Monthly Archives: September 2010

2010 CQ WW RTTY Contest Summary

This past weekend was the CQ WW RTTY ham radio contest. I was running 100w into my G5RV antenna and not using the cluster for spots. It started Friday night @ 8pm local time (0000z Saturday) but it wasn’t until 10:30pm that I could get on the air. I spent about 90 mins making contacts on 40m & 80m and called it a night with 50 Q’s in the log.

Saturday I was able to spend most of the day participating. I started out on 20m and checked 15m from time to time. 15m wasn’t great but it was better then in recent contests so there were mults available to work. I even managed to get three 10m contacts including one to Galapagos Islands. I imagine if more folks were on 10m we could have seen more activity there. I flip-flopped between 20m and 15m working stations S&P style. With high power stations, finding and maintaining a run frequency in the 20m band was rough. At least with filters, adjacent stations can be blocked out, but with so many stations, they sometimes overlapped. I’m sure there are tricks to knocking out 1 station overlapping another but it is quicker to move on and come back. Saturday afternoon the EU stations were coming in nice and strong. I didn’t see any JA stations but they are usually not strong and in S&P without the cluster I might just pass right over them.  In the early evening on Saturday switching to 40m turned up some more stations including some strong EU’s. At 8pm local, 0000z I needed to head to a party for 5 hours. Once I got back around 1am I got back on for 90 mins and worked 40m & 80m stations. I ended up heading to bed Saturday night with about 360 Q’s.

Sunday morning I woke up and for a short time got on the air to and logged about 25 contacts on 20m and 5 on 15m before I needed to shut things down and head to a NY Giants football game. It was a real bad game and it then took about 1 hour extra to get home, so I wasn’t on for almost 8 hours on Sunday during the prime DX time. Once I got home I scanned through 15m and logged a few before switching to 20m and again S&Ping for a bit. I decided to call CQ on 20m and found a spot though it only produced 15 US stations in 15 mins. I switched to 40m for 30 mins and worked mainly US and Canadian stations before switching to 80m with 30 mins left in the contest. I did some quick and productive S&Ping on 80m, again working mostly US & Canadian stations. With 20 mins left I picked an 80m frequency and called CQ. I worked 27 stations in 20 mins, again mostly US & Canadian station, but there were 2 stations from the Ukraine at the very end that I could put in the logs. it was a productive run to wrap things up and I ended up with 491 Q’s.

Here’s a map view of the contacts made over the weekend (click to enlarge):

Here’s the score summary:

  Band    QSOs    Pts  Cty   ZN  Sec
   3.5      68     88    7    6   21
     7     108    169   24   10   34
    14     248    504   53   18   36
    21      64    135   27   15   10
    28       3      7    3    3    1
 Total     491    903  114   52  102

 Score : 242,004

I had a real good time in the contest. I made less contacts in 2010 then in 2009 but I also spent less time operating this year, including a large chunk of time on Sunday. I wish I had better antennas to hear all the stations that seem to hear me better then I hear them. Some day… I can dream.

73 & Good DX!
K2DSL

NA Sprint, BARTG Sprint 75 & WA Salmon Run

This weekend, besides my International Space Station (ISS) contacts (see earlier posts) I ended up logging contacts in 3 different ham radio contests.

Washington State Salmon Run
Saturday and Sunday was the Washington State Salmon Run (aka QSO Party). I ended up making a few contacts each day coming out with 11 SSB contacts with WA stations in 6 counties.

North American Sprint SSB
Saturday evening (0000z to 0400z) was the 4 hour NA SSB Sprint. After you make a contact with a station, they need to QSY (change frequencies) and you get the frequency to call CQ for the next contact. After that contact, you need to QSY to another frequency. It means a single station doesn’t just call CQ over and over on the same frequency. I got going not long after the start and worked 20m for the 1st hour before moving to 40m and switching back from time to time to see if there were any new stations on 20m. At the 3rd hour I switched to 80m and made a few more contacts before calling it an early night. I was up since 4am and just after 11pm I needed to hit the sack. I imagine the last hour of the contest saw activity move to 80m but I was beat. It is nice to work the SSB contests and the folks that I typically just send dits and dahs or diddles too. Even though the sprint is a very fast paced contest, every single op took the time to say hello or nice to hear you. It’s a competitive “sport” but everyone is extremely friendly and courteous.  Here’s the score summary for the NA Sprint SSB:

 Band    QSOs    Pts  Sec
  3.5       7      7    3
    7      26     26   13
   14      20     20   12
Total      53     53   28
Score : 1,484

BARTG Sprint 75
The third contest this weekend was another short one but another fun one. The BARTG Sprint 75 is a 75 baud (vs 45 baud) RTTY contest. 75 baud is faster then 45 baud and with a short exchange of just a a serial number, the exchange happens really quick. I actually was so busy with the IIS (International Space Station) that I didn’t realize the contest was underway. I joined the contest about 90 mins after it started on 20m and other then 1 lone 15m contact, all activity was on 20m. There was a fair amount of participation but plenty of room to grab a frequency and run for a bit, which I did, though I don’t think I logged more then 4 or 5 contacts in any one run before I needed to S&P for a bit.

After working the contest on and off for 2 hours and 15 mins, I stopped a little early to get ready for another ISS pass and was lucky enough to make my first voice contact which is a huge thrill. It was a fun contest though and I like the fast pace that 75 baud brings with it. 2 hours and 15 mins and contacts made with 25 DXCCs from

 Band    QSOs    Pts  Cty   Sec  Cnt
   14      52     52   25    7    3
   21       1      1    0    0    0
Total      53     53   25    7    3
Score : 5,088

All contacts loaded to eQSL, LoTW, QRZ and the logs sent in for the contests.

73,
K2DSL

First Voice Contact with NA1SS (International Space Station)

After just making my first packet radio contact with the ISS, I was able to log my first voice contact with the ISS! I was just finishing up the BARTG 75 RTTY Sprint contest as there was a great overhead pass of the ISS and I wanted to see if I could make some packet contacts via the ISS. I was listening on 145.825 but I wasn’t hearing anything at all. So I went to 145.800 and I could hear Col Doug Wheelock (KF5BOC) as if he was in the room with me. I put the TS-2000 in split and set the xmit frequency to 144.490 and gave him a call. He came back to me at 21:07z, said my call and that I was coming in loud and clear. Wow, what a thrill! With less power then your average light bulb, we can make a contact 280+ miles into space and speak with someone moving at 17,000+ mph. Unbelievable!

Time to send for that QSL card.

73,
K2DSL

First ISS Contact via APRS

I must have seen some blog post or article on Friday or Saturday morning that got me thinking about making a contact with the ISS (International Space Station). On Saturday morning I started visiting various sites and trying to figure out how to get things setup and configured to try and make it happen. It wasn’t easy since I really had nothing previously setup for doing this so there are a bunch of things that needed to be done. I’m also documenting what I did here so I can remember for future attempts.

I guess first is defining my home setup used for a VHF/APRS contact with the ISS. I have a Kenwood TS-2000 that has a built in TNC but in the end, the built-TNC proved irrelevant. I have an external Diamond dual band vertical antenna for VHF. I have a SignaLink USB as a soundcard device and I’m running Windows 7 on my notebook.  I needed to use all these components as well as 2 pieces of software to get the job done though I probably downloaded a couple others throughout Saturday as I was trying to get things working. The software is AGWPE from SV2AGW and UISS from ON6MU. I also used a bunch of web sites such as the ISS Fan Club tracking site, the AMSAT Pass Prediction page and the FindU ARISS page for what stations it heard (and repeated to another I-Gate station which put it on the Internet).

The TS-2000 has a built-in TNC which I kept thinking I should be using but proved to not be the case. I used AGWPE and interfaced it through my SignaLink USB soundcard. No need with this solution to deal with the menus on the TS-2000 associated with the TNC and packet radio. What I needed to do was run the main receiver on the TS-2000 on 145.825 FM (as referenced on the ISS Fan Club Frequency page) as keying the SignaLink would do it on the main receiver. You need to turn up the squelch enough to keep the static quiet. Configuring AGWPE took quite a while for me as I was originally trying to do it using the built-in TNC which might be possible (according to various posts I found) but proved not to work for me, though I didn’t try it on the main receiver (or did I?). So then finding instructions for AGWPE & a soundcard I went that route and used my SignaLink. The issue I ran into and found various other online posts about it, is that with the SignaLink not being set as the default device in Windows 7, AGWPE was using the default. So what is necessary is making the SignaLink USB Audio Codec device the default sound device for playback/recording while this activity is going on. You do this through Windows Sound Control Panel and just need to be aware any sound on your computer will go through the SignaLink while this is set that way. Once I did that, AGWPE showed the SignaLink as the soundcard it will use and I was done with that configuration.

Next I downloaded and configured UISS which a Windows program specific to making packet contacts with ISS. The program is free but for some “PRO” features you need to make a donation. Seeing how much fun this is, if I start to make a few more contacts I will definitely donate. Setup wasn’t complex and for its data interface out, it just points to what is defined in AGWPE. There’s just a tiny bit of setup to define your lat/long for APRS and modification of any of the default messages. On Saturday I wasn’t able to get all the components properly configured but Sunday morning and a fresh start, ignoring anything TS-2000 specific, I was able to get things moving. I knew I was making progress when I tuned to 144.390 which is the national APRS frequency and UISS was decoding the incoming packets and showing them on the main screen. I tuned off frequency and pressed the Position button in UISS and it keyed up the SignaLink and TS-2000 and transmitted my position. After a few hours of tinkering and trying various components/configurations, it finally seemed like I had things setup properly.

With Windows 7 configured to use the SignaLink as its default soundcard, the AGWPE & UISS applications up and running and the ISS Fan Club tracking site, the AMSAT Pass Prediction page and the FindU ARISS page opened in my web browser I was ready for my first attempt. The next pass of the ISS was set for 14:35 (10:35am local) so I watched the web pages and listened for the first packets to break the squelch. I was refreshing the FindU page and saw a couple of station in Mexico show up and then N4ZQ in Florida showed up. Watching the incoming packets being decoded, I saw N4ZQ show up at 14:37 followed by a message from N6WPV in FL to 2Y4Q6T come in. I saw a couple more packets decoded including one from N1RCN in RI sending a message. I finally saw K2DSL show up on the FindU ARISS page and I celebrated! Looking at the raw data it looks like my APRS position was received by the ISS and then received by K8YSE who gated it onto the Internet. I then saw the following message come in from N1RCN:

Fm N1RCN To APRS Via RS0ISS-4* <UI pid=F0 Len=44 >[10:41:16]
:K2DSL    :Good Morning From Bristol, RI USA

Since I wasn’t sure how to respond (and I think I know how to respond now), the pass ended before I could return the message to N1RCN. Here are the raw packets associated with me showing I was iGated twice by K8YSE and I also sent the list of folks I heard from received packets back from the ISS which AL0I received and iGated:

2010-09-19 14:41:01 UTC: K2DSL>APRS,RS0ISS-4*,qAS,K8YSE-6:=4101.11N/07407.17W-First ISS APRS {UISS52}
2010-09-19 14:41:33 UTC: K2DSL>APRS,RS0ISS-4*,qAS,K8YSE-6:=4101.11N/07407.17W-First ISS APRS {UISS52}
2010-09-19 14:42:35 UTC: K2DSL>APRS,RS0ISS-4*,qAR,AL0I::Heard    :N6WPV-4,W1GRE-3,N1RCN,KB2M-2,K4IPH,AB9RF,W1GRE-4,VE1WRG{UISS52}

What shows in the UISS programs list of stations heard in the pass are:
RS0ISS-11, N6WPV-4, W1GRE-3, N1RCN, KB2M-2, RS0ISS-4, K4IPH, AB9RF, W1GRE-4 & VE1WRG.

Wow – that was a little bit of trial and error and not really sure everything was right but it worked! I need to make sure I remember to turn the Windows sound device default back after I am done.

As I was finishing this up, another pass of the ISS was coming by so I tried again. This time I made 2 APRS contacts which were shown as iGated again by K8YSE. I also received 2 messages from AB9RF and KB1GVR but the one I sent to AB9RF didn’t show as received and sent back. There’s a strong pass coming later today at 20:59z (4:59pm local) that I will set things up for again and see what comes of that.

There are so many things to do in ham radio that the fun and having another personal “first” seems to be endless. I hope to make a voice contact with the ISS some day.

73 from outer space!
K2DSL

VHF Contesting with the Club

This weekend was the ARRL Sept VHF contest. BARA, my local ham radio club, sets up 2 towers at an old Nike Missle base in Orangeburg, NY (FN31) and we run some amps on 4 stations cover 6m, 2m, 70cm & 23cm. We operate mostly SSB but we also have a couple of FM antennas up and a little CW thrown in. The conditions for the June VHF contest weekend were phenomenal but because of potential severe weather forecast for the weekend and being on the top of a hill, the club cancelled the contest and many folks, myself included, operated from home with whatever VHF/UHF equipment they had.

Saturday was a beautiful day so loading up a truck with 2 towers, antennas, tents, etc wasn’t rough and took about 1 hour. We then went to the site which is about 20 mins away and unloaded and prepared for setup. Seemed we had a few less folks then normal but it wasn’t bad. First up was the 6m beam and tower followed by the 2nd tower which contains the 2m, 70cm & 23cm beams. I think where we missed having some more folks was while everyone focused on getting the antenna and towers up, setting up the radio equipment in the tents was lagging behind. We had the 6m station setup first and on the air around 2:45pm which is about 45 mins after the contest started. Everything with the 6m station was working great.

Within about 30 mins after 6m was on the air, the other 3 stations started to come up, though there seemed to be some issues with the 70cm & 23cm stations and their amps. Folks were working all 4 stations, but most contacts (which is to be expected) were on the 6m and 2m bands. Activity on 6m and 2m was ok but certainly slower then I would have expected. What never materialized for us, at least while I was there, were any openings. Late in the afternoon I made a contact with WV on 2m and that was the longest contact all day on any station up until that point. In the evening we did work some stations a bit farther south, but nothing in FL and nothing west of WV. In other words, we didn’t notice a single opening whatsoever.

During the contest, on 2m and 6m, there were a couple of local folks I chatted with throughout the day and I asked if anything interesting was being spotted on the cluster and they all said that they hadn’t noticed any spots indicating there were any openings. At least it wasn’t us. We were running 600-700 watts on 2m & 6m I’m sure there could be stations that heard us we might not have been able to hear, but we normally hear stations from the midwest and southern Gulf states sometime during the day of a VHF contest. Nothing on Saturday for us.

The FM stations are handy because there’s a very small 5 mile loop near us that covers 4 grid squares. If someone drives the loop and has FM capability in their car, we can log 4 contacts. If they have multiple bands, we can log 8 contacts in a short amount of time. I’m not sure but we might have logged more FM contacts then 23cm contacts by the time I left Saturday night.

Since it was 9/11, off in the distance we could see the beams of light at Ground Zero pointing into the heavens and hitting the clouds that had moved in. I stayed at the site until around 10:45pm or so before I called it quits and headed back home.

Sundays weather has a pretty good chance of all showers all day long. I won’t head up to the site as I’m off shortly to the NY Giants opening home game. I hope the teardown at the site goes well for those that will be there today. I’ll find out how overnight Sat/Sun went as well as during the day on Sunday. Hopefully something will open up for those folks that are up there at on the air.

73 & Never Forget,
K2DSL

VE7CC Cluster and Sending Email Alerts

I noticed a post on the ARUser Yahoo group which is used, among other purposes, to discuss the VE7CC DX Cluster program. The program creates a local DX Cluster on your computer which you can configure to your hearts content. For me, as an example, it shows only spots that are related to North America stations so I don’t see an 80m spot that is posted by a station in Russia to a station in Germany.

The post indicated a user couldn’t get the DX Spot Alerts that send emails to work on Verizon FIOS. Now I had never tried to do that with this program, but years ago I had the same issue/need to send emails on Verizon FIOS from a weather program that did not support SMTP Authentication. SMTP Authentication is a fancy name for having to supply an account & password when you send email. Supplying an account & password to receive email is normal but much less frequently needed on sending email. If the program sending email (VE7CC in this case) doesn’t support supplying an account name and password, it won’t work with mail servers that require it.

A quick search turns up the program I used in the past. It’s called SMTPAuth and is located at http://netwinsite.com/dmail/smtpauth.htm. The web page indicates Windows operating system support through XP. Well, I’m running Windows 7 64-bit and it still works. I don’t have a Vista machine to test on but I imagine it works with Vista as well. I downloaded the program from the page to my desktop. The first time I ran it the install didn’t complete so I needed to re-run the installation as Administrator which the program detected and did for me automatically. I imagine just right clicking the program on the desktop and selecting Run as administrator will do the same thing. The program launches a command window which asks for your mail server. For Verizon FIOS, it is outgoing.verizon.net but if you aren’t using Verizon FIOS, you can check your existing mail program to see how it is setup or check your ISPs web site. You then need to specify your email account name with the ISP and the password associated with that email account. Once you do that, you’ll see something similar to the following:

SmtpAuth Version 1.04 Setup for Windows NT
Initialisation:
Enter your outgoing(smtp) mail server: outgoing.verizon.net
Enter your user name <>: abc123
Enter your password: xxxxxxxx
Saving settings...done
Stopping SmtpAuth...failed
Adding service...done
Starting SmtpAuth Version 1.04...done
Testing Smtp Authentication...
Everything seems fine
SmtpAuth Version 1.04 was successfully installed
In your email client, set up your outgoing(smtp) mail server to be "127.0.0.1"
To uninstall smtpauth, run smtpauth again, and choose the delete option
Press any key to finish
Windows Services shows SmtpAuth Version 1.04 which can be stopped or started as you want.

You now have a local SMTP server running on your PC. Then in VE7CC or whatever program you want to use that needs to send email, you specify 127.0.0.1 as the email server. For VE7CC specifically, you would click on the Configuration menu and select Alarm Setup. That opens a window where on the right side you can specify your To & From email address and the box underneath those is where you enter in 127.0.0.1 for the mail server. That indicates that the mail server is running locally on your machine.

That’s all there is to it. If you have any questions, you can post them here or email me directly and I’ll try to help.

73,
K2DSL

Amateur Radio Stamp – First Day Issue – 1964 Alaska

I attended my local radio clubs monthly meeting for September and one of the members received an envelope from a SK’s estate that contained a stack of envelopes from 1964. The envelopes contained purple 5 cent stamps that were post marked from Anchorage Alaska on Dec 15th, 1964. I picked up 3 of them for myself. Below is a scan of the envelope which can be clicked to open up a larger image.

The ham that had them said he did some investigation and there were different pictures on the front, though all his were the same as what I scanned. The ARRL QST archive site search finds a mention in QST of the stamp in the Aug, Sept, Oct & Nov 1964 issues. The September 1964 QST references 3 envelopes to a set, each printed in a different color. WJ8C mentions it but doesn’t show pictures and calls it a #1260.  I found a different picture on a Google image search which brought me to N4MW’s site which shows a different picture. The page also links to a PDF courtesy of WA5CTP that shows a 3rd picture on the envelope. Using 1260 as a search I came across a list of amateur radio postal items which if you scroll to the United States lists 9 different covers. Mine is the closest to fdc 1 though mine doesn’t have any mention of Oscar-1.

Amazing how much can be uncovered using the Internet to find out old info. I was just 18 months old when this was issued and almost 46 years later people are still enjoying what was done in 1964.

73,
K2DSL

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