News items for tag radiocontesting - Koos van den Hout

2019-04-29 I participated in the BARTG Sprint75 contest 2019 1 month ago
I participated in the British amateur radio teledata group RTTY Sprint75 contest 2019. The special thing with the 75 is that this is 75baud RTTY and not the normal 45baud RTTY.

This is a relatively short contest (4 hours) on a Sunday evening and I did not participate in the contest the whole time, I also watched some television with my family. All a matter of priorities.

I made 27 contacts on the 20 and 40 meter bands. Since I now have an RF power meter I was able to make sure my output power was right below 100 watts so I could enter in the '100 watts' category and not 'high power'.

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2019-04-08 I participated in the EA RTTY Contest 2019 2 months ago
In an otherwise quite filled weekend there was also the EA RTTY Contest 2019. I participated for somewhat over an hour on Sunday and made 28 contacts, 24 on the 20 meter band and 4 on the 40 meter band.

Preliminary results: 28 valid contacts, 44 points, multiplier 23, total 1012 points.
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2019-03-11 I participated in the EA PSK63 contest 2019 3 months ago
PSK63 contest in fldigi This weekend was the EA PSK63 Contest and I participated Saturday evening, Sunday morning and a bit Sunday afternoon. I planned to participate in this contest so I set up the endfed antenna outside Friday evening because I would be away most of the Saturday daytime.

With the current radio propagation and a serious part of my participation after sunset I decided to enter in the single operator 40 meter category. I made 106 contacts, with 25 different spanish provinces in the log (out of 52 possible province codes). Spain by itself has 50 provinces with Ceuta and Melilla not counting as a province but they do count in the contest.

I also participated in the EA PSK63 contest 2016 with 60 contacts and EA PSK63 contest 2018 with 125 contacts (but only 79 in the 40 meter band).

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2019-02-01 Plotting the number of amateur radio contacts after a contesting month 4 months ago
QSO count plot up to January 2019 After a month with three digimode radio contests I plotted the number of amateur radio contacts again. The number of contacts is clearly higher each January as a contest month, with this January a new peak.

The contests were the ARRL RTTY Roundup on 6 and 7 January, the UBA PSK63 prefix contest on 12 and 13 January and the BARTG RTTY Sprint Contest on 26 and 27 January.

Nicer looking font due to the upgrade of "radio workstation" thompson. I guess even gnuplot is coming along with the modern times.

before, before, before, before

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2019-01-27 I participated in the BARTG RTTY Sprint Contest 4 months ago
RTTY contest on websdr This weekend I participated in the BARTG (British Amateur Radio Teledata Group) RTTY Sprint Contest.

I went into this contest with the idea of maybe getting some contacts and things turned out somewhat better than that: I made 82 contacts. No new countries or anything else special. The one that got away was PJ4P, Bonaire. I saw that station calling and I kept answering but the contact did not happen.

I used the topendfed antenna outside and the amplifier. So I entered in the high power category.

As with other recent contests the propagation wasn't cooperating very well. When I started in HF at home (October 2014) I would switch from 10 to 20 meters after it got dark because of the changing propagation. Now I change from 20 to 40 meters as soon as it starts to get a bit dark.
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2019-01-14 I participated in the UBA PSK63 prefix radio contest 5 months ago
PSK63 contest in fldigi Like in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 I participated in the UBA PSK63 Prefix Contest in the past weekend. Before I really dove into the contest I first mounted a new end-fed 10/20/40 antenna which can handle more power and tested it.

It took a few tries to get the antenna tuned on the 40 meter band. I tested this with the amplifier which has proven to be really precise about the SWR of the antenna in the 40 meter band, as noted in my post about the ARRL RTTY roundup 2019. I had planned to get this antenna up and running before that contest but that did not work out.

After testing I switched back to 50 watts power without the amplifier because the rules of the UBA PSK63 prefix contest limit the power.

I made a total of 69 contacts as single operator 40 meter. I had a short look at PSK63 activity in the 20 meter band during daylight but it was completely none.

After the contest I tried some FT8 contacts on the 40 meter band with the amplifier active. The amplifier did not like this and went into SWR protection. I must have tuned it perfectly for 7.040 - 7.050 MHz but the SWR is already outside the limits for the amplifier at 7.074 MHz.
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2019-01-08 Amateur radio resolutions for 2019 5 months ago
The last time I did those was in 2017: Reviewing my 2016 amateur radio resolutions, and the new ones for 2017 and the hindsight results for 2017/2018 are:
  • Improve the holiday/portable setup with solar power and a lightweight multiband inverted V
    No solar power (due to costs) but the portable setup is improved and tested: the fiber mast I bought for playing radio from several locations including amateur radio from a local park. Now to find more time to actually use it.
  • Keep doing the digimode contests
    That part went better in 2017 and I had less time and/or energy for contests in 2018. Also in 2018 the interference situation got worse. So my net results in contests improved in 2017 and got worse in 2018.
  • Maybe those satellites
    I tried at least receiving them a few times, but no contacts yet.
  • Get a 2m/70cm vertical antenna on the roof of the dormer
    It's there, it has already been upgraded to a bigger antenna with higher gain and it's mostly used for 2 meter FT8. But also for actual talking to other radio amateurs sometimes.
The Sotabeams newsletter had an item "Setting your targets for 2019" which had some nice ideas and which triggered me to write this post. Things I want to try :
  • Keep learning morse!
  • Get more countries on more HF bands in the log
  • Moonbounce on 2 meter
  • Those digimode contests, and maybe a few phone contests
  • Operate HF outside
  • At least one satellite contact

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2019-01-07 I participated in the ARRL RTTY Roundup 5 months ago
RTTY contest on websdr As planned I participated in the ARRL RTTY Roundup contest this weekend. It was possible to participate in FT8 mode but since I had not prepared for that and had no duplicate checking between FT8 and RTTY I decided to use the mode I am familiair with for this contest: RTTY.

I operated on the 40 meter band Saturday and Sunday evening, and on the 20 meter band during the daylight hours of Sunday. Everything was search and pounce, no responses to calling CQ. I used the power amplifier on the 20 meter band which did help in getting the contacts to almost every station I could decode. The amplifier does not like the SWR from the antenna on 40 meters so I ran without the amplifier on that band.

I made 115 contacts. A number of US stations, already the first new US state confirmed via LoTW. Two more new US states in the log, hope I can get those confirmed too.

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2018-08-26 I participated in the SCC RTTY contest 9 months ago
RTTY contest on websdr As planned and prepared for I participated in the SCC RTTY contest this weekend. I was aiming for 100+ contacts but due to local interference and not very cooperating propagation those did not happen. In the end I made 83 contacts, 2 on the 40 meter band and 81 on the 20 meter band. I entered in the 'single operator 20 meter' category which was the most fitting for me. That does mean the 2 40 meter contacts only count for log checking.

Interesting things that happened: I got YV5AAX in the log. This has happened before in RTTY contests. But I do see YV5AAX from time to time in FT8 but never made a contact in that mode. I guess the station uses different antennas for contests. I also worked several US stations but I don't think those have resulted in a new US state for my statistics.

The new amplifier was working fine although I noticed the fan control and fan in the power supply stopped completely when I transmitted RTTY in the 10 meter band. This was not a very big problem this time as there was no propagation at all on that band. But it will have to be fixed before the next contest.

With this amount of power I can work almost all stations that I can decode. That is a nice improvement!
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2018-08-13 Trying to receive amateur radio through local interference 10 months ago
This evening I tried several things to improve my chances of actually receiving anything other than the loudest stations in the upcoming SCC RTTY contest.

First try was with a borrowed receive loop indoor and using an HF upconvertor, an rtl-sdr dongle and gqrx as receiving software. This did not work for digital modes: letting wsjt-x (FT8 software) 'listen' to the audio output of gqrx gave no decodes.

Interesting detail: looking at the right piece of spectrum for FT8 showed that the frequency wasn't 100% stable, with frequencies slowly changing. Touching the rtl-sdr gave a bump in frequency.

Another attempt was with the loop indoor and reception on the FT-857D radio. Reception of a strong SSB station seemed somewhat better on the loop, but I heard no improvement of weaker stations.

So I moved the loop outside to the end of the garden and layed a long cable back to the radio setup. This made interference worse! It was already dark so this was not related to any solar panel setup, but some other source of interference on HF. The loop is supposed to receive less local interference but I could not get it to do that this time (it did work for SSB some other time).

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2018-08-12 More output power for PE4KH: I bought an HF linear amplifier 10 months ago
The reason for making the HP DPS-700 GB powersupply deliver a somewhat higher voltage and lots of amperes is that I made the decision to buy a HF linear amplifier. With such a device I get more output power on HF bands which should increase my chances in radio contests.

I have been looking at new and secondhand linear amplifiers for a while. Since this market is dominated by US customers most amplifiers will give 1000-1500 Watts output power at a serious price. The legal limit here in the Netherlands is 400 Watt unless I request a special license which will never happen since the radio station is surrounded by other houses. But there isn't much on offer below 400 Watt output power. I found RM Italy which sells linear amplifiers for CB and radio amateur use at more reasonable amounts of power and at a better price-point. I selected the RM Italy HLA300V plus which should give 300 Watts on HF bands.

I bought it online and it arrived fast. After soldering some cables to the power supply I was able to use it and it works as intended.

On the 20 meter band and 10 meter band it works with the endfed antenna (which can take 400 watts). On the 40 meter band it goes into protection mode instantly. It turns out the amplifier is quite sensitive to SWR problems, the endfed gives a 1:1.5 SWR. Maybe I can improve this a bit, the resonant point is below the 40 meter band.

Giving it 5 watt input power in digimodes will make 5 of the 7 output power LEDs light up. To get it to light up 5 LEDs in SSB mode I need to give it 10 watts power in that mode.

Propagation wasn't great this weekend so I spent most time in FT8 mode. With the help of the new amplifier I was able to get two new countries in the log: V51MA in Namibia and 9G5AR in Ghana.

The receive side is currently a different story. Interference levels are at an all-time high. The way I currently get reception for FT8 is by using the UTwente WebSDR for the receive side and feeding the audio to WSJT-X. With the delays and audio-processing introduced by the WebSDR I still get better and more decodes than from the local receiver.

For contesting that setup is not going to work. Most contests have a rule that all equipment for a contest station has to be on a limited area. For example the upcoming SCC RTTY contest has the rule:
All operation must take place from one operating site. Transmitter and receiver must be located within a 500-meter diameter circle.
I'm looking into using a receive loop to have less interference on reception.
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2018-05-20 I participated in the EU PSK DX Contest 2018 1 year ago
This weekend I had some time to participate in the EU PSK DX Contest. Conditions did not cooperate very well. First I thought local qrm was making me hear only the loudest stations but comparing it to the Utwente websdr I was hearing about 'everything'.
Total number of QSO in your log is 41, Including 0 QSO with errors, Valid QSO - 41
Band  QSOs Dupes Points Mults
160      0     0      0     0
80       0     0      0     0
40      28     0     56    39
20      13     0     25    21
15       0     0      0     0
10       0     0      0     0
======================================
Total   41     0     81    60
Claimed score is 4860 points
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2018-05-07 I participated in the ARI International DX Contest 1 year ago
Last weekend I participated in the ARI International DX Contest.

Before the contest I was looking at the option of trying the tlf contest software and operating phone (voice) but adding the definitions for scoring this contest to tlf turned out to be not possible at the moment and at the end the weekend was filled with enough other things that only a few hours of operating RTTY were left. Propagation wasn't very cooperative and I first was blaming local interference until I noticed that the same lack of signals was showing in other places and twitter was filled with aurora pictures, so a solar flare had blocked propagation.

In the end I made 43 contacts and entered in the 'single operator RTTY low power' category. Low power on an Italian scale: below 100 watts.

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2018-04-08 I participated in the EA RTTY Contest 2018 1 year ago
As planned I participated in the EA RTTY Contest edition 2018.

I had most of the time to play radio on Sunday so I decided to participate in the SO20DX (single operator 20 meter band outside Spain) category. I did make two contacts on the 40 meter band when I thought I wasn't going to find any new station the 20 meter band but I returned. And found more stations on the 20 meter band.

20 meter interference pattern
Interference pattern on the 20 meter band
Radio propagation was ok, best DX were some Asiatic Russia stations and a US station in Illinois. The local noise was bad and there were some new sources of interference active. The pattern as in the image (links to full view of the 2.5 kHz waterfall) which is very stable in frequency and has a tendency to stop and start, and at the stop the carriers move together. Also a more 'rattling' noise which sounded like an electrical problem.

In the end I made 81 contacts in total, 79 on the 20 meter band.
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2018-04-04 I am planning to participate in the EA RTTY Contest 1 year ago
After my participation in the EA PSK63 Contest 2018 I plan to have the radio active in the upcoming weekend for the EA RTTY Contest.

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2018-03-12 I participated in the EA PSK63 Contest 2018 1 year ago
As planned I participated in the EA PSK63 contest 2018 last weekend. As this contest starts at 16:00 UTC and not the usual 12:00 UTC I decided to again try my luck as single operator on the 40 meter band only (SO 40 DX for this contest).

Contacts were made Saturday evening and Sunday morning and afternoon. Sunday at 12:45 UTC I gave up on finding any new callsigns on the 40 meter band and decided to switch to the 20 meter band. Conditions were not very good and I think I made some errors copying serial numbers or on the decision whether to count a contact as valid. And at least two calls had me in their log but my log was not convinced we made a contact around that time.

In the end I made 125 contacts, 79 on the 40 meter band and 46 on the 20 meter band. Looking at the results of previous years I thought I would end up with a higher ranking with the 79 contacts on the 40 meter band only so I entered in that category. The 20 meter contacts will only count as checking for the other participants.

The one that got away: I saw an amateur from Thailand call CQ but my answer did not make it back there.

A nice contest. I was able to practice fast contacts a bit even in difficult conditions. As usual with all contests I also uploaded my score to the Veron Afdelingscompetitie where our local chapter A08 is doing ok.
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2018-03-02 I am planning to participate in the EA PSK63 contest 2018 1 year ago
This year I am planning to participate again in the EA PSK63 contest edition 2018. Although the weekend is not completely free there will be time to get as many spanish stations and others in the log as possible.

Time to find out if I can improve my score from participating in the EA PSK63 contest in 2016.

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2018-02-18 Two new countries in the log and I participated in the Russian worldwide PSK contest 2018 1 year ago
Two new countries in the PE4KH log: Oman and India. Oman was Friday afternoon when I was home early and decided to turn the dial over the 40 meter band to make some phone contacts and heard A41CK call. Who took my call on the second try!

India was late Friday evening. The call VU2NKS showed up in FT8 and it had a direct pile-up (lots of people answering). But with some persistance from my side and good operating skills from the other side the contact was made.

And this weekend was the Russian Worldwide PSK Contest so I participated Saturday afternoon / evening and a bit Sunday right before 12:00 UTC. I managed to start Saturday 12:00 UTC sharp calling CQ. Which worked at that time for getting contacts. I chose the 40 meter band category because I expected most radio time this weekend would be after sunset.

In the end I made 64 contacts. Not a very high score, but I had times were several contacts happened in short succession so I am improving in digimode contesting.
Band  QSOs Dupes Points Mults
160      0     0      0     0
80       0     0      0     0
40      64     0    388    28
20       0     0      0     0
15       0     0      0     0
10       0     0      0     0
======================================
Total   64     0    388    28
Claimed score is 10864 points
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2018-02-11 Plotting the number of amateur radio contacts 1 year ago
After the end of January I decided to plot the number of contacts again. QSO count plot up to January 2018 January is a busy month with two contests for me but I did not make a lot of contacts outside of those contests this year. I added contacts from holidays and the PE4KH/P activities to the total count.

Some more work on the plot script, I think bars look better than a line graph. But you could spend hours in gnuplot making the plot just right...

The new script:
set output "qslcount.png"
set terminal png size 640,300 fontscale 0.7
set timefmt "%Y-%m"
set xlabel "Month"
set ylabel "Number of contacts"
set xdata time
set style fill solid
set xtics format "%b %Y"
set xtics rotate
set grid
set boxwidth 0.75 relative
set autoscale xfixmin
set autoscale xfixmax
plot "dataset-qsocount" using 1:2 title "Contacts/Month" with boxes
Update: And indeed the change in x autoscale was one bit more 'just right'. The first graph was in February 2017: Rising number of amateur radio contacts.

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2018-01-15 I participated in the UBA PSK63 prefix contest 1 year ago
PSK63 contest As planned I participated in the UBA PSK63 prefix contest in the weekend. Activity was Saturday evening and Sunday morning interrupted by some good sleep.

Compared to my experiences in the ARRL RTTY roundup one weekend earlier the 40 meter band decided to act quite differently. On Saturday evening it was quite hard to make a contact. A lot of interference, no far away stations and it was hard to get heard by the other side. I stopped before 22:00 UTC (23:00 localtime) because I thought some sleep would be more effective than getting annoyed by the lack of contacts.

Indeed, Sunday morning things got better although I heard only nearby signals on the 40 meter band, including some Belgian stations. No serious DX. Belgian stations are good for extra multipliers so it was good for the score.

In the end I made 76 contacts. The last contact was started by a CQ I called at 11:59 UTC but it was only answered at 12:00, so it does count but I had to note it in the log as originating at 11:59 where the software normally logs the moment I see the callsign for the first time.

Log submitted and de Veron afdelingscompetitie updated.
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