CQ WPX RTTY and memories.

So there I was early Saturday afternoon wondering what to do with myself before the England-Italy match kicked off. The CQ WPX RTTY contest was on, so I sat down in the shack, installed Fldigi, and configured it to work with my K3. I have a 15m Inverted V Dipole up which is my best antenna, so I operated in Search and Pounce (S&P) for a bit and was working away nicely with no real issues other than the operator hitting the wrong keys on the keyboard.

Last time I operated a RTTY contest from home like this I was using a Kenwood TS-2000X, I was very very disappointed with the radio at the time, so much so that I sold it pretty quickly afterwards. It appeared to suffer badly with strong signals capturing the automatic gain control (AGC) and completely blocking out out the weaker stations. The K3 was having no such issues (thankfully).

CQ WPX 2015

This left me with a quandary. What do do about the Rugby? Well, my Intel Nuc has a Mini DP connector so I borrowed the screen from my Mac Mini, opened up RTE Live  on it and voila!

I took a break from the contest for the Ireland-France game and resumed afterwards, finishing up with about 130 contacts (QSOs) in the log by Saturday evening.

I did not feel well Sunday morning, so I gave myself the modest goal of 200 QSOs. After a break to watch Scotland get robbed of a win against Wales, I ran for a bit, then hit 250 Q’s, returned to S&P again then 300, finally deciding that I had enough done at 329.

That said, I really really missed having a bandmap. A band map is a display of recent DX spots by frequency. You can see one in the middle of the picture below. This display is user-configurable in many ways including the length of time to display, the frequencies to include,  etc. It lets you see at a glance what activity is on the selected band and, if you see a station you really really really want to get into your log. You can pounce with a click of the mouse.

Last year after listening to the LHS guys interview Petr, OK2CQR, I was convinced to give CQRLOG a go. I have gotten so used to its bandmap that really missed it.

Screenshot of OK2CQR’s Desktop showing cqrlog.

After the contest I was chatting to G0HWW on IRC about my issue and he pointed me at an old blog post of his (thanks Darren), initial testing seems promising but rigctld seems to exit with errors now and again. More work is needed I think.

Sunday afternoon, in the melee, I was running and a callsign appeared on my screen that seemed familiar, N9TGR. I responded with my normal report and was trying to figure out how I knew the callsign. I saw the other stations report appear on the screen and at the end of it was “UP THE DUBS”.  The penny dropped.  In 2009 I travelled to Chicago to present at the ARRL and TAPR Digital Communications Conference, somehow Andy Ronan, N9TGR (a dub, and no relation that we know of and also EI6KG), got wind I was going to be there and suggested that I call out for dinner with him and his family one of the evenings while I was there.  I also remember joking it would be highly unlikely that we would ever meet up on air! Suffice it to say I spent a most enjoyable evening with Andy and his family, they showed great hospitality,  great memories!

 

 

CQRLOG

I finally got around to trying CQRLOG this weekend. I say finally because I knew it existed, but somehow it kept slipping my mind. On a long drive home on Thursday evening I listened to LHS Episode #128 where the author Petr – OK2CQR was interviewed so it was a good reminder.

My motivation was to get more functionality from my logging program, especially since I am making more time to operate, and, I am more actively chasing new DXCCs.

During the interview, Petr mentioned his other project HamQTH.com, a service that I use regularly enough. He mentioned that he would like to see more pictures, so I obliged by uploading a picture of my QSL card. I don’t have a decent picture of my shack at the moment. It is a bit of a mess.

Anyway, if you are a looking for another reason to ‘jump ship’ from  Windows to Linux on your shack computer, this is definitely a good one.

cqrlog

Trucking

I don’t have any ambitions to be a lorry driver, but for years I wanted to learn and get the licence. Possibly from watching too many re-runs of Smokey and the Bandit, or maybe just from watching my late uncle Hugh drive past our house to collect cattle when we were small.

I eventually decided to get my act together about 12 months ago and started by passing a test in a mini-bus (D1) in January. No sooner had I done the test, I was using my newly acquired licence in support of the larger community where I live, nothing dramatic, but quite satisfying to give something back, and quite a different experience to anything I’d driven before.

With that under my belt, I got brave and started lessons in a rigid truck (C), passing that test in May.  I did not find it that much of a step up from the mini-bus, just a different focus to the driving, and a different way of “chucking it about” (and a very patient instructor).

Throwing caution to the wind, I applied for an Artic (CE) test. Green as grass, and with little or no “wheel time”, oh man, did I get a shock when the lessons started.

Volvo FM12, 03KK4350, 420HP, Box trailer, tri-axle super singles on air.

Thinking about it now, having passed the test this morning.  Various factors conspired against me the last few weeks and I probably should have cancelled the test, but this morning, even though I got mixed up in what order I should raise my legs and plug in my suzies, the driving gods smiled down on me. No cyclists swerved into my path without looking, no pedestrians walked out in front of me while chatting on their mobile phone (oblivious to 15,940kg rolling towards them), all drivers went where they were indicating, and I nailed my off-side reverse.  Boy am I smiling inside tonight!

What to do on a wet bank holiday Monday evening?

Listen to an episode of Linux in the Ham Shack while slinging some solder…

BX-184
BX-184 Voice Keyer Kit by DH8BQA

… and tuning around the HF bands.

Screenshot
SJ2014ECC is the Station under the green marker.

While soldering, i have been listening to SJ2014ECC (a special event station celebrating the town of Umeå as European Capital of Culture 2014), working a decent ‘pile-up’ of stations from all parts of Europe.

It sure beats listening to the rain!

Some Pi, and theraputic soldering.

Much to my surprise, a Pi arrived on Christmas day. Here you can see it after I mated it with the TNC-Pi, completed the voltage checks and inserted the ICs.
TNC-Pi & Pi

I was planning to get it up and running yesterday, given the weather we had yesterday, but I don’t actually have a USB keyboard to use with it, so I parked that until I get to borrow one.

Looking around, I found another kit that was sitting, unappreciated, on the shelf. An Elecraft XG2 (3 band Receiver Test Oscillator/S-Meter Calibrator). Purely for my own amusement, I took a few pictures while putting it together.

XG2-1

XG2-2

XG2-3

XG2-4

XG2-5

XG2-6

And, surprisingly enough (as I have not done any soldering in quite a while), it works. Though, if you can look carefully, you can see below that my venerable Icom R8500 is slightly generous, but not as bad as some other receivers.

XG2 Working

That is not the end of the story though. There is a fault with it on 40m.  Either the crystal is weak, a capacitor is dodgy, or I messed something up (highly possible), either way, it will have to wait until the new year to sort out.  Anyone have a spare 33 pF Capacitor they aren’t using?

Waiting for Pi

Boy it has been busy of late, not what I expected 2013 to be.  I’m way behind on a lot of things I had planned to get done this year, but who isn’t.

Today I got one item off the todo list. Back in September at the DCC, John Hansen, W2FS presented the TNC-Pi, a radio modem for the Raspberry Pi. John was kind enough to entertain my questions, and I purchased one from him. This morning, I dug out the kit, fired up the soldering iron and put it together, quite therapeutic I must say.

TNC-Pi

Looking forward now to getting a Pi, and getting it all going, assuming I’ve not messed up in the construction.

Happy Christmas!

Random thoughts — Mostly Amateur Radio, Satellite, Linux or Work related.