Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Trees

25 years ago the XYL and I bought this property.  I didn't know at the time that I'd be operating amateur radio.   The trees were (and are) tremendous.   Over the years we've had a couple of "logging events" where we took out a bunch of cedar for the mill.    Not old growth but some of them were at least 130 years old cedars.

The QTH is the little house just right of center, the road goes around the north east corner.  What is pictured is the extent of the property - 3x east-to-west as 1x  north-to-south.

When I mention to people the story of the "tree problem" it comes in two versions.

The first version is that I have so many trees so dense that I couldn't spin a boom even if I wanted to.  So I'm left to string up wire in trees, lacing the wire between them when there is a clean line between points on the perimeter of the loop of wire.  (Loops are the way to go).

The second version of the story goes along the lines that -- I wouldn't want to take any of them down really.  They give me shade, and the wildlife in the forest around me is very natural and park-like.

But there is a spot that could work.   I found a pocket where the turning radius could be about 20-30 feet.  And in that pocket I could spin a boom.  So, there might be hope after all.



Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The NAANY

The Western Washington DX Club has a contest they call the NAANY


It works like this.

A maximum score is 260.   You get a point for every combination of the last number followed by the first letter after that number in a call sign.   So, W7BRS would count for 7B.

9K2GS would count for 9K,  PJ2T would count for 2T, and so on.

26 letters, 10 call-sign areas, 260 points maximum.

The catch:

Have to work stations not in your continent.  So for those in North America, you exclude any station from North America.

I thought it might be easier to make Software calculate your score, so wrote a tool to do that.


Not a GUI application, but a console application that cranks through an ADIF log file and produces a score.  Here's mine so far:


     0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9
----------------------------------
A |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
B |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
C |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
D |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
E |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
F |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
G |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
H |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y     Y  Y  Y
I |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
J |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y     Y
K |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
L |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
M |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
N |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
O |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
P |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y     Y  Y  Y
Q |     Y  Y  Y     Y     Y  Y
R |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
S |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y     Y  Y  Y  Y
T |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
U |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
V |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y     Y  Y  Y
W |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
X |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
Y |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y     Y  Y
Z |  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y     Y

Summary:   245 worked,  15 unworked.

Details:

By Band:
Band    Count
---------------------
6m      0
10m     32
12m     1
15m     56
17m     12
20m     78
30m     25
40m     38
60m     0
80m     3

By Continent:
Cont    Count
---------------------
NA      0
SA      24
EU      89
AF      8
AS      88
OC      35
AN      0
AS_AF   1
EU_AS   0


SCORE: NAANY [245] * Continents [6] * Bands [8] = 11760


NAANY score of 245.   I added the multiplier business for extra spice.



Monday, November 27, 2023

CQ WW CW Contest

The contest is over and I had a lot of fun working DX.   I don't have the best antenna system and my power amplifier isn't enough to cut through any pile up, but I do alright.  I can usually work the ones I want to, and for those I cannot work -- they'll have to wait.

A good friend asked me about the new DX that I might have worked -- if any of the contacts will be all-time-new-ones (ATNO) and I remarked that I hadn't yet worked any new ones, but perhaps on certain bands some are new.  As I try to fill out the slots for 5BDXCC it becomes apparent that I still need a few.

I passed by the 205 mark on DXCC Mixed some time ago and now it's just a matter of the "islands and rarely visited countries".   Perhaps a few continental countries are in that list -- especially the Middle East and parts of Africa, but I'm still confident that I can reach them -- eventually.

And, as I wrote that reply to my friend, I checked my log software.  I asked the software to check my progress on CQ Marathon and lo and behold I must have added 6 new ones -- but for just this year.  Still not ATNO's, but it was good to boost the CQ Marathon totals. The CQ Marathon is a great thing -- it definitely keeps me pushing on working new DX and in a few weeks it will all start over again at 0.  How wonderful!

My friends on H44WA are wrapping up their DX'pedition.  What a ride for them.   9 bands and a lot of Q in just a short amount of time, if you think about it.  I'm pleased that they got good use out of the 10m and 15m VDA antenna that I made for them.  I also am glad that the capacitance "hat" I machined out did the trick on their low-band antenna.   It was really fun to see so many of their contacts on that band.

I'm just trying to round-out the year with a good effort on MST.   The daylight savings time moved the hour back so it adjusts my work schedule a bit so I can fit in the mid-day slot of the MST.

After the CQ WW CW contest, I turned the dial up to the phone portion of 40m and CQ'd.   I was surprised to hear a bunch of LZ's (Bulgaria) come back and I had a succession of them.  One was even like "Can you stay and listen for my friend, sort of thing", from LZ.  That was fun.  I explained to some of the other W's that took my call I don't' do a lot of SSB these days and in fact I make it a point now to write out a QSL card for the SSB contacts.  Why not.


Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Thanks

First real break from work in a while.   Glad to be able to turn off the work-computer and do some things at home.

It's also a time to think about friends and family this year and pass along some thankyou's.

My son is going to be home for the holiday and that's great.   He's a big guy (21) and studying at University and we're (XYL and me) are glad he's going to be home for a couple days.    My dad is also going to venture over from Sequim to our place.  He's doing fine and still hanging in there.  77 and still doing the work in the machine shop.

The kid's education objectives are still on track and we're proud of him.  All things are going good there.  We're very thankful for his dedication and making us proud.   He's doing just what needs to be done for himself, that's all that matters.

It's going to be a good day on Thursday.

When I think about the friends I have and the friends I've made this year I am truly thankful.

I have been fortunate to gain wonderful knowledge from people this year.   For those I work CW with, talk to, and meet at club meetings and conventions, I sincerely am very appreciative and thankful for your help and support.    It's always a pleasure to have a chance to talk with you.

This Thanksgiving, I'm feeling fortunate and relieved that so many good things have happened this year.

I hope your holiday is safe and relaxing.    I look forward to our next meeting.

-jeff








2 Hour Nap

I was going to get up at 1:30 am to work H44WA 160m but I missed the alarm.

It was 5:30 am. Start the coffee.  Good.

OK.

I had left the radio on to keep it warm. The shack has been cold this week. For the last few days I've been trying to work them on low bands. But the noise on 160m was S4. Barely copy.

So I went to the computer and pulled up a west coast remote radio. OMG. There they were.  Loud enough.  Not busy.

All I need now is 60m

Monday, November 20, 2023

Philately

UX5UO sent me another batch of cards I ordered.  

Anyway, the package is plastered with Ukrainian postage stamps. I collect stamps.  

The package is wonderful.  Just look at the variety.


Some of them are under cellophane tape, but many are not.  I can float them off and put them into the binder.  

I opted to get the WWDXC cards for the Totem Award thing.  (If you want one, just let me know).





Just Add Water

So it's going to be a year of back in the radio thing.  Seems like a long time since 2006 when I finally got nudged by my XYL's great-uncle Art Rutledge, Esq,  WA6SLI  (who is not in the best of shape at the moment after a stroke) -- his encouragement to take the test and get the ticket.   (Tech-Plus = 5 w.p.m).  I had to know code to get the first ticket, at least there's that.

But for a long time I used a microphone for the most part, and CW only when I had to for some DX.

That's all flipped around now.  CW for the most part and SSB when I have to.

Now the anguish.  

What will it take to go on a DX'p ?   I listened to Tom Berson ND2T give his talk at Visalia '23 and it was really simple.
  • Skills - North of 25 wpm.
  • Time - At least 2-3 weeks and $5,000 - and more.
  • Networking - Who leads teams, who decides, etc.
  • Followership - Can take direction and follow it.
Connect, Contest, Practice, rinse, repeat.  But Tom made it pretty clear that it's both not that hard to go and extremely difficult to chart that path.  It depends.  There are things to do.

It has also been mentioned to me a number of times by others (after a couple beers) that more important from the Skills/Time/Networking -- really it comes down to not being Jerk.   Sharing a project, tent, plane, boat for weeks on end.  Who wants to hang around trouble?  If I don't get my coffee in the morning, do I come unglued?  

OK, no coffee.  Eat another chocolate covered espresso bean,  put the headphones on and listen.   Nescafe comes in packets.  Just add water.

The Boy Scouts, crab-fishing, back-packing, and shipyard/machinist slogan "WDFA" (We don't F Around) has been my basis of preparedness for whatever happens.  Also, raising a kid does a bit of that too.  Things that can go sideways, do.

I also live by another saying:  "I know what I'm doing when I'm doing it."  (that drives my XYL nuts, so I tend not to repeat it too often) -- which also is probably corollary to what my dad taught me "Learn by doing."

I'm not really worried.


Sunday, November 19, 2023

Stats on H44WA

The most up to date version of this is:  https://w7brs.com/h44wa/   (with links to the source code and raw-data)

I've been manually collecting data on the number of QSO from H44WA.  I will continue to grab the data manually.  I reached out to ClubLog for an API surface to retrieve the Q-count but that is not available.

I ran the data through gnuplot and produce this.  Linear regression (y = mx + b) to calculate roughly their trend.  I could do curve fit to 3rd ( 4th order ?) maybe, but that would be over-doing it.  It's not a day for that much math. 

Should answer the 64,000 QSO Question. /hi hi/

Remote Radio

I'm going to try something I haven't done before -- that is to use a remote radio (remotehamradio.com) to work a DX station.   

I signed up on remotehamradio.com and tried out a couple stations.  It's really interesting.   Sort of weird in that I am using someone else's radio station.

I've operated from one of the Remote stations personally, and after seeing how the technology works to make the station accessible, it is no wonder that folks like this kind of operation.

I cannot say that it's cost-effective for me, but then again there will be a time when I really need to work a station and I don't have the location for advantage.

Thanks to Mark, K6UFO for showing me the ropes.


Thursday, November 16, 2023

H44WA and VDA's

My friends on the Solomon Islands operating H44WA are having a good time working the bands.

They have been operating now for about 24 hours (almost) and the Livestream results so far have been impressive.

Nearly 8,000 Q's in the first 24 hours and it's going well it seems.

I admit that what has been on my mind was the operation of 10 meters and 15 meters using the VDA's I put together for them.  I had a good feeling that they would work since we tested them on the beach at Golden Gardens in Seattle (just a jaunt north of Shilshole Marina).

Justin, K5EM did a lot of work to optimize the lengths of the sections so that when it was assembled, the SWR was low and the radiation far-field pattern was lobed out in the direction of the Director Element (in the case where the Director was selected by way of jumper wire on the Parasitic Element).

Now that the Team is on H44WA, and I'm watching the spot-clusters I am glad to see reports of "Loud" in the comment section.  It has a lot more to do with their power amplifiers than the antenna -- but nonetheless, the telemetry I got back from the Team privately was that the SWR was matched to nearly 1:1 which is great.  In the modelling of the antenna the take-off angle was around 10-12 degrees too.  These are special antennas - the VDA - and they are made to work near salt-water ground.  There are no radials (necessary).

As the Team operates I am also trying to find the chance to work them on the other bands too.  I was glad to have them in my log for 12 meters (worked off a VDA made in what we call the "French Design" -- which is a single fiberglass mast with a rhombus shaped wire driven element and parasitic element).  That French Design is effectively "steerable" because there is only one mast and the DE/PE are always attached to the single mast.

The other VDA they are using is the 20 meter (Again, of the French Design).  The VDA I gave them were for 15 meters and 10 meters  -- and those are two element versions so they are not "steerable" -- the Parasitic Element is fixed to the ground as is the Driven Element.  But the beam-width of the VDA in that design is at least 90 degrees so all one has to do is point it North from the shore of the beach and they can work easily both Asia and NA/EU fine short path.  The hind-quarters of the pattern (VK/ZL and SA are another matter -- I think it will work but it won't have as much gain in the rear quarters).

While they are working on their operation, I'm back at the NEC2 software and optimizing the next generation of VDA that I will be making.  Despite the protests I will still try to make the 30 meter version and also a 6 meter version.   But the main set consists of 20m through 10m.

I look forward to the Team working 30m and 40m when I can hear them.  At the moment, they are working mostly grey-line so I think that when the sun begins to set across NA I should have a shot to work them at the low bands.

I also gave them some guy-rings to use for guying the antennas.  They were made to slip over the tube but not fall down past the larger OD tube.  There were three chamfered holes on each ring to tie off their paracord/guy line.  Ignore the blood.  I had 20 minutes to make these before Rob had to jump to the airport the day they left.


Here is Rob N7QT and Tom NU7J are getting the 10 meter VDA up.



Delrin makes a great insulator material.  Strong and Lightweight.  Easy to machine and will not be affected by salt-water or corrosion.   




Monday, November 13, 2023

That's just perfect

I got a new plastic watch that has UTC time so that I would stop missing MST/SST.  The Daylight Time switch over threw a wrench into the monkey.

So I got the new watch on and I was emailing someone about an antenna -- and got carried away and realized that I missed the MST for the Noon hour (11 am Pacific).   

It figures.  New plastic watch, miss the contest.



Thursday, November 9, 2023

Sand in my shoes

How wonderful it is to get sand in my shoes putting up vertical antennas on the beach of a salt-water shoreline.




That's where I was lately testing the VDA (Vertical Dipole Array) antennas I made for Rob N7QT just prior to his departure for the Solomon Islands (H44) this week.

The job (the ask) was to help Rob out with fabrication of two VDA that were designed to operate DX-style on a salt-water shoreline at H44.    The VDA concept is ideal for this application -- Low take-off angle, utilize the salt-water nearby to replace the typical ground-plane and use a Director element (or Reflector if needs want).  But most likely, the setup with these VDA on H44 will be Driven element to a Director.

The gain differential is awesome for these VDA.  8-9 dB gain in the direction of choice.  That's amazing.

Making these antennas though was a challenge because the material I needed wasn't readily available in the local Seattle area and it required some hard-core work to just figure out how to get the parts to work.  Had there been time I could have ordered the right sized (wall thickness) to make all of the sections slide as-is into each other (making the job easier and faster).. But I had to do a bit of machine work at the lathe to get the 15 meter VDA to integrate per the design.

The 10 meter VDA utilized some spare aluminum I got from Rob N7QT which luckily had the right wall-thickness to make the telescoping effect much easier to achieve without a lot of machine work.

The insulators between top/lower half of the elements was specifically chosen Delrin (Acetal Round Rod Delrin Homopolymer) -- which is both easy to machine and strong as you wouldn't believe.  Even down to narrow diameters, the Delrin should stand up to the battle against the elements/wind on Solomon Islands.  I made extra parts just in case there is a problem.

These antennas were the first generation version.   We're going to revise things -- improve things and after H44 we will collect data about their operation and use that knowledge to improve the design for the next batch.

In short -- if you need a DX antenna for your operation, you might consider these.   20 meters through 10 meters and there is even a route to making a 6 meter version, but that is still on the drawing board.   VDA's like these have a special application -- near the beach, near salt-water.   Ping me if you want one.

The box was checked:  "Sand in my shoes putting up vertical antennas near salt-water for a DX'p"   Maybe not a full check since we weren't on an island, but a bit closer to that goal now!

Here's the fun we had testing out the VDA's for 15 meters and 10 meters.   Looking forward to working H44 once they arrive and are activated.

(L to R:  Justin "Jay" K5EM, Robert "Rob" N7QT and Jeff W7BRS)



(Photo credit: Justin, K5EM)




Saturday, November 4, 2023

Late Nite Antenna Fabrication

Making a set of VDA (Vertical Dipole Array) antenna.

Due to shortage of materials, I have to adjust the OD of stages in the stack of pieces.

Things happening

It has been a busy few months since I hung up my software-spurs. On deck -- DX'pedition for Lord Howe Island Lord Howe Island (July 202...