Monthly Archives: February 2010

2010 NAQP RTTY Summary

Saturday was the 2010 North America RTTY QSO Party (NAQP). A single operator can be active for 10 of the 12 hours the contest runs. Operators are also limited to 100w which is all I have anyway.

The night before was a warm up and I had decided to try and use the ESM function in N1MM. That means N1MM sends certain macros based on what info is entered and where the cursor is when you press the Enter key. Prior I would press specific function keys based on what I wanted to send. It took some getting used to but trying it out in the warm up the night before was worthwhile. I also tried to use the call stacking option which if in Run mode and you notice multiple stations you can stack them vs calling CQ after each exchange. That was less intuitive and seemed to be hit or miss so I don’t think I have what I need to do worked out well.  During the contest I did pretty well with the ESM feature and pressing enter. Once in a while I’d press enter and the wrong message from what I expected was sent, but that was because of the info entered or where I had the cursor. It’s just something I’ll stick with and should get more obvious as time goes on.

I was able to get on the air at the start of the contest and spend about 6.5 hours of the 10 hours working stations on 15m and 20m before moving to 40m after dark. 15m seemed to have some activity but nothing compared to the last 2 weekend contests. I don’t know if the conditions have changed or if folks just weren’t on 15m. I was able to log my first Alaska contact on 15m. When I needed to head out to dinner with my wife and friends I had 247 contacts in the log. Dinner took longer then planned and I was gone for over 2.5 hours. Dinner was good though!

After returning from dinner I ran through 40m to get any stations I hadn’t logged and then went to 80m. I then got a call from my older daughter asking me to pick her and her friends up in about 1 hour. I continued to work stations and do some CQing on 80m until I needed to head out and get my daughter and friends. It took 40 mins to pick them up and drop them all off. It left me with 1 hour of time before the contest was going to end so I finished scanning 80m and then picked a frequency and just went into run mode until about 10 mins left before seeing if there was anyone to work on 40 or 80m.

I worked for a few non North America DX stations but not too many. They all called me when I was CQing. What I did notice that was a little frustrating were stations that were calling CQ but didn’t end with a CQ or QRZ. As I was tuning up/down the band, if I hit one of those stations there was no way to tell if they were calling CQ or if they were sending their call sign to the station calling CQ. As an example (using a fictitious call sign) they would call CQ NAQP de K2XXX K2XXX . If I was tuning to the frequency I’d see something like de K2XXX K2XXX and not know if I should put my call out or not. So then I’d wait a bit and find out they were really calling CQ and I didn’t need to wait.

RTTY contesting is fun and I ended up with the following:

Band    QSOs   Pts  Sec   NA
3.5      82     82   38    0
  7      95     95   36    3
 14     146    146   32    1
 21      21     21   14    2
Total   344    344  120    6

Score : 43,344

See you in the next contest,
K2DSL

2010 ARRL International DX CW Contest Summary

This past weekend was the 2010 ARRL International DX CW Contest. DX stations can only contact US/Canadian stations and US/Canadian stations can only contact DX stations including Hawaii & Alaska.

The most noteworthy item is that the conditions allowed me to make 10m DX contacts.  I made 20 contacts on 10m to 11 DXCC entities which were: Argentina: 3, Aruba: 4, Barbados: 1, Neth Antilles: 1, Colombia: 1, Grenada: 3, Hawaii: 3, Martinique: 1, Nicaragua: 1, St Vincent: 1, Virgin Islands: 1.  Prior to this weekends contest, in total I had 37 contacts on 10m so this weekends contacts represent more then 50% of the total 10m contacts prior to this contest, most of which were US contacts. Along with 10m having relatively a lot of activity, 15m was again a busy band like it was the previous weekend for the CQ WPX RTTY contest.

Fri night after getting home from work I got things set up and spent a little time making contacts. I ended up with 53 contacts on Friday all on 40m before calling it a night. Saturday morning I got back on the air on 20m and signals were so strong from Europe that I often had to turn the pre-amp off and adjust the RF gain to hear the signals well as they were coming in so loud. Mid morning I switched to 15m and it was doing well again. I needed to run out to get a much needed haircut so I left with 73 Q’s on 20m and 50 Q’s on 15m after about 3 hours of operating.

After returning Saturday from getting my haircut and having lunch and getting back on, I had about 200 Q’s at 2:00pm local time. Around 2:30pm local 19:30z I checked out 10m and was amazed I could hear DX stations and they could hear me! I spent about 30 mins tuning and making contacts on 10m. I then switched to 15m and made a contact with the TX4T DXpedition in French Polynesia. I also made a contact with them later on 20m. I checked their web site and I show they already have me in their log for the 2 contacts. After dark on Sat before on made a couple of contacts on 20m with Japan. They weren’t strong for me but I think they were good exchanges. I ended Saturday on 40m and 80m with a total of 337 Q’s and 182k points.

Sunday morning just after 9am / 14:09z I worked J38XX giving me, for the first time, the same station logged on 5 bands 10/15/20/40/80 meters. Not long after I grabbed a fresh cup of coffee and when I sat back down a station was calling CQ on the last frequency I was on. It was a TA2 station from Turkey. I put out my call and he came back to me and I was able to log Turkey again. A pileup then started to build. I see today that my contact with TA2ZAF was confirmed on LoTW already for a new DXCC confirmed.

A couple hours later I was able to log Tanzania for the first time and it was on 15m. I also logged a ZS1 South Africa station on 15m. Not long after I was able to log Hawaii on 10m and logged a total of 3 Hawaii stations on 10m. I then stopped just making any contacts and started to look for 10m and 15m stations for DXCCs I didn’t already have and worked those. Between that and the fact I worked a lot of strong stations on Saturday, Sunday’s # of contacts was down. Early in the evening I logged Japan on 15m for the first time. I switched to 40m and 80m and worked what I could before dinner and the end of the contest.

I ended up with 2 new DXCCs logged getting Tanzania and French Polynesia in the logbook. I ended up working 2 stations on all 5 bands and 16 additional stations on 4 bands. There were 491 contacts with 334 different stations. Those 334 stations covered 76 different DXCCs. Not bad at all for 100w & G5RV!

Here’s my score summary from N1MM:

 Band   QSOs    Pts  Cty
 3.5      43    129   28
   7     105    315   48
  14     200    600   65
  21     122    366   53
  28      20     60   11
Total    490   1470  205

Score : 301,350

73 & Good DX,

K2DSL

VU2LBW India DXCC Confirmed

During the CQ WPX RTTY Contest I was able to, for the first time to make contact with an operator in India. It happened to be on 15m.

I had posted about it and received an email direct from Lakshman aka “Lucky” about the contact. We had a very nice email exchange and he indicated the log would be upload to LoTW shortly. We were both glad to know conditions might be improving.

Thanks for the contact “Lucky” and the emails as well. I hope to work you again soon.

73,
K2DSL

Additional CQ WPX RTTY Stats & Map

Following up with some additional info on my CQ WPX RTTY Contest Summary I have noted the following:

A) 340 contacts made during the contest have so far been confirmed via LoTW which is almost 40% confirmed in less then 1 week. More will trickle in and I would expect a total rate in the 50% range.

B) There were 9 call signs that I worked on 4 bands. 3 of those 9 were outside of the US. I worked 32 call signs on 3 bands of which 11 were outside of the US.

C) US stations accounted for 53% of all contacts followed by Canada at 4.7%, Germany at 4.3%, Spain at 2.9% and Italy at 2.6%.

D) Out of the 436 different WPX prefixes, the US led with 176 (40%), Germany with 26, Ukraine with 17, Canada with 17 and Spain with 13.

Here’s a map of the contacts made in the contest. I loaded the records into Ham Radio Deluxe and exported the records into a Google Earth KML file. I don’t have Google Earth installed on this computer so I then loaded the KML file to one of my web sites and in Google Maps I referenced the KML file via a URL and it generates the map.

73 & good DX,
K2DSL

2010 CQ WPX RTTY Contest Summary

This past weekend was the 2010 CQ WPX RTTY contest and boy did I have fun! I got home from work a little late and got on the air about 1.5 hours after the contest started Fri evening but that isn’t a problem since a single op can operate 30 of the 48 hours. I ended up able to put in 30 hours in total without missing any sleep.

Friday night before heading off I was able to make 118 contacts on 40m & 80m. When I got back on Saturday morning around 1240z (7:40am local time) 20m was good to EU. It was easy to tune up the dial and work most stations on the 1st or 2nd call, even with 100w and my G5RV.  At 1450z (9:50am local time) I switched over to 15m and wow! I had never been on 15m when I could hear and work this many stations – come on sunspots! I stayed on 15m until 1630z (11:30am local) and ended up making 45 contacts. That might not seem like a lot but I think that might be close to or more 15m contacts then I made in another other contest in total. I went back to 20m and made more contacts flipping to 15m from time to time. I ended up with 68 contacts on 15m on Saturday. By 5:00pm local time (2200z) I had worked 20 of the 40 CQ zones.

Saturday later in the afternoon I picked a 20m frequency and was able to hold it and run for about 50 mins and making 45 contacts. They were all mostly US stations with a couple DX and Canadian stations. I then switched to 15m to see if I could hear anyone new and the 1st station I heard was a ZL1 in New Zealand and I was able to work him. I moved to 40m and 80m at 2300z (6:00pm local) for a couple hours before heading to dinner. When I left for dinner I was about up to the total number of contacts I made during the entire WPX RTTY contest last year. When I came back from dinner Saturday evening  a couple hours later I got on 40m and 80m again. I had a good 80m run for just under 1 hour even having some DX stations call me. I called it quits for the night at 0545z (12:45am local). On the first day I ended up logging 575 contacts over the course of about 18.5 hours.

I had 11.5 hours or so of operating time left in the 30 hours we can be on the air so I figured I’d again get on around 1230z (7:30am local time ) and that is what I did. It would allow me to operate the rest of the contest without having to schedule any off time of at least 1 hour. I started off on 20m again working up and down the band. EU was strong and working stations wasn’t an issue. I stayed on 20m for almost 2 hours before switching to 15m again and stayed there for about 1.5 hours working stations I could hear. If I could hear them, they could hear me. Just before 1500z (10:00am local) I worked my first VU2 station in India who was calling CQ on 15m. He was up and down and I hope he was able to log me on his end. After working 15m I switched back and forth between 20m and 15m with some short runs calling CQ on 20m. Around 2030z (3:30 pm local) I picked a frequency up the band around 14.120 and was able to hold it for 1 hour logging 46 contacts from the US and EU.

I  stayed on 15 & 20m through 2300z (6:00pm local) as there were stations to log including AL9A in Alaska which was the last one I logged before moving to 40m. I logged 5 different Alaska stations this weekend, all with strong signals on 20m. I was able to work just 1 station in Japan but he was in the log. I finished up the last hour of the contest on 40m. I was able to log an additional 62 contacts on 15m giving me a total of 130 contacts on the band. Prior to this contest I had only logged a total of 425 contacts on 15m since being on HF. I did more then 30% of my total prior 15m contacts in just this one weekends contest. I wonder when 10m will give me this same thrill?

Some quick stats on my logging shows 858 total contacts (860 minus 2 dupes that worked me when I was calling CQ) consisting of 668 unique call signs. I logged contacts in 24 of the 40 CQ zones and 47 of the 50 states just missing nearby states of Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. I logged contacts in a total of 70 different DXCC entities with India being hopefully a new one for me. On 15m I logged 45 different DXCCs out of the 130 contacts. There were 436 different call sign prefixes logged which is a multiplier in this contest. I am very pleased with my performance and can’t wait for the next contest. I’m glad today is a holiday in the US though :-)

Here is my score summary from N1MM which worked flawlessly along with MMTTY on my new computer:

Band   QSOs    Pts  WPX 3.5    143     354   65 7     128     418   65 14     457     899  240 21     130     316   66 Total  858    1987  436 Score : 866,332

73 and good DX!
K2DSL

Ham Radio USB Serial Cat Rig Control FSK Windows 7

I wanted to create a separate post just to reiterate the info I have around USB serial support in Windows 7 for CAT rig control and RTTY FSK and CW keying. It is something all amateur radio operators will be dealing with as they upgrade their computer equipment. Until ham radio rigs provide direct support for USB, and some do, we still need to figure out how to get bin-serial port computers to work with traditional serial devices. In my investigation before switching to a new Windows 7 machine I found a lot of confusing and often contradictory info. I was using Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. Here is what I decided.

If I went with a desktop, I would have opted for a standard serial card that goes in one of the slots. Of course you need to make sure the card supports Windows 7 but a real serial card should work fine.

My older XP notebook supported PCMCIA cards and my dual port serial PCMCIA card worked fine for years. Since there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of new notebooks providing PCMCIA slots, I didn’t investigate Win7 driver support for mine or other PCMCIA cards. Some newer notebooks support ExpressCard technology which is like the older PCMCIA. I checked out notebooks with ExpressCard but not all had them and specific Win7 support for ExpressCard serial card support was sketchy at best.

The real complexity and confusion comes in with USB serial cable and adapters. They provide USB support one end to plug into a notebook or desktop and then on the other end of the cable or device they provide the traditional 9 pin serial connections we all need. The problem is Windows 7 driver support and support for more complex serial applications such as FSK interfaces. In most cases, basic CAT rig control seemed to work with most any cable as long as the USB device had any recognition with the OS.

So what will you find when you start looking for yourself? I found there are 2 main USB chipsets that seem to be the most common. These chipsets are embedded in the cables or devices and make up the brains of the USB support for the operating system and the conversion to the serial end of the device. The 2 names are Prolific an FTDI. Reports on which chipset seems to work best are sometimes contradictory. Maybe specific revisions of the chipset or specific versions of the software drivers and the combination of the two determine the success. All seem to be able to support CAT rig control and the issues come in with complex communications between the computer and rig for thinks like FSK RTTY interfaces.

I kept making notes about which chipsets and devices were reported as working. Someone even put together a chart and it was incorporated into the N1MM Wiki which shows some info. I was directly contacted by a WA5ZUP, a fellow RTTY contester and he suggested devices by Digi and their Edgeport series. I looked into those and it appeared there was not yet Win 7 support but reports on the Digi forums indicated no issue using available drivers and it functioning perfectly. I checked eBay for Edgeport and the devices that cost over $400 list price new were selling for $40 used on eBay including shipping. So I took a chance since it was only $40 and picked up an Edgeport/8 which is an 8 port serial box.  The seller of my unit happened to be nationwidesurplus. I had a spare A/B USB cable so it was ok it didn’t ship with one (and the seller indicated there was no cable). I got the box before I even purchased the new notebook.

After getting the new computer I installed MMTTY and N1MM. I then plugged in the EdgePort and held my breathe. Windows 7 detected a new USB device and went through it’s usual discovery. It then went online to Windows Update and found the drivers, installed them and said the device was ready. I fired up the small program that is also automatically installed and configured the com port numbers to the physical ports on the device. I first fired up Ham Radio Deluxe and configued it to use Com4 which is the first port on the Edgeport. It worked perfectly. I then fired up MMTTY and select Com5 as the port and it immediately worked. Note that I am NOT using EXTFSK and directly specifying the com port. I then fired up N1MM, modified my old config slightly for the new com port numbers I was now using and it also worked perfectly for rig control, sending CW and for integrating with MMTTY. A perfect trifecta!

Based on my experience I would highly recommend the Digi Edgeport units. Documentation on the unit is available on the Digi support site. They provide a nice 4 and 8 port model available used at a very reasonable cost on eBay. As I would suggest with any eBay purchase, check the sellers feedback, make sure you are aware of the total cost, and if there is a problem with the unit, make sure you are comfortable with the return policy for the seller. My experience was perfect and I hope yours is as well. I’ll possibly update this post if any additional input is noteworthy or based on feedback from others.

73,
K2DSL

A new computer – what a difference!

My old Pentium notebook running Windows XP had out lived its ability to serve my needs. It was originally my work computer from 2004 which I took with me when I left my company in 2005. It had become slow to the point where it was extremely frustrating to use all the latest memory and processor intensive versions of the applications I run. The time had come to get a new computer.

I did a bunch of investigation on Windows 7 and support for the radio programs such as Ham Radio Deluxe/DM780 and N1MM/MMTTY. I also considered desktops vs notebooks and decided A notebook would again be the best choice. My old computer supported PCMCIA cards so I had a dual port serial card I used for rug control and the CW/FSK interfaces. I didn’t see any new notebooks with PCMCIA card support and a few with ExpressCard support but very sketchy info on serial card support with them and Windows 7. I got a suggestion from a great fellow contestor in WA5ZUP and John suggested checking out Digi EdgePort units. On eBay there were many used units for sale and I picked up an 8 port unit for only $40. It has a list price of $455 if purchased in the Digi site! Even if it didn’t work, it wasn’t a lot of money lost.

Later last week I saw a good deal come up on Amazon. I was glad because I had about $240 in Amazon gift certificates waiting to be used on something. I ended up purchasing an Acer Aspire AS7740-6656 17″ notebook running the new Intel i5 chip with 4GB RAM, 500GB HD, N wifi, webcam, etc. It was $700 and with my gift certificates it came to $460 and I signed up for Amazon Prime so for $3 it was sent overnight and I had it Fri when I got home from work.

I was up until 3:30am working on removing the software I didn’t want and installing software like HRD, N1MM, MMTTY, etc. Then came the big moment where I plugged in the EdgePort/8 and took a deep breathe. Windows 7 found the unit and then automagically went to Windows Update and found the Windows 7 drivers for it. It installed and started to work perfectly! I ran a couple quick tests with N1MM and MMTTY and it was sending/receiving fine. Whew! Time to call it a night.

On Saturday and Sunday I participated in the Mexico RTTY contest on the new computer setup and it worked flawlessly. 213 contacts and not a glitch!

Moving from a 5+ year old Pentium notebook to this new Acer is a huge improvement. The speed at which things open and run is fantastic. No waiting and no frustration. Windows 7 seems to be solid and it is just me finding where things are in the new interface that takes a little time. At least for an experienced Windows user, Windows 7 seems very natural.

Thanks again to WA5ZUP for his suggestion on the EdgePort unit and I would recommend them to anyone needing serial port support with Windows 7. Kudos to the developers of Ham Radio Deluxe, N1MM and MMTTY for building applications that run well on Windows 7 especially if you install outside of the \Program Files\ directory which is something all Windows 7 users need to be aware of.

Now comes the long task of pulling off relevant data from the old notebook and reinstalling programs on the new computer.

73,
K2DSL

1 weekend – 5 contests

I was looking forward to some 10m contacts in a 10-10 contest but every time I checked I heard nothing. I didn’t hear a single 10m operator over the entire weekend contest. Other then the 10m contest I didn’t think I would do much else other then some random contacts but it didn’t work out that way.

I had purchased and received a brand new notebook Fri night and started working on that until 3:30am early Sat morning. Part of what I setup was Ham Radio Deluxe, N1MM and MMTTY. It went surprisingly smoothly. I will write about it in a subsequent post.

I started out making some QSO Party contacts with Minnesota stations. Ended up with 21 SSB contacts. With the VT and DE QSO Parties I made a small number during Sat evening with 1 VT & 3 DE contacts.

What I spent most time on the air with this weekend was the Mexico RTTY contest. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t plan on participating in it but with 10m dead and what seemed like a good amount of activity, I jumped in. Saturday afternoon into the evening and then Sun morning I ended up making a total of 213 contacts across 4 bands with most contacts on 20m followed by 40m. Did mostly S&P but also had a couple of short runs including a nice DX run mid morning Sunday. There was a good amount of participation from the XE stations.

After the Mexico RTTY contest ended I popped over to SSB and worked 8 New Mexico stations in the NM QSO Party. So in total I worked 5 separate contests and 246 total contest contacts.

Next weekend is the CQ WPX RTTY contest so I will be in that one as much as possible over the weekend.

Here’s the score summary from the Mexico RTTY contest:


Band    QSOs    Pts  Cty Sec
3.5      28      60    2    1
7      50     124   11    5
14     126     331   26   13
21       9      23    4    1
Total   213     538   43   20
Score : 33,894
See you on the air! K2DSL

A new computer on the way

I use an older Sony Pentium notebook for my computer for all needs including ham radio. It was my computer when I worked at Sony and I took it with me (legally) when I left Sony in 2005. It is 6-7 years old and ready to be retired.

I have been thinking about what to do when replacing it. Should I get another notebook? Should I get a desktop? How will I handle serial ports? Does the software I need to use run on Win 7? All my friends that run Macs were pushing for me to get a Mac, but I’m a Windows guy. In addition, the Macs costs a significant premium over a similar sized/featured Windows machine.

Yesterday I saw a posting online about a very good price on a 17″ Acer notebook at Amazon. I was hoping to find something suitable at Amazon because I had $240 worth of gift certificates to apply to any purchase. I pulled the trigger and made the purchase. It’s an Acer Aspire AS7740-6656 notebook with a 17.3″ display. It runs the new Intel i5-430M processor, comes with 4GB of memory, 500GB HD, Win 7, CD/DVD burner, webcam, 802.11N wifi, media card reader, 4 USB ports and a HDMI port. Price was $700 and then I deducted my gift certificates so it was a good deal. And it should arrive today if someone is home to sign for it.

In anticipation of getting a new computer, on eBay I purchased an Edgeport 8 port USB to Serial box. Supposedly it is compatible with Win7 using Vista drivers and native Win7 drivers should be out soon from the vendor. So I’ll keep my fingers crossed that works and I don’t need to purchase USB to Serial cables for support of rig control and the CW/RTTY FSK interface and hope I get ones that work.

Now comes the daunting task of removing software from the computer I don’t want on it, installing software I do, configuring all the programs and hoping when something doesn’t work right (specifically around N1MM, MMTTY, Ham Radio Deluxe, etc) I can troubleshoot it and get it working. With a potential snow storm coming overnight, I’m hopeful I get the computer today (Friday) so I can start setting things up over the weekend.

I’m also hoping this weekend I can get on and make some QSO Party and 10-10 contacts. I checked 10m last night around 8:30pm ET (0130z) and didn’t hear anyone. Compared to the arm-chair copy of stations on Sun and Mon, the band was dead. But maybe everyone is resting for an active 10-10 two-day event starting tonight?

73,
K2DSL – David

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