Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mother Nature

Up until a couple of days ago, I used to have a Comet H-422 in V configuration as my main antenna.

When I say used to, I mean I still have the antenna, it's just it isn't in V configuration anymore. In fact, I'm not sure what configuration you'd call it at the moment, Sloping dipole?

Why does it look like that? I hear you ask. Well it wasn't the huge floods that we've had in the area, nor was it one of the cyclones we get around this time of year. In fact it's stood up pretty well to strong winds since I put it up.

What did this was a flock of well fed Sulphur Crested Cockatoos that all decided to perch on it at the same time.

An adult cocky weighs around 800 grams and there were at least four of them all on one arm of the antenna. Now 3.2 kg (about 7 lbs) might not sound like much, but when they land these birds tend to strut around a bit, which means they were bouncing up and down on the antenna.

Sometime in the next couple of weeks I'm going to have to pull the antenna down, find a way of bracing it where it's bent, then work out a way of strengthening it so it doesn't happen again. Perhaps some kind of non-conductive bracing between the two elements.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Things are looking up

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I got licensed about four years ago, near the beginning of the bottom of the sunspot cycle. Add to that the fact that I haven't been particularly active for the past couple of years and I don't have a huge beam antenna or an amp, it means I haven't had many European contacts.

That seems to be changing for the better now. Last week I had QSOs with someone in Holland and someone in Switzerland, within about half an hour of each other. They were both new ones for me, believe it or not. Last night I finally had my first contact with an English station, Rich G0BLB, near Bath.

There's several reasons why I was really happy about that particular contact. Firstly, I'm originally from England. Secondly, one of my cousins over there is married to a ham, Andy 2E0HPO in Hertfordshire. And third, my signal wasn't as week as I thought it would be. If conditions keep improving it won't be long before I'll be able to chat with Andy. I only met him for the first time two years ago when my wife Donna and I were over there on holidays.

Actually, with conditions improving now, I'm at that stage in my ham career where a lot of my QSOs are new ones, which makes it more fun.

73 Steve

Sunday, February 7, 2010

How to win the Black Sea Cup

I've been listening to competitors in the Black Sea Cup contest this evening. If you're one of those people competing, especially if you're in ITU zone 31, I've got a tip on how you can do better next year.

Shut the f%*& up and listen!

Seriously, I'm not an experienced contestor, but calling CQ contest, then waiting a maximum of two seconds for a reply is not going to get you many contacts. I timed most of the stations I heard and two seconds was the most that they were waiting, that's just long enough for me to hit the PTT and say Victor Kilo. By the time I finished and started listening again, they were half way through their CQs again. Those that were getting contacts were getting them maybe one out of ten CQs. God knows how many people were trying to call them and weren't getting through, I know I gave it a god try. Those that were getting contacts were getting mainly EU stations, or other stations in their area, ie, not the high scoring ones they'd like.

Now, I don't know if this is relevant or not, but 75% of the guilty stations had a nine in their callsigns. Yes, I did count them, I studied statistics at university last year as part of my science degree.

73 and good luck in the contest, Steve VK4VSP

Sunday, January 31, 2010

First CW QSO

I've mentioned in previous posts that I'm learning the code.

Recently a group of Croatian hams visited Vanuatu for a DX-pediton and used the callsign YV0MM. Vanuatu isn't that far from VK land so it wasn't hard to get an SSB contact with them. In fact they were on so often I could have got them every day, but that wouldn't have been fair on those that were struggling to get them.

Then when I heard them down around 14.004 MHz I thought, hmm, should I?

It took me a while to be sure it was really them, since the operator was sending a lot faster than I can usually read. When I was sure, I turned on the heater on the TS-820S, listened some more until I thought the rig was warmed up then, with a shaking hand, sent my callsign when I heard a TU.

After a couple of attempts I heard them come back with a very fast VK4 and a 5nn, which I was pretty sure was in reply to my call, so I replied with a 5nn. I wasn't sure if I'd got him or not. He had slowed down a bit, as though he was making it a bit easier on a slow op, so I thought maybe I'd got him. I decided not to try again, since I would just be causing QRM for everyone else. I also decided not to log it as I wasn't sure.

Today I checked their online log, since they've now finished and gone home. I was pretty sure I'd gotten into the log with my SSB QSO, although you can never be too sure. I thought I'd gotten into the log for the last Clipperton DX-pedition TX5C, since he'd read back my callsign correctly, but he'd logged me as VK4VZP. Well there I was in YV0MM's log, not just for the SSB QSO, but also the CW one.

I learnt two things from today, when learning CW, you're probably more ready to start sending than you think you are. Some ops are very forgiving. Secondly, if you think you've got them, but you aren't sure, log it anyway with a question mark against it. You never know.

73 de VK4VSP

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lost log

Since getting licensed just under four years ago, I haven't really been that active. It's easy to blame the fact that I got licensed just before the bottom of the sunspot cycle, but that's really no excuse, I've just had other priorities.

Anyway, back in March 2008, my brother Laurie, VK4VCC, and I took part in the CQ WPX SSB contest. That added a hell of a lot of new countries to my log, I think we added about 97 contacts that weekend. I sent out a heap of QSL cards through the buro after that and confirmed a few through eQSL. Then last year my laptop crashed on me and I lost not only my entire log, but about 4500 photographs, 1400 of which were from our European holiday.

Just lately I've had a bit of time on my hands. I only work 5 till 8 in the mornings and my university studies don't start again till the middle of February, so I've been spending a bit of time on the radio again. With conditions improving I'm picking up at least one DX station a day, so my log is starting to grow again. I even tried Bob E32BJ on CW the other day, as I've been learning the code through the excellent Learn CW Online website.

I'm progressing pretty well with learning the code, so I thought I might try the CQ WPX CW contest in May. Then I had brain wave. What do they do with the old logs that are sent in for previous contests?

A quick e-mail to the organisers yesterday morning, and by the afternoon I had a reply from Randy K5ZD with my log attached, thanks Randy.

OK, it's not my entire log, but most of it is there. Now to transfer it all over and to make sure I always back it up.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Learning CW

I've been meaning to learn CW for ages now, but never quite got around to it. I downloaded Ray's excellent G4FON Koch trainer a while ago, but university studies got in the way and the laptop I had it on died late last year anyway.

Well I have a break between semesters at the moment, but Ray's program doesn't work on my Linux EeePC, actually not much that I've downloaded to it does work, including the stuff from the Asus website.

Well, a few people have blogged recently about Learn CW Online, so I thought I'd check it out. I'm really glad I did. The beauty of it is, you can use it anywhere, on any computer, since you don't have to download anything. And it's so easy to use, all you do is run the lesson, type in what letter you thing is playing and then analyze it to see how you went. You can check your statistics to see if you're improving, or not. Usually, if I've got a bit of time to kill or I need a break from studying, I'll play a couple of games of Solitare or Soduko on the laptop. With the graph on LCWO I can treat that as a game instead, so it makes it more interesting.

If you've been thinking of learning the code and haven't got around to it yet, check it out.

73 de VK4VSP

Thursday, February 26, 2009

We won

Well, sort of.

My brother Laurie, VK4VCC, and I teamed up last year for the CQ WPX SSB contest. We weren't really trying all that hard, in fact we even found time to go shopping, have a barbecue and feed all the animals in between contacts. We did get quite a few new countries into my logbook though. More about that logbook in another entry to come.

Anyway, a large white envelope turned up in my mail yesterday. It was addressed to VK4VSP, so I didn't open it straight away, thinking it was my licence renewal. When I did get around to looking at it, I realised it was to do with the contest.

I joked to my wife that they way the certificate is worded makes it look like we'd won. Reading it properly it does actually mean that we've won the multi-single category for VK4, which is the state of Queensland. Now that might seem to some like quite an achievement, but I have to be honest and tell you, we were the only multi-single station in Queensland. For some reason it doesn't seem to be as popular a category as the others.

I'm not sure if I'll compete this year as I'm probably going to be too busy with work and study. If I do, I might try a more minimalist category this time, maybe QRP on one band. First I have to find a decent contest program that'll work on my little Asus EeePC running Xandros.

73 de VK4VSP