CQ WPX 2014 log check

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Got the log check results from CQ WPX 2014 in my email today. Out of my 77 QSOs, 4 of them got busted (1 incorrect call, 3 incorrect exchanges) leaving me with 73 QSOs and a score of 13510. On the other side, 3 stations copied my exchange incorrectly. Not as good compared to last year's CQ WPX. I'll just have to keep at it to get better, right?

************************** Summary ***************************

      77 Claimed QSO before checking (does not include duplicates)
      73 Final   QSO after  checking reductions

     202 Claimed QSO points
     193 Final   QSO points

      73 Claimed mults
      70 Final   mults

   14746 Claimed score
   13510 Final   score
   -8.4% Score reduction

    5.2% Error Rate based on claimed and final qso counts
       0 (0.0%) duplicates (without penalty)
       1 (1.3%) calls copied incorrectly
       3 (3.9%) exchanges copied incorrectly
       0 (0.0%) not in log
       0 (0.0%) calls unique to this log only (not removed)

********************** Results By Band ***********************

            Band   QSO   QPts  Mult

   Claimed  160M     0      0      
   Final    160M     0      0      

   Claimed   80M     0      0      
   Final     80M     0      0      

   Claimed   40M     4      4      
   Final     40M     4      4      

   Claimed   20M     2      6      
   Final     20M     2      6      

   Claimed   15M     5     11      
   Final     15M     3      7      

   Claimed   10M    66    181      
   Final     10M    64    176      

  Claimed    All    77    202    73  Score    14746
  Final      All    73    193    70  Score    13510

*********************** Incorrect call ***********************

28625 PH 2014-03-30 1826 AB4UG           18 NY6Y          1623 correct     NY6N        

*************** Incorrect Exchange Information ***************

21447 PH 2014-03-29 1748 AB4UG            1 NE5D          0034 correct  934
28581 PH 2014-03-30 1920 AB4UG           48 9A73P         5718 correct 5708
21235 PH 2014-03-30 2118 AB4UG           70 US5D          3354 correct 2354

********************** Lost Multipliers **********************

21447 PH 2014-03-29 1748 AB4UG            1 NE5D          0034 correct 934        
28625 PH 2014-03-30 1826 AB4UG           18 NY6Y          1623 correct NY6N       
28581 PH 2014-03-30 1920 AB4UG           48 9A73P         5718 correct 5708       

************************ Multipliers *************************

     5E5     8P5     9A5     AD5     CT1
      D4     DA2     DQ8      E7     E77
     EA3     EC1     ED1     ED5     EI7
     EI9      F5      G5     HA1     HA6
     HG1     HG7     HK1      I0     IB9
     II2     II4     II9     IK2     IT9
     IY1     IZ5     J42     KB3     KP4
     LO5     LT7     LZ9      N9     NP2
     OA4     OL4     OT5     PJ2     PW5
     S50     S51     S52     S54     S55
     S57     SN2     SN8     US5     VA5
     VC6     VK4     VP2     WB2     WG3
     WP2     WP4     WX3     XE1     XE2
     YP0     YS1     YT0     YT5     YV4


********* Stations Copying Your Exchange Incorrectly**********

28647 PH 2014-03-29 1810 EC1DBO        1452 AB4UG         0009  should be 5 
28000 PH 2014-03-30 1844 US5D          2168 AB4UG          123  should be 23 
28340 PH 2014-03-30 2019 YS1YS          987 AB4UG         0051  should be 61 

Experiments in cutting PCB material

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My thoughts have been turning towards earning some XP in various circuit assembling techniques (<- an excellent article written by Chuck Adams/K7QO), namely ugly construction and Manhattan style.

For the circuit platform, copper clad PCB needs to be cut to an appropriate size. A circuit that only takes up 25 cm2 doesn't need to be built on a 100 cm2 board unless you're planning for future expansion.

In addition, for Manhattan style, I need some pads. A hole punch or nibbling tool is commonly used to create circular pads out of copper clad PCB. I haven't acquired any of the MeSquares that Dave/AA7EE prefers yet, nor have I added a hole punch or nibbling tool to the tools on the bench yet. I have a tin snip and a Dremel with some cutting wheels, so off I went to the workbench to experiment with what I had on hand.

Dave/AA7EE posted a nice tutorial describing how he cuts PCB material using a sharp utility knife. That was the first technique I tried.

I took one of the smaller pieces of copper clad PCB from the box I ordered earlier in the year and clamped it to the workbench. Using one of my utility knives, I made 3-4 cuts using a fair bit of pressure on the blade. Then I clamped it in the vise and with a bit of force, was able to break off the piece I had scored. I only scored one side, but it seemed to work pretty well. There were some sharp copper edges on the unscored side, so scoring both sides seems to be the way to go. Cutting through the copper was pretty hard on the blades, and I can see how you could go through a bunch of blades if doing it this way. Blades are pretty inexpensive though. For cutting larger pieces of PCB, this is probably the way to go.

Next were the tin snips, basically big beefy scissors. They cut through the PCB with a little bit of effort, but it's hard to make longer cuts with them because the tin snips are kind of stubby. For any cuts longer than 3-4 cm, the PCB ended up getting bent out of shape from the snips. I was able to take a strip of PCB (cut using the scoring technique) and use the snips to cut off some island-sized pieces of PCB. For small cuts, the snips worked pretty well. For large cuts, not so much.

Finally it was the Dremel's turn. With the PCB clamped to the table, the cutting wheel easily scored the PCB, but without a guide cutting a straight line takes a bit of practice. The cutting wheel cut through the PCB material pretty easily too, although the wheel got eaten up pretty quickly in the process. A good bit of dust was created too, so wearing some kind of mask would definitely be in order. I think for cutting or scoring PCBs, I'll skip the Dremel. Cutting wheels are significantly more expensive than utility knife blades, and copper and fiberglass dust probably isn't something I want floating around the workshop anyway.

For now, I'll work on practicing and refining my skills using the scoring method and the tin snips for cutting pads while I save a few dollars to get a decent hole punch. I suspect I'll end up doing a combination of hole punched and MeSquares for Manhattan islands in the future.

Code practice oscillator completed

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The panel mount potentiometer I used in the CPO was missing the nut needed to secure it into place. After determining that I needed a 1/4"-32 thread hex nut, I went scouring my Radio Shack and hardware store bins looking for some.

At Radio Shack, I found a bag of assorted hex nuts in their parts bins, with the right thread number, but none of them were smaller than 5/16". Next stop was a big box hardware store. There I found 1/4" nuts, but the finest thread they had was 28. The hex nuts they did have with a 32 thread were all #10 or smaller.

Then I went to a couple of the smaller box hardware stores. Much larger selection of nuts and bolts, but still the same problem as with the big box hardware store. Nothing with a finer thread than 1/4"-28, and nothing larger than a #10-32.

So much for instant gratification.

Thanks to a suggestion in the Google+ Ham Radio Homebrew community, I found some (Bourns H-38-1) at Mouser Electronics. Ordered 20 of them so I'd have extras in case I needed some for later. They arrived a few days ago and now my NT7S code practice oscillator is complete!

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Code practice oscillator enclosure

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The mini-breadboard version of the NT7S code practice oscillator along with 9V battery fits perfectly into an Altoids tin (the preferred enclosure of tinkerers everywhere). This evening I spent some time wiring up the board to the jacks and power switch.

When I plugged in the headphones and my straight key, I was greeted with a continuous tone, and nothing happened when I tapped the key. Crap, I must have a short somewhere. After a bit of looking around on the board, I went back into the house to grab the schematic, and then realized I had plugged things into the wrong jacks. Swapped the headphones and key and got nice sounding tones when I tapped the key, just as expected. Works great and everything sits in the tin nice and securely. The battery slides around a tiny bit, but that's not a big deal.

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Now I can bundle up my straight key and some headphones and practice wherever I want.

NAQP 2014

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Spent about 4 hours playing in the North America QSO Party yesterday. Was just doing some casual tuning around, working a few stations and listening to some of the pileups. Spent most of my time tuning around 20m and 40m. Wasn't hearing much of anything up on 10m or 15m by the time I got on the radio.

While I was tuning around I also managed to find and work W1AW/5 (OK) on 20m and W100AW/4 in AL on 40m. That was the first W100AW station I had found.

My stats from last night, according to N1MM. Not a whole lot of contacts, but managed a a couple of good ones into OR and CA on 20m.

 Band    QSOs    Pts  Sec   Mt2
     7      15      15   11    0
    14       9      9    7    0
 Total      24      24   18    0
Score: 432

SC QSO Party 2013 results

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Saw that the SC QSO Party results for 2013 were posted a little while ago. A record year for logs submitted, QSOs made and counties activated (all but 2 SC counties were activated).

My 30 contacts and 360 points were good enough to get me 3rd place in the single-op low power category. Woohoo!

The 2014 SC QSO party happens during the weekend I'm back in Edmonton, so I'll be missing it this year. Next time though.

Cystic Fibrosis Cycle for Life support

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One of the items brought up at this evening's CARS meeting was providing communications support for the Charleston Cystic Fibrosis Cycle for Life event, coming up on October 4, 2014.

CARS members provided some support for the event last year, but I wasn't able to make it. This year, I signed up to help out. I'm told there's a 30 mile course, and a 60 mile course out in the Megget/Hollywood area where there isn't a lot of cell phone coverage, so amateur radio comm support comes in very handy.

This will be the second event I've helped out with, and I'm looking forward to it.

If you'd like to help out with comm support, let me know and I'll put you in touch with the right people.

Operating days on the USS Yorktown

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To make better use of the CARS club room on the USS Yorktown, Jim/KK4REM has taken on the task of organizing monthly operating days open to any club members. Being on the Charleston Harbour and with an HF antenna at a pretty decent height over salt water, the ship is usually a pretty good place to operate from.

There are several purposes for the operating days:

  • Teach new hams proper operating procedures
  • Let people who might not normally use HF experience HF operations
  • Put the club equipment to use

I was able to make it to today's operating day, and with the club's laptops, the plan was to do some digital work as well. By the time I arrived at the club room, there were a few people already playing on the radio making some contacts on 20m. One of the contacts even included someone who served on the USS Yorktown back in the 50s.

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After a few contacts, the Signalink was hooked up and a couple people were introduced to some of the digital modes. Did a little bit of PSK and some RTTY. I was busy with other things so I don't know if any contacts were made.

While they were playing radio, I was showing my sound card interface to Rick/N8BKN and discussing the possibility of maybe making it a build project for the club. Bryce/K4LXF showed up a little later and from him I learned a little more about the repeaters that the club maintains.

I also got the opportunity to see the WA4USN repeater room., located a couple decks below the top of the Yorktown's island. There's not too much in there: the 2m repeater, a repeater controller and the WA4USN-5 APRS digipeater.

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One of these days I might have to help maintain these repeaters.

Mini code practice oscillator

I've been wanting something small and portable that I could carry around with me for doing Morse Code practice. The Heathkit HD-10 oscillator is fun to play with, but kind of big and chunky to haul around. The ARRL code oscillator is small and portable, but the buzzing sound gets kind of unpleasant to listen to after a while.

Then I found Jason's/NT7S schematics for his code practice oscillator (CPO) in his blog and decided to build one. I gathered up the pieces and tried to assemble it on a breadboard a while ago but got distracted by other things and never quite finished.

With the acquisition of some solderable mini-breadboards from SparkFun and the perma-protoboards from Adafruit, it was time to get back to the project. The Sparkfun mini breadboard fits perfectly on top of one of their modular mini breadboards so I put the solderable breadboard on top of the modular breadboard and started laying out the components. Then, once I'm done all I have to do is carefully lift the solderable breadboard off the modular breadboard and then solder away.

After spending some time staring at the schematic and the breadboard pondering how to lay things out, I remembered a suggestion from the kit building forum at the ARRL Centennial Convention. Build modularly and test as you go so that if something doesn't work, it's easier to isolate the problem area.

With this in mind, I started with the power section of the schematic and laid that out in one corner of the board. Add power, flip the switch, LED comes on. Perfect!

The CPO is small and simple enough so that the rest of the circuit pretty much falls into place after that. After a few hours of placing components, double checking placement and debugging, I finally managed to get it working.

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With a few wires, I connected my straight key and connected straight to the plug of some ear buds I had lying around. Tapping on the key yielded some pleasant sounding tones, and turning the pot changed the volume (and frequency a tiny bit).

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Now all I need to do is solder everything into place, add some jacks and stick it into an enclosure.

A nice, easy build and I was able to do it all with parts I had on hand.