More tropo ducting today

This morning around 9AM I got mixed up with a crowd on 144 MHz.  Since I’m the new guy I ended up with a pileup on my hands!  I picked up KA3QWO, KG4KWW, K1PXE, WB2SIH, K3GNC, WV2H, N2FKF, W1AN, and WB2QEG in very quick succession.  We then ventured up to 23cm (1296 MHz) and I worked W1AN, WB2SIH, K1PXE, and K3GNC (most with armchair copy).  I ended the morning’s tropo opening with a contact with AC2BL on 2m (144 MHz).

Longest distance on 144 MHz: 320.5 mi (515.8 km) – AC2BL
Longest distance on 1296 MHz: 305.6 mi (491.8 km) – W1AN
Loudest signal: W1AN (louder and clearer the higher in frequency we went!)

I’m hoping for another few mornings like this one.  Thanks to all the stations I made contact with; it was fun!

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The difference a few miles will make.

Tonight I worked several station with two in particular being W1AN and WZ1V.  Both of those stations I worked on three bands: 144, 432, and 1296 MHz.  W1AN is a little further away than WZ1V but both are fairly close to each other in Connecticut with WZ1V being a bit further west.

Oddly enough, W1AN was stronger the higher in frequency we went while WZ1V was the opposite.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings!

Posted in 23cm, 2m, 70cm, CW, On the Air, Voice Operations | Leave a comment

2015 ARRL August UHF Contest results

VHF and UHF antennasWhew, it’s been interesting last couple of days around here.  On Friday the only antenna I had in the sky was my OCF dipole for HF.  Saturday morning found myself, Bob N3PPH, and Dave W3PQS erecting a pole with antennas for 2m, 70cm, and 23cm.  With the ARRL August UHF contest starting at 2PM (local) we had to scramble.

Okay, so I was a little late getting on the air.  First QSO went in the log at 3:09 PM.  I operated, off and on, until 2:00 PM on Sunday and ended up with 18 QSOs, representing six grids and six states, all within ~500 km.

Best DX

432 MHz – 70cm

Best DX of the weekend was K1GX in FN31 with a door-to-door distance of ~493.9km.

1296 MHz – 23cm

Best 23cm DX of the weekend was K1TEO with his powerhouse station at a distance of ~405.3km.

Easiest Copy

K1TEO was very loud during the entire event.  When I went searching for a place to call CQ (usually around 432.107 MHz) I had to give him clearance as he was constantly in my ear.  WA3QPX was also armchair copyable and we chatted for a bit during the contest.

K3TUF gets the ‘easiest copy’ mention on 1296MHz.  We chatted using SSB on 1296.100 MHz without too many problems.

Score

I pay little attention to the score I generate in these contests as I am more interested in the number of contacts and the distances I can work.  With my small station, and with my off-and-on operation, I managed to rack up 324 points.  Obviously not a winning score but with my antennas stuck pointing at FN (basically pointing at Connecticut) and running 50 watts on 432MHz and 10 watts on 1296MHz I say I did okay.

Grids

  • FM19
  • FM29
  • FN10
  • FN20
  • FN30
  • FN31

States

  • Connecticut
  • Deleware
  • Maryland
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
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New Callsign… WG3K

In 1997 I received my first amateur radio license.  The FCC granted me KF4OTN back then and exercised it the best I could.  Fast forward to my move to Virginia and I decided to drop the “KF” in favor of “W” (it cut down on the time to transmit the callsign on RTTY).  Now that I’m in Maryland, and an Extra, I decided it was the right time to change my callsign, perhaps for the last time.

As of 3:39 AM this morning I am now WG3K.  It’s a mouthful but sounds nice on CW.  Here’s hoping I don’t butcher it too badly for the next few days.

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A non-contester’s results of the IARU HF Championship

Unless you were asleep at the dial you probably heard a lot of yelling, begging, and contacts being made on the HF bands yesterday.  From 1200Z yesterday to 1200Z today stations were on the air doing what contest stations do – making contacts.  Ahh, yes, it was the weekend for the IARU HF Championship.

I hadn’t planned on participating until I started seeing some islands starting to be advertised on the spotting networks.  Since I’m still chasing the islands I immediately seized the opportunity and started making contacts.  80m was also open to Europe in the overnight hours (particularly after 0400Z) so I was able to pick up a few countries there as well.

Here’s some of the places I put in the log during the contest:

  • Aland Islands, 20m CW
  • Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, 15m SSB
  • Isle of Man, 20m CW and 40m CW
  • Faeroe Islands, 40m CW
  • Aruba, 80m CW and 40m CW
  • Germany, 80m CW
  • Canada, 15m CW and 80m CW
  • South Cook Islands, 20m CW
  • Portugal, 80m CW

Most, if not all, of these contacts were either new countries, new bands, or new modes.  That brings my current DXCC count to:

  • SSB – 118
  • CW – 65
  • Data – 106
  • Overall – 165

Looks like I will be competing in the upcoming Maryland QSO Party and helping out with the ARRL Rookie Roundup – RTTY, both as K3CAL.  Those contests should be a lot of fun!

Oh, and a checklog has been submitted to the ARRL.

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Sked and QSL from GM3YOR

GM3YOR QSL Card

QSL card and envelop received from GM3YOR.

While looking over my DXCC statistics I noticed that my log didn’t match the DX station’s log as uploaded to Clublog.  I double checked my log and it looked like a good QSO but upon checking with the DX station it was determined that I had not, in fact, made it successfully into his log.  But in grand amateur radio fashion he offered to set up a sked with me for the following afternoon so we could work and I could get Scotland on CW in my logs.

I had never had a scheduled QSO with someone I didn’t know and was a little uncertain if it would actually happen.  We had agreed to a frequency on 20m and I was monitoring it ten minutes before the appointed time.  Unfortunately for the both of us, the previous day I had removed my trusty J-38 key from service and replaced it with a set of Vibroplex paddles.  Since I hadn’t actually used the paddles in years my fist left something to be desired.  It was amazing that Andrew could actually tell what I was saying in the first place!

A few minutes early I started calling him but didn’t hear a response.  A few minutes later, right on time, I heard a strong signal calling me.  VOACAP had certainly predicted the propagation correctly as his signal was registering 40 dB on my signal meter.  After a quick contact on 20m we decided to meet on 30m to give that band a try.  While not as strong, we were able to make contact there as well adding a new band for Scotland for me.

I was quite pleased with making this contact but even more so when, after only a few days, I received the above envelope and card in the mail.  A fast QSL with a nice card!  Andrew certainly exhibits really good amateur radio values.  Thanks Andrew!

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DXCC Entity # 153 – Asiatic Russia

Taking immediate advantage of my new Extra Class privileges, last night I picked up a new DXCC entity – Asiatic Russia.  This one has been difficult for me.  I worked the entity back in 2002 but couldn’t get a confirmation.  Since then I’ve heard them but never been able to work them.  That all changed last night.

As I’ve always said, you work the contests because that’s where the DX will be.  I’m not sure what contest is going on this weekend but it has brought out the DX.  I heard, and then worked, RG0A on 14008.6 kHz.  He was a good 559 on this side of the pond and received a similar report.  This morning I pleasantly found a QSL waiting for me on LoTW from him.  Nice!

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Adding 1.75 MHz of bandwidth to my HF operating portfolio

W4OTN's Extra Class CSCENo more tests for me.  I’m done.

Last year I was one of the CARA members asking for an Extra Class class.  I was really happy when Shawn, N3AE, agreed to teach the class and we started on a three-month class meeting every Tuesday night for three (or more) hours.  After the class, after two weeks of taking practice exams online (and failing most), and after reading back through the material that I was having troubles with, I took my exam yesterday.

I was nervous.  I really wanted to do well as I had invested quite a bit of time and energy into the process of learning this stuff.  I also wanted that extra bandwidth to find those sneaky DX operators that hide there.

Ed, KC3AEN, with Steve, N3IPN, picked me up on Saturday morning and we made our way to Davidsonville for our test.  We had all been in the class and hoped we were ready.  We had pre-registered (#s 2, 3, and 4) so we didn’t have to wait long to get started.  I was pleasantly surprised that most of the questions were familiar and that the others appeared to be ones that I could figure out.  After a couple of hours all three of us walked out with our Extra Class CSCEs!  Another gentleman who was in our class, I don’t remember his name or callsign, also took his Extra exam and passed.  That’s 4 for 4 from the class!  Add two more that took their tests early and that’s about half the class that has passed the exam!

Last night I put a couple of QSOs in the log from the Extra and Advanced portions of the bands.  I even ended up with a new DXCC entity in the books.  Looks like all the studying is already paying off.

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New Mid-Atlantic DMR CS700 codeplug available

I’ve started publishing a CS700 (and soon, CS800) codeplug for the Mid-Atlantic region DMR network.  The latest version (from 2015-05-05) fixes some of the scan issues from the previous version.

You can download this file from my Mid-Atlantic DMR page.

Posted in Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

An interesting way to deploy a DMR c-Bridge

I made an inquiry to Rayfield regarding their c-Bridge product that can be used to join several (up to 50) Motorola DMR (MOTOTRBO) repeaters together.  Here’s what I found out:

There is a software option that is $600 less than the hardware solution.  The software runs on CentOS 5 or 6 (I’m assuming RHEL would also work here).  I was able to quickly stand up an un-licensed version (doesn’t actually do anything) to test with in a VM on my laptop and I didn’t see any resource problems.

I suspect one could easily run this on a 1GB Linode for $10/mo and have really good availability.  The best part of using a hosted virtual machine for this type of system is that you can duplicate it (to have a hot backup elsewhere), geographically move it around (to counter physical disasters) and be afforded a great deal of availability if needed (of which you’ll want since this is a radio system you’re dealing with).  Plus it’s easy to increase the resources afforded to the VM if needed (as the system expands to allow more repeater connections).

I may be incorrect on my assumptions, and if anyone has tried it I’d really like to know, but I think this sounds like a good and cheaper way to deploy a c-bridge.

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