My current project

Ever tried to manually switch your antennas and bandpass filters 30 hours into a contest? I have been doing it for years. 🙂 (And I have been complaining about it for ages too)

But the solution is near:

band decoder 001 band decoder 002

This is the prototype for my new universal band decoder.

The hardware is an Arduino (in the pictures is a Mega, it will be replaced by a UNO r3 in the finished product) and 2 4×4 Driver Shields from Logos Electromechanical.

The goal is to switch my SixPak and my 2 Dunestar 600 band pass filters for SO2R.

The data comes from the pc (over the usb port) using the Open Two Radio Switching Protocol (OTRSP) which is supported by N1MM and DXLab logging software.

For now this is a work in progress,  so come back here soon to follow the evolution!

Yes contesting sucks…

but I still have a lot of fun doing it!

Franki ON5ZO recently wrote a blog ‘Why contesting sucks’. And I can’t deny I sometimes have the same feelings during or after the contests.

For example, the reason why our clubstation lost one of the last fielddays probably was because our biggest competitor probably used his home station with huge beam antennas via remote control. Okay, it’s only a suspicion and we can’t prove it but… At least since this year the rules for our national fieldday have changed and now all internet and dx-cluster use is forbidden.

And no, I probably can’t win any big contest from my average station (when speaking about contest stations).

But hey you’ll ask, why do you keep doing it? Continue reading Yes contesting sucks…

I am now a member of ARRL

At the recent Hamradio at Friedrichshafen I decided to become a member of ARRL. This is why:

  • It’s cheaper than UBA at least if you don’t need the printed QST (this doesn’t mean I will cancel my UBA membership yet)
  • QST is way better than CQ-QSO
  • My favorite contest is the ARRL RTTY Roundup and now at least I can see my Log Checking Report (more on that in a later post)
  • At Friedrichshafen I pretty much had the same feeling when approaching the UBA booth as in previous years (see my post from 2007), still no hugs and kisses 🙂

Message for the UBA: please get rid of the paper CQ-QSO, it is a HUGE waste of valuable money. All of your members have an internet connection so PDF is ok! With the money gained you could lower the membership fees and invest some more in promoting and defending HAM radio in Belgium!

First 2 contests with the FT5K / FT990 combo

As you already know from a previous post I purchased a Yaesu FT DX 5000 MP last december. Since then I operated in both the ARRL RTTY Roundup and in the CQ WW WPX RTTY. Time to write down my experiences:

The combo FT5K/FT990 is of course a great enhancement over the former combo FT990/TS50S :-). Even with the 500Hz filters the TS50S has a poor receiver for contesting, don’t misunderstand, the TS50S is a great transceiver for travelling but filtering in rough contest conditions is pretty poor. Moreover I was persuaded the FT990 had a great receiver but that’s because I never operated anything better… The receiver of the FT5 seems pretty unbeatable to me when compared to the FT990.

With the FT5K, narrow means NARROW! Using the the 500 Hz filter on FT990 you can see a pretty wide band in the MMTTy scope, using the with 600 Hz filter of the FT5k only a fraction of that band is left, when the need arises it can even be made narrower when using the ‘Narrow’ knob and/or when changing the settings of the RX. Sometimes I had the feeling the receiver is even too good 😉 because you get into very narrow holes on busy band to try and start a run. But it isn’t because I have a good RX that the other stations have one that is as good!

Being used to operate the FT990 it was not that hard for me to learn the basic functions of the FT5k, operation seems pretty straightforward to me.

Since I have the FT5k I made 2 RS232 interfaces so I can run both transceivers in FSK instead of AFSK, this avoids me the need to retune the level of the AFSK tx audio at every band change.

The only negative point I see in the MP version is the band scope which is pretty slow and with low resolution. The speakers that come with it are great but the scope isn’t. Guess I’ll have to go look for an SDR solution on the IF output of the FT5K.

I was pretty happy with the results in both contests! In both my claimed score beat the belgian record!

In search of a new contest transceiver, the decision

In my previous post about this topic I started with a list of available HF-transceivers here in Belgium and afterwards I had narrowed it down to 6:

  • Yaesu FT-2000 €2500
  • Icom IC-7600 €3600
  • Ten Tec Orion II €4300
  • Elecraft K3 €5300
  • Yaesu FT-DX5000MP €5700
  • Icom IC-7700 €6000

Prices are merely an estimation for comparison, they’re based on information found on the internet a few months ago.  Some may have changed by a few hundreds of euros by the time you read this!

I did’nt have the time (or rather did’nt make time) to write more about this in the last few weeks but in the mean time I ordered (and received) an FT-DX5000MP.

The decision was a little less scientific than it started in my previous post however. Let’s say it has been partly emotional also.

These are the reasons why I bought the FT5k: (not necessarily ordered by importance) Continue reading In search of a new contest transceiver, the decision

2 weeks…

Only 2 weeks left before my actual provider shuts down this site!

Because this provider is getting to big for me (*) I decided to move the site to a new one. But… now I need to find the time to move this whole WordPress thing to the new provider.

But, don’t worry, might be offline for a little while but it will be back and then maybe the mystery about the new transceiver will be solved 🙂

First things first, the EPC BPSK63 QSO Party tomorrow! But who decided to have a contest from 0000 utc till 2359 utc? Got to be at the office at 0800 AM on monday (and that’s 0700 utc…)

(*)to big as in bad service, to big as in to expensive, to big as in ‘press 1 for dutch, press 2 for swahili, press…’ etc.


Writer’s block?

A lot of things have happened since my last post here but I didn’t really feel like writing anything about them lately.

A small summary:

  • we did the Region 1 SSB fieldday with the club station ON6CK/p (and came in second behind the OQ8A/p team)
  • the belgian guys conquered Rockall, congrats to the team!
  • the british guys decided not to go to Rockall. I don’t really understand the reasons, if all those who wanted to climb the Everest would have cancelled their plans because someone was there before them then only a few people would have done it. Moreover the pileups from Rockall will not be less for the second team going there than for the first one. And I still need EU189!
  • I finally ordered a new transceiver!
  • I modified my RTTY setup to do FSK instead of AFSK (with the FT990)
  • I made a portable setup to take on holiday

The last 3 of the list will probably be the subjects of some future posts!

So what makes me write this in the last hours of CQ WW SSB? I’m at the qth of my girlfriend and to tired to set up the portable station. Wedding parties are probably more tiring than 24hrs of contesting 🙂 Moreover we have to leave for an other party in less than an hour.

My next contest is in 3 weeks from now… still some work to do (the 4 rotary switches problem, remember?)


Friedrichshafen Contest University 2011

As I wrote in my report about the Ham Radio in Friedrichshafen I attended the Contest University on friday afternoon.

The afternoon started with a welcome by the organiser Michael DL6MHW and then a discussion of contest ethics. After this the group was split in 2, the beginners in one room, the more advanced contesters in an other.
The beginners got the following parts: Contest basics, contest logging, how to get a decent score with a small station, clubcompetition and motivation.

I attended the part for advanced contesters with these parts:

  • Better logging / log analysis
    These things were discussed: preparation of the contest, on what frequency should I be, what software to use, what is a contest qso, log analysis and UBN
  • Using skimmer and RBN
    For me as a mainly rtty and ssb contester this was something I had never really paid attention to. I wonder when the RBN system will be available for RTTY and PSK.
  • VHF contesting tactics and tips
    Using a video from a big gun station in a major contest different situations were discussed and criticised
  • Contest radios
    This was a presentation by Eric ‘Elecraft’ WA6HHQ who mainly presented the differences and properties of the different high end contest radios. And, of course, his K3 is the best in the world. Of course the rig he sells is good but maybe his views are a little biased? The K3 looks tempting to me but I still have my doubts whether I should purchase it from QRP-projects in Germany or direct from Elecraft.
  • advanced rtty contesting
    here the discussion went especially about the way macros should be used and how the software and filters (transceiver and software) should be configured.

The end of the afternoon the two groups together got a presentation of the V31YN contest crew and their station and tactics.

This was a very well organised afternoon although most of the attendants thought maybe there should have been a little more time for each speaker to get even deeper into his subject. Congrats to DL6MHW and his crew!!!

I am not really proficient in the Gernan language but I got about 90% of what was said and the rest I got from the really excellent documentation provided!

Will it make me win more contests? Maybe not (the QSOs still have to be made) but at least it gave me a few more insights in the contest secrets and it was good for improving my understanding of the German language 🙂 (Learning a language is like learning CW: Practice, practice, practice!)
It was €20 well spent! Moreover for that price I got a T-shirt, the new Bavarian Contest Club ‘Handbuch für den Contester’, the CQ-DL contest special, a bottle of water and some gadgets.