrs): 26:30

Summary:
 Band  QSOs
------------
  160:   62
   80:  185
   40:  818
   20:  385
   15:   50
   10:    0
------------
Total: 1500  Prefixes = 738  Total Score = 2,422,116

Club: Bavarian Contest Club
Posted in Audio recordings, Contesting | Comments Off on CQ WPX SSB 2019

BCC QSO Party

This year the Bavarian Contest Club (BCC) which I’m a member of wants to activate more than 80% of its members in the main contests with club competitions. One part of this year’s program was/is also two BCC QSO parties. The first one was held today and lots of fun! 😎

Exchange (and multiplier) was/is one’s own T-Shirt size as every member active will get a club shirt at the end of the year. So cheating with one’s exchange might be counterproductive. πŸ˜‰

I took part remotely. While everything worked fine during the CW & SSB time slots of 30 min each I had some audio trouble during the RTTY slot which cost me about 5 min OP time, i.e. almost 20% of the time slot and probably 4-5 QSOs. Not sure what the reason was as it vanished all alone …

Anyway, here’s the result. Already looking forward to the next one in September! 😎

                   BCC QSO Party Summary Sheet

    CallSign Used : DH8BQA

Operator Category : SINGLE-OP
             Band : 80M
            Power : LOW
             Mode : MIXED+DIG
 Default Exchange : XXL
       Gridsquare : JO73CE

        Club/Team : Bavarian Contest Club

        Band  Mode   QSOs   MemPts  NonMemPts  Mults
         3,5  CW      38      66        5        10
         3,5  LSB     36      68        2         8
         3,5  RTTY    26      50        1         5
       Total  Both   100     184        8        23

       Score : 4416

         Rig : K3, 100W
    Antennas : Dipol
Posted in Contesting | Comments Off on BCC QSO Party

V31FO/V37DX QSL designs finished & first cards sent

Finished designing the QSLs for our recent trip to Belize and got the first batch of cards from the printer. Made a few adjustments and out of the 5 different motives test-printed decided to use these two for all the paperwork:

(Click to see front and back as PDF file)

(Click to see front and back as PDF file)

Don’t be confused by the white edging on the FO card. These are the original files sent to the printer and cards will be cut by 3 mm on each side during the printing process so there won’t be any edging afterwards anymore. I just wanted to have as much as possible picture content visible. πŸ˜‰

Received 40 direct QSL requests through OQRS so far as well as 3 real direct cards (not sure if people can’t read, OQRS is so much easier and cheaper for the requestor, too!) that have been answered using the test cards already. 😎

Posted in Contesting, DX, Expeditions, QSLs | Comments Off on V31FO/V37DX QSL designs finished & first cards sent

March VHF Contest ’19

Trying to escape the Cologne carnival activities πŸ˜‰ the VHF contest this weekend was a welcome opportunity to drive the 700 km to our JO73 QTH once more and meet with our local guys Heiko, DG1BHA, Uwe, DL3BQA, and Peter, DM5DX, to take part in this one as a multi-op entry.

Conditions were rather bad, can’t remember when we last had so few DX-QSOs in the log. Normally the Top 10 contacts are well above 800 km, sometimes even the Top 20. Not so this time. The QSO with 9A8D took almost 10 minutes to complete and needed lots of patience and repeats and waiting for the signals to rise out of the noise again to copy the next bit of information …

Nevertheless fun was had by all and our impression was activity was a little higher than usual, can’t remember ever doing more than 400 QSOs in March, at least not from the club QTH. But would have to check back through old results to be sure. πŸ˜‰

Contest Report from DF0TEC in JO73CE at 144 MHz
===============================================

Contest : DARC-March-Contest 2019
Date    : 2019 Mar 02 to 2019 Mar 03
Section : 02 144MHz Multi OP
QTH     : Woltersdorf

Co-OPs  : DG1BHA;DH8BQA;DL3BQA;DM5DX

TX      : IC-7400 + PA, 750 W
RX      : IC-7400 + MGF1302
Antenna : 10 ele DK7ZB Yagi, 20 mAGL, 70 mASL
Log     : TACLog by OZ2M, 1,995, http://www.qsl.net/oz2m

QSOs    :  413
-invalid:    1                                       Points/QSO
-valid  :  412     QSO-points (*1) :    155035              376
WWLs    :   66     WWL bonus (0)   :         0                0
DXCCs   :   15     DXCC bonus (0)  :         0                0
                   ---------------------------           ------
                   Total score     :    155035              376

ODX     : 9A8D in JN95LM at 919 km

Worked World Wide Locators:
JN37:  1   JN78:  4   JO20:  2   JO44:  3   JO62: 26   JO80:  5   
JN39:  4   JN79:  8   JO21:  2   JO46:  2   JO63:  5   JO82:  3   
JN47:  3   JN86:  2   JO22:  1   JO50: 14   JO64:  2   JO83:  1   
JN48:  3   JN87:  1   JO30:  9   JO51: 15   JO65:  6   JO84:  1   
JN49: 16   JN88:  6   JO31: 21   JO52: 22   JO67:  1   JO90:  7   
JN57:  2   JN89: 13   JO32:  3   JO53:  9   JO68:  1   JO91:  1   
JN58:  9   JN95:  1   JO33:  1   JO54:  4   JO70: 16   JO94:  1   
JN59:  9   JN97:  3   JO40:  6   JO55:  2   JO71: 17   KN08:  1   
JN68:  8   JN98:  5   JO41:  7   JO57:  1   JO72:  7   KN09:  1   
JN69:  6   JN99:  8   JO42: 22   JO60: 13   JO73:  4   KO02:  1   
JN77:  2   JO10:  1   JO43: 10   JO61: 19   JO77:  1   KO04:  1   

Worked DXCCs:
9A :   1   HA :   5   OK :  54   OZ :   7   S5 :   1   SP :  26   
DL : 281   HB :   3   OM :  11   PA :   5   SM :   7   UA2:   1   
F  :   1   OE :   6   ON :   3   

Top 10 QSO-points:
20190303 1034 9A8D           559  343 599  164   JN95LM     919 
20190302 1405 HB9GF          59   003 59   006   JN37WB     817 
20190302 2215 HB9RF          59   244 59   191   JN47FB     795 
20190303 0923 ON4KHG         59   324 59   059   JO10XO     759 
20190303 1242 ON4IQ          51   390 55   010   JO20AR     748 
20190302 2142 S59P           59   232 59   224   JN86AO     744 
20190302 1536 HG1Z           59   078 59   075   JN86KU     730 
20190302 2211 HA5OO          59   243 59   104   JN97OM     723 
20190302 1933 HA6W           59   196 59   183   KN08FB     720 
20190303 1326 HB9CXK         59   409 59   082   JN47PM     720 
Posted in Contesting, VHF | Comments Off on March VHF Contest ’19

V31FO/V37DX – QSL Requests

Back home, what a pity. πŸ™ πŸ˜‰ I’ve just uploaded the 6.000 QSOs made in total to Clublog and configured OQRS. Feel free to click on the calls V31FO and/orΒ V37DX to search the respective online logs and request your card(s). Bureau cards are free as always (I’m a strong supporter of the bureau system) but I will be happy to send you a direct card, too, if you wish. Please allow a few weeks to design the QSLs and let them be printed …

I’ve requested LoTW certificates for both calls, too, but ARRL did not send them yet. Will upload there as soon as certificates were received. [EDIT 21.02.2019]: ARRL has just sent the certificates and all QSOs have been uploaded to LoTW, too. Let me know if you miss a QSO and I will be glad to check the log.

Posted in Contesting, DX, Expeditions | Comments Off on V31FO/V37DX – QSL Requests