News items for tag radiocontesting - Koos van den Hout

2018-08-13 Trying to receive amateur radio through local interference 1 week 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 1 week 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 3 months 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 3 months 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 4 months 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 4 months 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 5 months 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 5 months 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 6 months 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 6 months ago
After the end of January I decided to plot the number of contacts again. QSL 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 7 months 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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2018-01-12 I am planning to participate in the UBA PSK63 contest 7 months ago
As in previous years, I am planning to participate in the UBA PSK63 Prefix Contest in the upcoming weekend.

I can't participate for 24 hours since other things have to be done too in the weekend including the all important 'sleep'.

I just finished the preparations:
  • The endfed antenna for 10/20/40 is hanging outside
  • The contest macros have been updated to call CQ UBA PFX TEST
On Saturday evening the 20 meter band will probably be closed by the time I am available for contesting. So I'll start on the 40 meter band. The choice for 40 meter band only or all band will have to be made on Sunday morning, depending on the amount of new contacts I can make in the 40 meter band.
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2018-01-08 I participated in the ARRL RTTY Roundup 2018 7 months ago
RTTY contest on websdr For the past weekend I had the ARRL RTTY Roundup planned, meaning I had reserved time in the family calendar. Other things had to happen too but I reserved time for contesting and made sure I had the right macros available before the contest started. I hoped to find time to set up the endfed antenna before the contest but that did not happen so it was the first thing to do when we got home at the beginning of Saturday evening.

In the contest I only operated on the 40 meter band. Most of the time I was able to participate were in the dark when I did not expect the 20 meter band to cooperate and I thought that operating in just one band would make me end higher in the rankings for that more specific category. Only after the contest I read the rules exactly and noticed that this specific contest does not differentiate between single and multi band operation.

In the end I made 95 contacts. Local noise is high in my current setup so only the strongest stations came through the noise. I made only one contact in CQ mode, the rest was search and pounce. Propagation wasn't really good until late in the evenings when I managed to score some US contacts. I did see someone from Prince Edwards Island in Canada but that station did not hear me return. I noticed WP2B did not give me a US state but a serial number and found out that is a US Virgin Island callsign, so that was a new country for me.

In the end a nice contest. For upcoming contests: check the rules / propagation predictions and plan my strategy.
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2017-10-30 I participated in the CQWW DX contest 9 months ago
This weekend was the CQ World Wide DX Contest. This is indeed another phone (voice) contest, so I connected headset, footswitch and the remote head of my radio. I had some time to participate on Sunday early afternoon and Sunday evening. On Sunday afternoon the logical band to try was 20 meters, on Sunday evening 40 meters. In the end I made 51 contacts.

All I did was 'search and pounce', checking for stations calling CQ that I could understand good enough and transmit my call back to them in the hope they would hear me. Some stations had me on the first try, some took several tries and some never heard me. The DX that got away was a Kazakhstan station who could not decode my call even after several tries.

I used the yfktest contest software for Linux again. This wasn't very hard as yfktest has a standard definition for the CQWW DX contest.

I heard both serious contest stations and single operators just calling CQ on the air. Interesting was to work OH1LWZ/M who according to his qrz page is really contesting mobile from his car or bicycle.

For next time I have to check the compression and gain settings for SSB on my Yaesu FT-857D radio when using the headset.

Claimed results:
Band    QSO    Qpts   Dupes Countries Zones
  20     40      48       0      15       5
  40     11      19       0       9       6
 ALL     51      67       0      24      11
 Total Score: 2,345
A few times I heard the contest call PA0AA of my radio club who worked very hard to get the antenna at the club ready for contesting, but only in the background when I was trying other calls. It would have been nice to get them in the log.
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2017-10-09 I participated in the Russian worldwide Digimode contest 10 months ago
Past weekend was the Russian worldwide digimode contest edition 2017. I mounted the endfed antenna outside and participated when time was available.

Thinks went good in search and pounce mode, there were multiple instances of making more than one contact in the same minute according to the log. Calling cq gave less response but I also got some contacts logged that way.
Band  QSOs Dupes Points Mults
160      0     0      0     0
80       0     0      0     0
40      46     0    280    32
20      41     0    129    35
15       0     0      0     0
10       0     0      0     0
Total   87     0    409    67
Claimed score is 27403 points
Since I operated in more than one band and with power above QRP levels I entered in the SINGLE-OP ALL HIGH category.

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2017-09-25 I participated in the CQWW RTTY contest 2017 10 months ago
This weekend was the CQ WW RTTY Contest 2017. I participated when possible in an otherwise very filled weekend.

In the end I made 81 contacts, 32 on the 20 meter band and 49 on the 40 meter band. One station in the US, KI1G in the state of Rhode Island (a new state). And the counter of worked DXCC's went up one, so I was browsing the log trying to find out which was the new country and it turned out that I made the first contact with Luxembourgh, LX7X. I will put that call on the list for a QSL card.

Finishing the log took a while. I set fldigi to contest style "CQWW RTTY" and used that template to export the log. But the logged CQ zone and state did not show in the Cabrillo export. I had to do that all by hand. Next time prepare the macros to log this correctly!

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2017-08-28 I participated in the SCC RTTY 2017 contest from the radioclub location 11 months ago
Again this year had the SCC RTTY contest in the same weekend as the barbeque of the radio club so the solution was to work in the contest from the location of the radio club. I set up with the endfed antenna in the available field.

That field is close to some houses so I had some interference. And the main problem was that the computer control between the laptop running fldigi (the contest logging software) and the radio regularly gave problems, usually leaving the radio in transmit mode. The laptop and the computer interface aren't shielded very well which is probably a reason, combined with the use of the endfed antenna which is known for causing interference since it's an asymmetric antenna.

In the end I made 53 contacts. Less than the number of contacts in previous SCC RTTY contest but I had limited time and local noise was higher than I expected. For a next time I am working on a common mode choke to limit interference to the computer and maybe some noise. And probably next time I contest at the radio club I will try to use a different antenna location.
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2017-07-16 I participated in the DMC RTTY 2017 contest 1 year ago
Or maybe I should use the word 'played' again: 6 contacts. It was a weekend with not much time for radio and when that time did happen propagation wasn't cooperating very well. The advantage of contests is that there are a lot of stations who want to hear every other station, so I used the last 20 minutes of this contest just to answer a few calls and get in the log.

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2017-07-09 I participated in the IARU HF Championship 2017 1 year ago
My activity in radio contesting has been in digital mode contests, with one exception in a mixed-mode contest where I also made some voice contacts: the ARI International DX Contest in 2016.

But this weekend I seriously entered the IARU HF Championship in 'phone' (speech) mode. I made 59 contacts, 50 on the 20 meter band and 9 on the 40 meter band. I managed to work a lot of the HQ stations I heard active for the various national radio clubs. I heard no serious DX, but the local noise at home is prohibitive for voice contacts anyway. My personal reason for entering this contest was reading about its role in the world radio team championship in the book Contact Sport: A Story of Champions, Airwaves, and a One-Day Race around the World by J.K. George.

Screenshot yfktest with large font I used yfktest for the contest logging and found the biggest fixed font I can use which makes the 80x24 xterm almost fill the entire screen. See the screenshot.

Claimed results according to yfktest:
Band    QSO    Qpts   Dupes   Mult1   Mult2
  20     50     112       0      23       0
  40      9      13       0       8       0
 ALL     58     124       1      31       0
 Total Score: 3,875
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2017-06-18 I participated in the Ukranian DX Classic RTTY Contest 2017 1 year ago
I participated in the Ukranian DX Classic RTTY Contest 2017 this weekend. I prepared the antenna and the contestmacros Friday evening, but I knew most of Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning would be unavailable.

Local noise was bad, it seems interference from solar panels is on the rise and it was a quite sunny day.

On the other hand, there was a 10 meter band opening Sunday afternoon, giving me some new multipliers with 8 contacts on that band. But no serious DX in the whole contest, I just saw Eastern Europe and Asiatic Russia active, unlike when I participated in the Ukranian DX Classic RTTY contest 2016.

The end result is that I made 70 contacts in somewhat less than 6 hours of operating time. So I participated in the SINGLE-OP ALL 6-HOUR RTTY category.
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