DXing

Spent some time playing on the radio during the ARRL DX contest over the weekend and added about 40 more contacts to the log. Spent most of my time working on 10m where there seemed to be a lot of good propagation today. Lots of DX stations, not a lot of noise like I usually hear. 10m is an interesting band where I heard the DX stations pretty clearly, but didn’t hear any of the stations they were working, aside from maybe a few out on the west coast.

Early in the day when I started, most of the stations I was hearing were across the Atlantic. I think the farthest stations I worked were US5D in the Ukraine and LZ9W in Bulgaria. Later on in the afternoon and evening there were a lot of Carribean and South American contacts although some of the louder (1kW) European stations could still be heard. I even managed to work a Venezuelan station who said he was operating 5W QRP (YW2LV). Pretty impressive.

Had fun with the DX contest. Maybe next time I’ll try to get some more contacts logged.

First contest

Operated for the last few hours of the North American QSO party last night. First contest I’ve participated in under my own call sign. There was a pretty good amount of activity on 40m when I was on and I added 17 more contacts to my log. I even managed to make one contact at 5W because I forgot to turn the power up on the radio after tuning it (look ma, I’m QRP!)

Didn’t hear much activity on any of the other bands, although I wasn’t listening too hard.

Had fun tuning around the bands making contacts. It was interesting seeing where my signal was reaching out to.

#WATwitter QSO Party fun

This past Thanksgiving week was busy, but managed to get some time to play radio on a few days. It was the first significant amount of playing on the radio with my new call sign, AB4UG.

Broke out the radio in Connie’s car on the way up to Chattanooga, TN and managed to work a few stations while mobile. Even managed to get a SOTA (Summits On The Air) station in Pennsylvania while we were on the road. Worked stations as far away as San Diego, CA and up north into Ontario and Massachussets. Most of my contacts were on 20m, but I managed to get in a few on 80m and 40m. On my handheld radio, I got Connie on 2m simplex from across the parking lot. Hey, that still counts, right?

After playing around with a few different logging programs, I decided I liked the way CQRLog worked under Linux. Transferred the paper logs to CQR and uploaded an ADIF export to eQSL. Waiting on the postcard from ARRL to finish setting up my new call sign on LoTW and once that’s done I’ll send the logs there as well.

I counted up 32 contacts (including a duplicate or two) over the #WATwitter week. It was pretty cool making contacts and handing out 2-for-1 QSOs. Richard/N1KXR was even lucky enough to score a 3-for-1 QSO when Connie’s dad (WA4BXC) happened to walk by.

It was a lot of fun making contacts with people I see talking about radio on Twitter. Looking forward to doing more #WATwitter in the future once we get the shack set up.

#WATwitter QSO Party

This is an article about the #WATwitter Thanksgiving QSO party that I was asked to write for DXCoffee. You can see the original post here.

Twitter is one of many social media sites that helps connect people around the globe by letting people send short 140 character messages. As it turns out, there are a great many amateur radio operators around the world who also use Twitter. Some of them use their call signs as their Twitter ID, or might use something else. How do you find Twitter-using amateur radio operators? Try searching for a call sign, or look at the #hamr or #hamradio hash tags.

The idea for the Worked All Twitter Thanksgiving QSO Party started in 2011 when Connie Bird/NR4CB (@Bionic_Nerd on Twitter) came up with the #WATwitter hash tag to help arrange QSOs with other Twitter-using amateur radio operators over Thanksgiving. That grew into Twitter hams trying to work other Twitter hams. Like the Worked All States or Worked All Continents, the idea behind Worked All Twitter (WATwitter) is to make contacts with as many Twitter-using amateur radio operators as you can.

In September 2012, the idea of making Thanksgiving WATwitter a regular annual event was proposed. In the US, Thanksgiving is perhaps the largest holiday of the year involving mass migrations of people traveling to visit family. Many people are off work or school and close to their radios, which makes it easier to make contacts.

WATwitter Guidelines
This year the WATwitter Thanksgiving QSO party will take place between November 21-25, 2012. These are some guidelines proposed by Connie/NR4CB for the WATwitter Thanksgiving QSO Party

Who: Any licensed operator who also uses Twitter
Where: All bands, all modes. To let as many people as possible participate, use the portion of the band open to the most people, i.e. the technician portion of 10m, the general class portion of 20m, etc
Exchange: Your normal exchange plus your Twitter handle, especially if it’s not your call sign
Spotting: Self-spotting is practically required. Tweet your frequency, interact with people on Twitter, and get other people to meet you on the air at a specific time and frequency.
Hashtags: #WATwitter and either #hamr or #hamradio
Why: Connect with people using both social media and on the air

Have fun! Log your contacts, tweet your tallies to others, but there are no scores or awards. A nice twitter app created by Tomas/OK4BX (@ok4bx) will keep track of the activity during the event. Include@twQSO in all the QSOs you tweet.

WATwitter doesn’t have to happen at Thanksgiving though. It can happen at any time. If you’re on the air, throw your CQ out onto Twitter (using the #WATwitter and #hamr/#hamradio hash tags) and see who responds.

Learning about digital ham radio

Yesterday was one of ARRL‘s Rookie Roundup contests, so some of the CARS members organized a rookie radio day to show off some of the digital amateur radio modes.

The idea is pretty simple. Instead of piping the audio output of the radio signal to speakers, it’s sent to a computer (with some intervening hardware) where the digital signals are decoded and displayed by software. The computer’s sound card generates audio tones that are sent to the radio for broadcasting and for other computers to decode. Everything is handled through the computer and software (fldigi in this case) using pre-programmed F-key macros (manual typing works too) except for changing radio frequencies (with the right set-up, even that can be done on the computer). Pretty neat stuff.

There were three of us rookies around and we all got to play digital RTTY (radio teletype) radio, sending out calls, responding to other operators and learning how to use the software. I think we made a total of 6 contacts, which isn’t huge but there might have been some power and/or antenna problems. It was still a good learning experience.

Another member set up a battery powered radio with a 40m dipole antenna and demonstrated sending emails over the radio via Winlink, another pretty cool amateur radio service. Find a reachable Winlink server to broadcast to, compose your message and the software sends the appropriate signals to the radio (via intervening modem) to the listening server, which in turn sends out the emails over the Internet. You can also download any received emails stored up for you. Using this method, even if you’re out of power, have no other form of internet access, or are in some other kind of emergency communication mode, you can still send out emails to other people as long as you can reach a server with your radio. Pretty awesome stuff. The data rate is pretty slow, but you can still get communications out.

It was a fun three hours we spent playing radio, and a good introduction to digital radio. Makes me want to do more