News items for tag radiocontesting - Koos van den Hout

2020-04-08 I participated in the EA RTTY contest 2020 9 months ago
RTTY Contest on websdr Last weekend was the EA RTTY Contest 2020 edition. I decided to participate beforehand so I set up radio, antenna and macros in time before the start. There was quite some time for the contest available since we're not going anywhere.

Things started slow, I couldn't get as much contacts in the log on Saturday as I had in the EAPSK63 contest 2020 on Saturday.

But on Sunday the contacts started happening and I ended with 143 contacts in the contest. 110 on the 20 meter band and 33 on the 40 meter band. I logged 26 unique provinces in Spain.
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2020-04-03 I participated in the Dutch Digital Activity Contest April 2020 9 months ago
PE4KH claim in the 2 meter Dutch Digital Activity Contest April 2020 There is a new 'activity' promoting digital modes on the 2 meter band. It's short, which is probably why it's called an activity rather than a contest. And it's on a weekday evening. Information in Vanaf nu elke maand een VHF-UHF Digitale Mode Activiteitscontest - VHF en hoger Veron (in Dutch). On the first Wednesday evening of the Month it will be on the 2 meter band, on the second Wednesday evening of the Month it will be on the 70 centimeter band.

I participated 1 April 2020 and made 22 contacts within the activity. Several new calls for me in the log, so that's always good. The contestlog processing website generates a map with locators after submitting a log, so I use that map in this newsitem.

The preferred mode is FT8, and some participants were using the FT8 software in 'EU-VHF mode' exchanging serial numbers and 6-character maidenhead locators. My wsjt-x decided to switch on receiving such an exchange. The interesting part was that in a few of the next contacts the software also switched but other contacts failed with that information so I switched back to normal FT8 with the 'EU-VHF mode' disabled.

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2020-03-17 I participated in the EAPSK63 contest 2020 10 months ago
PSK63 contest in fldigi Last weekend was the EAPSK63 contest and I participated on Saturday. Lots of stations from Spain active and I managed to work 29 unique Spanish provinces. A total of 82 contacts. I could only participate Saturday afternoon and evening so that limited my time in the contest.
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2020-01-13 I participated in the UBA PSK63 prefix contest 1 year ago
PSK63 contest in fldigi Like in previous years I participated in the UBA PSK63 Prefix Contest in the weekend.

Overall it was a nice contest, with 111 contacts in total which makes this a good contest score. I started in the 20 meter band on Saturday, moved to the 40 meter band after propagation died down due to the sun going down.

On Sunday morning I started on the 40 meter band but soon gave up, there was a lot of interference on that band. I switched to 20 meters and made some more contacts. In the end: 38 contacts in the 20 meter band and 73 in the 40 meter band.
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2020-01-06 I participated in the ARRL RTTY Roundup 2020 1 year ago
RTTY Contest on websdr This weekend was the ARRL RTTY Roundup edition 2020 and I participated. Late Saturday evening I saw a few US stations come up on 40 meters. Sunday afternoon I made a lot of contacts to mostly European stations on 20 meters. In the evening after dark the contacts from Europe seemed to stop after the first 24 hours were over but when I checked again late in the evening more US and some Canadian stations were decoded on my end and I worked them.

In the end 110 contacts, a nice score for this contest. Claimed score: 110 qso points * 33 multipliers = 3630.

The one that got away: I saw a station from California calling and giving state 'CA' in contacts, but he never heard me. That's the first time I heard or saw anything from one of the western US states.

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2020-01-01 Closing 2019 in amateur radio, time to plot the number of contacts and look back 1 year ago
QSO count plot up to December 2019 Time for a new plot of the number of radio contacts. Months with contests are quite visible. After the peak in number of contacts in July there was first a holday and after that no big peaks in number of contacts. December 2019 jumps out a bit again due to the FT8 roundup on 8/9 December in which I made 66 contacts and later in the month the troposperic ducting allowing contacts over interesting distances in the 70 centimeter and 2 meter band added to a sprint at the end. In 2019 I made a few more contacts than in the previous record year 2017.

Looking back at my amateur radio resolutions for 2019 I think most came true.

If I look at them one by one:
  • Keep learning morse! - I'm still working on my morse, but there is measurable improvement. I have learned the full set for the Belgian CW exam and I'm working on accuracy and speed.
  • Get more countries on more HF bands in the log - More countries and more slots on HF are in the log. I also use the club station to achieve that goal. The ARRL DXCC Award shows that I'm getting somewhere.
  • Moonbounce on 2 meter - I've listened on the right frequencies to the moon on 2 meter. Nothing heard.
  • Those digimode contests, and maybe a few phone contests - I participated in two phone contests and a number of digimode contests. No serious improvement in scores.
  • Operate HF outside - I operated HF outside. Not as much as I would like.
  • At least one satellite contact - Multiple satellite contacts have been made!
Now I have to think about 2020, but the year is still young.

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2019-09-22 First morse contact, trying FT4 for the first time and participating in the BARTG Sprint75 contest 1 year ago
This weekend is the BARTG Sprint75 RTTY contest. I set up my endfed antenna on Friday evening. On Friday I listened around the band for any morse special event stations and found LZ304EW active. The station was calling with a morse speed of about 21 words per minute and I answered my callsign with 12 words per minute. And no, I can't decode morse at 21 words per minute, I used the computer (fldigi) to help me decode the morse and the nanoKeyer to help me send my callsign and the 5nn TU 73 to finish the 'contact'. I felt secure enough in hearing my own callsign in morse to be able to do this.

Most of Saturday I made a number of FT8 contacts all over Europe. Nothing really exciting, just trying to get a number of new calls in the log. I think I saw some new gridsquares.

The planned amateur radio activity was the British Amateur Radio Teledata Group Sprint75 contest on Sunday evening (17:00 utc to 20:59 utc which is 19:00 - 22:59 local time). I set up the radio Sunday afternoon and listened on 14.080 MHz, which is the default frequency for RTTY on the 20 meter band for as far as I know. I saw different signals, which turned out to be FT4 signals, the relatively new mode in WSJT-X. It's been around for a while, I just never got around to playing with it.

So I started WSJT-X and tried FT4. I made three contacts, one with an amateur in England, one with 4S6NCH in Sri Lanka which is a new country for me, and one with an amateur in India, which was a new 20 meter country for me. Not bad for trying a mode for the first time.

After dinner it was time for the contest and that was a misery. I made 17 contacts in total, 4 on the 20 meter band and 13 on the 40 meter band. Propagation was not cooperating at all, mostly just giving noise and sometimes signals faded in and I had to work hard to get a contact.

Update: The bartg sprint75 rtty contest was a weekend earlier! Only when I tried to submit my results and the website told me all my contacts were outside of the contest timeframe I noticed my error. I guess some more radio amateurs had the wrong date as I have seen 'CQ BART SPRINT75' calls. And 75 baud RTTY mode is also rare. I notified the BARTG contest manageress to let her know. Not to complain since it was my error, but to make her aware of the problem.

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2019-09-04 New electronics project: a morse keyer 1 year ago
My learning morse is still ongoing and I'm taking the first steps in generating morse. I decided on a paddle as a first morse key to get the dot/dash (or better: Dit and Dah) timing correct automatically. Opinions on tbe best choice for first morse key differ: some say a straight key is the best, others say a paddle. I'm sticking with the paddle at the moment because I also have a tendency to develop RSI. Telegraph operators were the first profession to have cases of RSI so I hope to avoid that.

I recently bought a paddle: the uniHam UNI-730a which is a nice affordable paddle for a starting morse operator. With the built-in keyer in my Yaesu FT-857 radio it is possible to create good morse code. I use the option to create the morse tone on the radio without transmitting to practise sending morse. I check the results with the Android application Rx Morse.

But, I want to be able to participate in morse contests in the future. For those a cw keyer is necessary that can be controlled both from a paddle (or a straight key) and the computer. I was looking at options when a fellow club member mentioned he had a nanoKeyer morse keyer kit available that he wasn't going to build himself because his radio can do all that work. So I bought the kit from him, including case and I'm soldering the first parts.

Since all parts are through-hole, I am soldering with the components 'hanging' from the board. I want all components to be as close to the printed circuit board as possible so for some things that want to 'fall' I use rubber bands to make them stay close to the board for the first soldering connections. I do avoid warming up the rubber bands, they will probably break and/or burn causing a nasty smell.

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2019-08-21 Comparing yfktest and tlf for linux-based amateur radio contesting 1 year ago
Episode 295 of Linux in the Ham Shack is about the TLF Contest Logger. I wrote to Linux in the Ham Shack about my experiences with both programs. In 2017 I participated in the IARU-HF contest using yfktest and in 2019 I participated in the IARU-HF contest using TLF.
My opionion about both is clearly formed by my style of contesting. Phone contesting is rare for me, and I am a very casual contester. I operate in search and pounce mode, where I search for other stations calling CQ.

My experiences:

Both are textmode programs, which try to mimic DOS-based contest programs. No dragging around windows, you'll have to deal with how the makers decided to set up the screen. Also, on a graphical system, try to find the biggest and baddest monospace font to fill as much of your screen with the contesting software as possible.

The role of contest logging software is making it easier to log contacts in a contest. It does this by automating a lot of the tasks in a CW contest, by keeping the log and showing the outgoing serial number (if needed). It's a plus when contest logger can keep the live claimed score in the contest and when it can connect to a DX-cluster and show possible contacts being spotted. Both packages can do the basic contesting and scorekeeping, tlf is the only one that supports DX clusters

yfktest is written in Perl, tlf in C. For adding a new contest to yfktest you will soon have to do some programming in perl to handle the score calculations. For a new contest in tlf you may have to do some C programming.

yfktest has no cluster support, but tlf does have it. This is a huge difference to me. With tlf I could open a cluster window showing me where new calls were spotted and on what frequencies recent contacts were, so I could hunt for interesting new calls and multipliers

Specific to the IARU-HF contest and my use of the packages: yfktest supports the IARU-HF contest out of the box, so it gets the multipliers right. When I did the IARU-HF contest with tlf, I asked about it on the list and someone shared a configuration right at the beginning of the contest so it worked. Mostly: It did not count the multipliers correctly, so I had no idea of the claimed score during the contest.

Both are open source and welcome any additions. Looking at the commit history tlf is somewhat more active recently.

If you want to really add a contest to either of them you'll probably have to start thinking about that months before the contest and take your time to debug your rules/scoring configuration if you want good scoring during the contest.

I will probably stick with tlf because of the cluster support.
Linux in the Ham Shack took my shallow dive a lot further and went into a deep dive with installing, configuring and running TLF. Awesome episode, I really enjoyed it!

Links to all the stuff: Show Notes #295: TLF Contest Logger Deep Dive - Linux in the Ham Shack
yfktest linux based ham radio contest logger, TLF, a linux based ham radio contest logger.

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2019-07-14 I participated in the IARU-HF championship 2019 1 year ago
This weekend I participated in the IARU HF Championship and made a nice number of contacts given the available time in which I could call out my callsign. Before the contest the radio propagation was a bit dissapointing and I did most of my preparation at the very last minute.

For the contest logging I used the TLF linux contest logger which does not support the IARU HF Championship out of the box. But someone posted about this contest to the TLF development mailing list and shared the configuration and initial exchange list, so it was minimal work to get going. With this configuration TLF worked as a logger, it just didn't calculate the multipliers in the contest correctly.

In the end I made 95 contacts, which is a nice improvement over the previous time I participated in this contest: IARU HF Championship PE4KH 2017. Of the 95 contacts, 19 were on the 40 meter band (Saturday evening) and 76 on the 20 meter band (Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning).

I did not participate in the 2018 edition because it was the weekend we left for our summer holiday. The 2018 IARU HF championship was also the World Radio Team Championship 2018 so I missed the chance to work one of those stations. I did follow the whole preparation for the WRTC 2018 and had a look at the developments in the scores during that weekend.
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