Interesting dilemma: do we lower standards by easier entry level licenses (like we have done in the past) or do we shut the door and let only rocket scientists in? It’s not that this question popped up when I woke up this morning. Over the past ten days, there were two distinct events that raised this issue.
First off: spring came to a halt a few days ago. It’s cold for the time of the year, we’ve had a few showers and thunderstorms already and the wind has been blowing more than I’d like it to. So no more playing outside, back to the living room and that dreaded laptop of course. I decided it was more than time to pick up the UBA contest log checking again. Given my current state of techno-aversion I was glad to pass the CW log submission deadline and call the log checking burden a day/week/month. It is yet another task with intense computer usage, which as you know I want to limit. So after about six weeks of inactivity I decided to pick up the log checking. The automated part for the SSB contest was done right after the deadline. There remain about 800 QSO to check by hand. Two way contacts logged on different bands: who is right and who is wrong? Cases of true NIL versus busts. Stuff like that. Soon after I started problems arose. Like every year.
There was a log that generated time offset errors for almost all contacts. Strange since the time between both logs was only off by two minutes tops, but most times were in synch. I only flag the contacts when the time is off by fifteen minutes. I checked and rechecked but the times were OK. So this must be a new bug in my old code. Strange that it never showed up before. My stomach ached by the thought of digging through the code to splash the bug. I’m not in the mood yet for a programming job. So once more I compared the contacts in the problematic log to the contacts in the other logs. Huh? The Cabrillo date was set to 2012 in stead of 2013. So my code DID get it right. Of course ;o It did not detect an offset of a few minutes, it detected an offset of one year and a few minutes which is greater than the fifteen minutes threshold. Yet another case of someone mangling his log. I forwarded my findings to contest manager Marc ON7SS and by coincidence he knew what was going on. It was a human error. Not by me of course and not by the operator. It was a ‘third party’ human error in the online log generator tool. Ain’t that right, Marc? ;)
Soon thereafter the same phenomenon occurred with a Portuguese log. This software home brewer distilled a moonshine-like elixir that according to his own comment, made Cabrillo from his MS Excel log sheet. Too bad the date got set to 2012 in stead of 2013. And of course some other irregularities show up all over the place like using the pipe sign ( | ) in stead of slash ( / ) for portable calls. Exotic formatted frequencies. And they want us to believe Cabrillo is a standard!
And this leads to the topic’s question: have we really sunk so low that every clown can become a ham? Now wait before you quote me on this one. It’s a question. Not a statement. Furthermore I have a tendency to use polarized language. Nothing personal. Unless you are a clown.
When I started out in the log checking business a few years ago, I was strict. The Dirty Harry of log checking. Bad log = bad log. Stamp it ‘invalid’ with my .44 Magnum and return to sender. Do you feel lucky, punk? Fix it and try submitting again. And again. And again. Because some hams don’t get a clue. Some don’t even get a full detailed explanation of the problem and how to fix it. Some hams are computer illiterate and can’t handle software. Some don’t understand English well and I am limited in expressing my feelings to Dutch, French, English and Morse’s code. But now I just don’t bother anymore. I save a lot of time and get less frustrated by just grinning, some cursing and then fix the log myself. A few years ago the motto was: “they’ll learn it he hard way”. Now the motto is: “they’ll never learn”. They? Those clowns who can’t generate a simple valid Cabrillo log yet do seem to have obtained a ham radio license.
Maybe you think that the lack of basic computer skills and amateur radio have nothing to do with each other. In a sense that is true. Both disciplines of technology have nothing to do with each other. It’s like the world’s best brain surgeon, a genius in his own league, that isn’t able to bring a liver transplantation to a good end. So just because he can’t do the liver job, it would be unfair to label him a clown and doubt his intelligence, right? But I assume that the brain surgeon as well as the expert liver professor both share a basic knowledge of the human body. Heart beat, blood pressure, injecting something in the body with a needle etc. Overlapping skills. So why can’t we assume that a licensed ham radio operator also knows how to handle a computer (like adjusting your PC clock please), install some contest logging program, log his contacts and submit a Cabrillo log?
In essence it’s not even about skill and knowledge. It’s about an attitude. An attitude of self-criticism. Review your own work. Check before you submit. Heck it’s just like I’m preaching to my students!
How can you come up with a computer generated contest log that has 2012 for all contacts when it’s already the last weekend of January? How can it be anno 2013 that your PC’s clock is off by more than three days? NTP anyone? And best of all (TRUE CASE a few years ago), how do you end up with a log that says ‘Generated by N1MMLogger’ in the header and have contacts logged on February 30th (!!!!!!!!!) in the log? I stumbled across that one since .NET applications like my log checking software actually crash on an illegal date! For the programmers: yes I do know how to catch exceptions. There are MANY cases where respected software is used yet the log is completely messed up. That can only be done BY HUMAN HAND right?
Back to the topic at hand. This may offend some people, but I am only human. Each time I come across such a goofy log and ask myself the “How can you come up with such and such” question from the previous paragraph, the horned sulphur smelling creature looking over my shoulder murmurs something like: “Stupid!”.
Arrogant, politically incorrect and not nice? Perhaps. It just happens that I link a ham radio license to a certain degree of intelligence and I accredit certain skills to ham radio operators. Skills like, to name a few, reading contest rules, following contest sponsor’s directions and guidelines, knowing what year it is today. And thus I ask myself: is the quality (whatever that may be) of ham radio declining? Was it better in the past? Have we really traded quality for quantity like some say? Is it really all too easy to obtain a ham radio license anno 2013? It’s a genuine open question. It’s not a statement.
The first event that recently raised the issue was a conversation two weeks ago with my neighbour ON4KV. Since 2004 Belgium offers the ‘basic license’. It’s a really simple test to pass and it covers the very basics of our hobby. Something about frequencies and power levels. Basic antennas and propagation, ohm’s law, something about safety. Very lightweight. There are dozens of thirteen – fourteen year olds who have successfully taken the test. Including ON4KV’s daughter around that age. So you don’t need advanced mathematics or a complete insight in complex circuitry. This basic license got introduced by the UBA in 2003-2004. I was a member of that task force. The goal was to get people into the hobby. People who got paralyzed by the very hard and unearthly HAREC test. I exaggerate but people often picture it like that. Urban legends by people who never made it. By lowering the threshold, those people would enter the hobby and take the bands by storm, see how much fun it is, and then suddenly find the motivation to persevere to study and pass the full HAREC test. That was the plan. It failed. We were naïve. They passed the test alright. They got on HF by storm alright. They had tons of fun. Some of them had been an SWL for ages and now were happy to actually communicate legally. But they didn’t upgrade to the HAREC license. Not many at least.
You see: the only real restriction the basic license had on HF was a 10W power level limit. Belgium’s creed is that “it ain’t a crime if you don’t get caught” so soon there were rumours of ON3 stations blasting away with ‘a few more watts’ than ten. About a year ago the Belgian telecoms regulator decided to allow more power (50W) since power is hard to check anyway. But in turn they took away parts of the spectrum on the bands. This left the ON3 guys with ‘no go zones’ on HF. In fact they are not allowed in the DX windows anymore for both CW and SSB. That effectively crippled their DX and contest operations. Crippled? Mowed off both legs! Ouch. In my opinion this really should be an incentive for the serious ON3 to upgrade to the HAREC license. And if I recall it was exactly this that ON4KV (an engineer himself) and I were discussing. His point was that not everyone has the intellectual capabilities to pass the HAREC test, I quote: “not everyone graduates from some polytech institute”. I replied jokingly that you could pass the test a dozen times in a row until you finally succeed.
For me it was all too easy to pass the exam. I took the test only one year after I graduated and got a degree in RF electronics. When applying for various jobs over the last year, I had taken some similar technical tests during job interviews too. My technical knowledge was more than adequate. I just had to learn the specific ham radio lingo and study the Belgian rules and regulations (frequencies, power limits, what can be done and what can’t). It took me one profound reading session of the study book and a few cross checking sessions. A round trip to Brussels later, the HAREC license was in the pocket. The funny thing was that I didn’t have real plans to actually become an active amateur radio operator. I just joined a few guys from work because I didn’t want them to look smarter than me when they passed the test. And most co-workers held a license though none were active. I was young and ambitious. But that’s another story.
A century, maybe even up to half a century ago, you needed such a background to become a ham. In fact the hobby got created by technical innovators and engineers who used their technical knowledge to make TX/RX. Going from sparks to vacuum tube to semiconductor, from CW to sideband to FM. The early inventors created it, played with it and then commercialized it to the public. But along the way things changed. We have been caught up by engineering. Current engineers aren’t hams anymore but feed their creations into the hobby (SDR, digital modulation) where it’s happily picked up and adapted for ham radio purposes. Knowing many hams, I quickly did a mental survey. Only a small minority of the hams I know have a background in electronics or similar by education or job. Some have a firm personal interest in technology. But most of them are just in the hobby for the sake of the hobby. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. And if they have a ham radio license, they must know something about radio technology and electronics since they passed the test.
So can any clown become a ham today? Sure. If you can read and write either Dutch or French in Belgium, you can obtain a basic license. But the reverse doesn’t hold true at all: not all (new) hams are clowns. Lucky us! Some are though. Just listen to the pile up for a DXpedition. Or my supposed-to-be-clean-cabrillo-logs, sometimes submitted by long time respected hams. But does a higher level of testing and raising the bar guarantee this won’t happen? No. The ability to study for and pass a multiple choice test is no substitute for common sense. There are some people who will never be able to pass a test yet would be great hams. They are blessed with what we call in Dutch ‘boerenverstand’, farmers’ wisdom. But today they face a brick wall when it comes to passing the test.
So that still leaves us with the original questions. Do we want amateur radio for the masses or do we want to be an elite group? Should the fear of running out of fresh blood command us to drop our pants? Is the level of the exam correlated to the quality of the operator? Was it better in the past and will it be worse in the future?
I just don’t know. But a fool can ask more questions in a day than a wise man can answer in a lifetime.
And now for something completely different yet ham radio related. After skipping two editions it was time to attend this year’s UBA meeting. I’m not really fond of the official part in which the UBA’s kingpins jabber on about statistics, past activities etc. Information we already know most of the time. Either through the official channels or through the grapevine. So that’s the boring part.
The reason I like to go there is mainly to meet and talk to old radio friends. Sure they’re getting old(er), just like me, but it amazes me that so many faces are still around. With ‘around’ I don’t mean alive but active on the air and still passionate about the hobby. And just like when I’m on my yearly pilgrimage to a major ham fest, I felt like a politician attending a public event. Even just outside the parking lot I get greeted, shake hands and exchange ‘long time no sees’ or ‘glad to see you again’. Gee I really know a lot of hams! Isn’t that also a great aspect of this hobby of ours? And since I have absolutely nothing to offer or fix, I assume there is no hidden agenda behind the familiarity. Another reason I attend the event is to collect my yearly dose of contest plaques. There were three this year. Finding space in the shack for these trophies becomes troublesome.
ON4BHQ and XYL kindly offered me a ride. The trip took us about eighty minutes or so. It wasn’t really in the backyard to Belgian size standards but in the extreme northwestern part of Belgium, near the North Sea and close to the PA border. My guess is that this scared a lot of possible attendees coming from the eastern part of the country. It soon becomes a long ride to those same Belgian standards. That might explain the poor turnout. A wet finger headcount accounted for about sixty people – ballpark figure. I seem to remember more than hundred (120?) people attended the event in 2009. By any means it’s a small number for a society with two thousand nine hundred members. Since I don’t go every year I’m guilty there too. Many hams don’t have an interest in going there, so why would you? Fuel is expensive and don’t get me started on the Belgian railways (bad schedules, expensive fares, massive delays). Moreover Belgians are hard to move and chase out of their homes. I plead guilty as charged there too! A few weeks ago I was looking at some photos of an NCCC meeting. It was held on a Monday – a Monday! And yet there were many people present. I always notice that when looking at online photo albums, especially from American clubs. But maybe everything is in balance proportionally to the number of hams?
Upon arrival ON7SS (UBA contest manager) wanted to enroll me in the vote counting office. Since he told me this would take at least an hour and quite possibly longer, I kindly turned him down. Now that I came this far, I wanted to socialize with my peers and not count ballots for the UBA officials’ election. I went to greet my neighbor ON4KV who put up a strand for the BRARC (Belgian Railways Amateur Radio Club). He left on Friday by car. You see, even the railway’s own employees travel by car to arrive on time – or arrive at all
The first activity was a presentation by ON7RU. In little under an hour he showed us many nice pictures and told us all about the recent 9U4U DXpedition. I was glad to be there and support him since I had to skip his T32C presentation a few months ago. My mind soon got floating away: massive pile ups should be fun and being part of this team would be great. I know almost all of them in person and apart from being nice and fun guys, they’re all dedicated and passionate DXers/contesters. Great operators and tons of technical skills seasoned with a lot of experience. But then someone in the crowd raised the question of how much this trip costs and the answer put me back down on Planet Earth. Me who doesn’t like to travel… I got invited in the past (9Q50ON) but changing my own mind to actually pack my bags and join ‘m is useless since my job as a teacher limits my holidays to the official school holidays.
Anyway I digress. In the audience I spotted ON4WW and we had a short chat afterwards.
Then off to the ‘Youth Booth’. UBA Youth manager Tommy ON2TD was eager to explain what he does, how he does it and that he’s quite successful in getting the youth warm for ‘something’ that should eventually lead to the youngsters obtaining a license and a callsign. I applaud him for his efforts but the truth be told: it’s far away from what I do. My niche in ham radio is DX contesting in CW on the HF bands. I know that it’s an ultra thin slice of the spectrum that is ham radio. I know that I neglect a lot of other bands (microwave, Magic Band…) and modes and activities (ARDF, ATV, EME…). But it is what makes me tick. And if I think of recruiting fresh blood, I want to manipulate their genes and make CW contesters out of them. Yes I’m making sure my business will still be booming when I’m retired! But it doesn’t seem to be working because most of the ‘new blood’ sticks to the foundation license and seems to be frantically PSK’ing away. ON2TD made a clear and valid point that youngsters don’t care about bands and modes and devices since they don’t know what exists. He said that during his activities the kids don’t know a PMR from a H/T or VHF from UHF. The key is to make sure they’re having fun with some wireless device and then link the fun they had to the actual hobby. He also has some really good ideas and he obviously knows what he’s talking about. But five days a week already I try to get teenagers between sixteen and nineteen interested in technology. And that isn’t always easy. I don’t think it’s sane to spend my weekends trying to achieve the same with the hobby. That said ON2TD brought up some interesting insights and ideas.
Lunch time approached and OP4K and ON5UM arrived. Both long time DX’ers and contesters always have something to tell about the hobby. OP4K (back then ON4AJZ I believe) is the guy who sold me my very first transceiver. A KWD TR-9130 VHF all mode. It was back in 1999 and I didn’t have a clue (nor an antenna for that matter). Almost fourteen years already? Gosh how time flies!
ON4ALY joined us and he was proud to tell us that since a few days his son holds the title of ‘youngest licensed ham in Belgium’. The callsign should be ON3XG.
After a lunch break it was time for the official part. I saw many people desperately trying to stay awake. A comfy chair (not the comfy chair!) in a warm conference hall right after lunch… resistance is futile. About 5 mΩ. Nerd humor, can’t help it. Some people doze off and I was one of them too. I got rudely awakened by a round of applause after some speech. The meeting closed with the ceremony of handing out contest plaques and cups.
All pictures here are courtesy of Wim ON4BHQ / OQ4B. Congratulations on your election as local club president!
When you’re writing about ham radio but you don’t do ham radio, there’s little to tell. That’s the reason why I haven’t been adding much content lately. Ham radio (DX and contesting) is on the background for a while. Not that I’m through with it, not at all. My interest is still intact. It’s just that after a long winter of being indoors, I am glad to be outdoors. There are some projects to be done but I try to keep the content here strictly hobby and not reveal too much personal info. I have some small antenna ideas in mind (small ideas, big antennas) so I hope to have some fun in the shack and on the antenna farm in a few months when I (hopefully) can enjoy a few weeks of total freedom (meaning: no professional duties).
Another reason why I haven’t been doing much radio is that I have a temporary disgust of all things computer and technology. At least I hope it’s temporary. I just fold the laptop open to order something online. Or check the news for headlines since I don’t come around the TV hardly anymore. Or check the WX forecast to plan outdoor activities. Or follow a few blogs. Or read mails which I subsequently fail to answer quite often.
But no more programming, no more self-educating through online knowledge, no more trying to get a function on the Netduino going. No more browsing through code examples for hours on end or looking through forums for an answer until I’m blue in the face. NO MORE. I’ve had it. My technology pores are completely saturated. Let me try to figure out why.
As a kid I was already interested in science and technology. I wanted to know how things work and why things are the way they are. My dad taught me a lot in the ‘how and why’ department. Not that he had a teaching mission per se, but he had me helping him all the time. Since no job was too hard for him or no problem or construction too complex, I picked up a lot of knowledge and skills just by seeing his golden hands do things. In retrospect I wish he had learned me more things ‘hands on’ instead of watching him do things. But he always raised the issue of precaution and safety when handling dangerous tools. And of course his gigantic strive to perfection which he actually achieved pretty much of the time, which I obviously would not as a kid. I was like the nurse in the operating room and he was the surgeon. When he called for a hammer, I handed the hammer. When he asked for a wrench I gave him the right size wrench. When he asked for a drink, I went to get a drink. So after a few years I was the perfect helper. Carpentry, welding , masonry, electricity, gardening, car maintenance – you name it, I had seen how it could be done and most of the time should be done. Home improvement and DIY to the max.
I also loved those episodes of school TV that explained how things worked or how stuff is made. It’s almost thirty years ago but I still see the image of a falling tree that twenty minutes later ends up as a box of Union Matches. I turned twelve and along came computers. Of course we jumped the bandwagon. My dad, never afraid to try new things, jumped with me but in his late forties and in a completely new environment, the roles traded places. Soon I had to show him how things worked and I was on top of it. I was one of the first kids in my class to turn in assignments printed on paper and saved to disk for future reference while the others were still writing by hand. I gutted the savings pig for the home computer: a Schneider CPC6128. Dad chipped in for the dot matrix printer; the Seikosha SP1000AS. Don’t judge the combo by today’s standards – it was powerful back in the days. Tasword provided the word processing power. Bold and Italics made the matrix needles roar like thunder! ASCII art made for big banners: one letter on an A4 sized sheet.
A few years later, on the eve of Operation Desert Storm, we picked up a real PC. Oh yes I remember the dilemma: watch CNN for those green movies of precision bombings done by the stealth bombers or play with the new Personal Computer. Clocking 12 MHz, with a humongous 1MB of RAM and 45MB of HDD storage. And let’s not forget the trusty green monochrome screen made way for more pixels per inch and a dozen shades of grey on the monitor. The graphics adapter could show sixteen colors but the budget was too tight for an actual color monitor. The new system cost 1500 Euro in 1991. It ran MS-DOS and came with a thick book explaining all DOS commands and a crash course in batch file programming. I was turning sixteen and had a new fat bone to chew. Autoexec.bat and config.sys, copy versus xcopy. Old timers know what I mean. Soon I got hold of a box of 5.25” floppies containing WordPerfect 5.1 and I bought a book that taught me to use WP. During some holiday I crunched a chapter a day. Dad decided the time had come for a new printer. I believe it was the HP DeskJet 510, printing black only, costing almost 700 Euro at the time. Ink cartridges were rationed because very expensive. WordPerfect teamed up with DrawPerfect and once again this kid used new technology to print self made labels for audio cassettes. But I had to study to do this, since intuitive GUI’s were not common yet.
Later on I inherited a more powerful PC that was able to run Windows 3.11. Once again I had to start all over. Windows with its GUI was new. Icons to be clicked with a mouse pointer – how revolutionary. WordPerfect made way for an early version of Word (or was it something else first?). CorelDraw (I believe?) and Excel were the new tools. Halfway the nineties things sped up. Windows NT-95-98-XP. New versions of Word. New software for different tasks altogether. The Internet! Email! ICQ/mIRC. Napster! Ripping CD to MP3. Copying CD’s became available although my first writer cost me almost 400 Euro in 1998-99. I followed each and every step. It was a logical evolution and things in the digital world were moving fast. In the mean time I graduated and got a degree in electronics (majoring in RF). I learned TurboPascal in school and later on some Delphi and VB 6.0 by myself using expensive study books. Along came my ham licenses. All new stuff to learn. New skills to pick up. Not a biggie, since I had been ding so since my childhood.
Bear with me here, all this might lead somewhere )
About ten years ago I made a U-turn in my career. I traded the industry rat race for a job as a teacher. I partially teach AC theory and AC machines and the other half of my task is teaching simple programming, computer networking and basic HTML web design for our IT classes. Transformers and three phase motors have been around for ages. Ohm’s law has been established by now. But I need to keep a close eye on technology on the IT side. I started out with VB6 since I was familiar with that. After that it took me a year of rewriting old course material to get to the same level in VB.Net. Since then it has been VB 2005 / 2008 / 2010 and now 2012. Agreed: not much has changed on the surface level where I’m using the DOT NET platform. But the IDE changes and a new version means looking for new text books on a beginner’s level and in Dutch. So you see: it’s always changing and you’re always running behind. I stuck to XP for the Operating Systems classes. Then Vista got unleashed. Somehow I knew I had to let this train go. A colleague asked why I was still using and teaching XP and not moving to Vista. I told him no sane company would leave a stable and known operating system to jump into the abyss that is a brand new OS with all its related child diseases, bugs and missing hardware drivers. How right I was! That’s one round of studying and changing course books and assignments I could skip. But then came Windows 7 and I had to start over again – again. Believe me: all this takes a tremendous amount of time. Weekends and evenings are dedicated to get up to speed with evolving technology. And during the day time, the show that is teaching must go on. With all its related work (grading papers, tests, exercises, staff meetings etc).
Last summer I stumbled across the Netduino board. This hardware/CPU board was exactly what I was looking for. It promised to deliver what Arduino did (simple and cheap yet powerfull I/O for the masses) BUT in an environment I was familiar with, i.e. the Dot Net platform. So I ordered one, as you may know, and tried to get it working. Once again I was exploring and teaching myself something new. The problem as a teacher, at least the way I see it, is that I’m actually NOT developing a useful and practical project. In stead I’m always looking for a way to solve a problem – a problem encountered by one of my students. So in the end I know how to use all kinds of I/O and communication ports, yet I fail to actually MAKE something THAT DOES SOMETHING for myself. Very frustrating. And after spending a Sunday afternoon or a few evenings to solve a problem, I just don’t want to see that darn CPU board again. The same holds true for programming. If you spend an afternoon checking and grading the students’ projects, you had enough for the day and so you don’t work on your own projects.
Despite having adopted most new technology over the last 25 years, frustration grew over the last year. Everything changes so darn fast. I get the Netduino, install the Microsoft Micro Framework, flash firmware to the board and install an SDK. Then one week later the forum announces a new version of all these items. When you’re finally set to go it turns out they’re releasing a totally new board ‘version 2’with a new microcontroller that packs more RAM and clocks faster. This effectively makes things even more complicated since code samples (and firmware? and framework?) need to be checked for usability on a given version of the hardware. Add to that the frustration that had been building up by a poor support for VB users. Add to that that there is a MASSIVE amount of information and add-on hardware, and it’s even more complex to stay up to date.
Another example to state my case. A few years ago I attended a Microsoft workshop. One of their evangelists came preaching about Silverlight. They were about to release the SDK to the developer community and it would shatter everything else. Bye bye Flash graphics. Soon we would all be spewing out XAML and be using a bunch of new tools. No more Windows Forms. Everything would be Silverlight and run from the browser. Amen! That night I downloaded some of the stuff I had seen in the presentation. It was clear right away that being productive with this shit would demand yet another round of dedicated studying. So I came to the right conclusion to stick with what I knew and work with the tools I mastered. Wise decision because only three or four years later, Microsoft comes to tell us they’re abandoning Silverlight completely in favor of the New Religion that seems to be HTML5/CSS3. I guess the time span between their new flag ship Silverlight’s maiden trip and torpedoing it amidships, is just the time you need to master the technology.
Wanna talk about the web? I subscribe to a bunch of newsletters but lately I just delete them unread. It seems that every day there is some new buzzword emerging. I feel sorry for those guys. Isn’t it impossible to keep up? Azure? The cloud? WPF? AJAX? jQuery? Ruby? Python? Framework this, platform that. As a developer, if you’re constantly invited to try and learn new things, how can you be productive? The app-hype even makes it worse. I consciously refuse to have a smartphone. No apps for me. Texting is as far as I’ll go. But nowadays it seems that if you can’t scan QR codes, you’re stuck in the woods never to get out. You won’t find me on Facebook. I have a few good friends that’ll probably never need defriending and I’ll use my own thumb if I like something. Should I ever feel the urge to poke you, I’ll jab my fingers between your ribs.
Having been a ham since 1999-2000, I have seen a lot of changes there too and adopted many of them. Telnet cluster sessions. LotW, Clublog and the new way of obtaining direct QSL. RBN which I like for signal comparison. Skimmer which I don’t like. A contradiction maybe but I like copying calls by ear. Remote stations over the internet: great for people without their own station but despicable when used to cheat with remote RX. My first kit was a stand alone K1EL keyer chip. Then moving to Winkey RS232 going to Winkey USB embedded as OEM parts in microHAM devices. You see: there’s a pattern. It’s always catching up with progress.
Progress is good, a few exceptions aside. Evolving along is desired and a must in some cases. But sometimes it feels like it’s progress for the sake of progress. And so I found myself boiling over with information and being troubled by the speed of change. Evolving along with technology is an attitude I adopted since my childhood. I have been doing so ever since. But lately I came up to a point where I really want to put all these skills and knowledge to work. That’s why I bought the Netduino board. That’s why last summer I bought a lot of parts (link & link). But the parts have been in the box ever since, and instead of actually building stuff with it.
And so, after a long winter of spending a lot of time behind the laptop, I find myself weary of all things computer and related stuff (programming, log checking, contesting). I questioned myself: what do you actually have to show for all this time spent over the last eight months? Nothing. It was not that the time had been wasted. But there is no tangible nor visible result. Furthermore there are a few negative side effects of sitting on my ass concentrating on some / someone else’s problem or doing school work or processing UBA contest logs. You become tame. Your body gets lazy because you only use your brain. And when “I’m in the zone” I am of no use to wife and kids. Even worse: I get cranky when they get me out of ‘the zone’. And I don’t want to sit on my butt no longer. And I don’t want to be mad at my loved ones when they address me. I tried working when they slept so I could not be distracted but I really do need my sleep so that’s no solution either. I needed a break. Not a short pause, but breaking my habits.
They say that old habits die hard but when the temperatures rose and the snow went (it returned twice but who’s counting), I ran outside. Shaving and trimming the trees. Do some gardening. Cleaning up the garage. I bought myself some new hardware like a mitre saw (tnx SJ2W for the hint) and a heavy duty 230mm disk angle grinder. Made shelves for the garage (hence the saw), lay some additional paving (hence the grinder). Trade 8m² of lawn for a small vegetable garden. Put up fencing to keep the dog out of the veggies. Cut down and removed 8 spruce trees. I had my neighbour cut the trunks for his fire place (outsourcing work!) and disposed four trailers of green leftovers. In a botanical wave I installed a small plastic foil greenhouse for the XYL to grow tomatoes in. She told me last weekend that since Easter I had done a lot of work outside and finished quite a few projects already. This acknowledgement was very welcome. Hell yeah: tangible results, visible outcome. I needed that. Furthermore I really should make solid short term plans to acquire some skills I have been wanting and needing for a long time. Like using a lathe. Or welding steel. These are skills that will make some future ham projects possible too. Skills that haven’t changed much over the last years, so when I mastered them, I will be able to perfection them in stead of starting all over again.
I haven’t turned on the radio since WPX SSB. Now I know why I couldn’t be bothered with WPX. Sitting in front of a computer screen for the better half of a weekend? No thanks. And I think I will stay off the air until WPX CW. I will do some more work outdoors until my body gets sore and keep away from the things that have pushed me into this state of ‘back to basics’. I bet by that time, I’ll be eager to rake up three thousand CW QSO in one weekend.
If only we could settle in our cave before winter, fall asleep and come back out when the suns shines and it’s 20 °C.
Just like most people here, I’ve had it with winter and its associated phenomena. Darkness almost all day round, freezing cold, snow piling up – it’s all part of winter. And as such we can live with it. Say from November to early March. That’s all us North Sea people can take. But this year it has lasted all too long. Imagine Easter being much colder than Christmas. Actually: don’t imagine – it was the case. Imagine massive snowfall in Belgium in the last week of March. It was like that.
The flu/cold I had two weeks ago migrated into a severe cold with pneumonia-like coughing. All day round it seemed my lungs were aching to leave the body. No way I could recover from this without rest and medicines. Normally I have an ‘it’ll blow over’ attitude but this approach had gotten me so ill in the first place. That’s what you get when you let a busy schedule and an over cultivated sense of duty overrule the signals of your body.
Then came WPX SSB. I already made up my mind to do a SB15 effort. But with the cold and the coughing, my motivation was on the low side. Then the sun decided to disturb the propagation. Nevertheless I cranked up the tower on Friday and landed in the seat on Saturday morning. But I just couldn’t do it. Too tired, too ill, too much coughing for a phone contest. Saturday was spent on the couch. National Geographic and Discovery Channel provided the distraction. I tried again on Sunday morning but I just quit with less than 100 QSO in the log. Later on I read on 3830 that it was a fun contest and propagation wasn’t that bad but from my side the higher bands just sounded bad. Few DX and weak signals. I’ll have my turn in the CW part in two months. By then I hope to discover a green freshly mowed lawn under the permafrost.
Last week we went to the shore in South-West Holland. It’s abroad yet only 150 km away. And the Dutch sea shore is free of ugly concrete boxes piling up tourists fifteen floors high. I prefer nature over commercial concrete. The XYL booked this trip and some activities in July 2012. I said: “Let’s go early April, the weather will be much better than early February”. And so we found ourselves on the North Sea shore with negative temperatures and a 5-6 Bft wind. We needed to count fingers and toes at regular intervals. All of this didn’t really help the coughing either.
But by now it seems the cold is slowly moving and we’re getting temperatures around 10 °C (positive!). Of course with the wind coming from S-SW, we can’t keep it dry. I enjoyed two sunny days outside working in the garden. It wasn’t really warm, but it wasn’t cold and there was sun! Boy that felt good. Too bad the rain keeps me from completing the project and starting another one. The to do list is long and keeps growing. I think there won’t be much ham radio in the near future. But since the topic here is amateur radio after all, I should at least add a few radio related items.
As usual after a major DX contest (ARRL both modes), the QSL direct comes in. I tried not to let it linger and reply ASAP. I also ordered a few direct QSL cards for myself. Yeah I know I said I’ve had it with QSL cards but no more sending my own card, explain the local post office teller what an IRC is and that I’m not pulling his leg, no more writing envelopes. In the twenty first century I use ClubLog (READ) and PayPal to order a direct QSL. I ordered and received 7O6T and 6O0CW (2012) and I’m still waiting for 5X8C, 9U4U and only yesterday I ordered my TX5K QSL. And I chip in a few extra Euros as support. I don’t need to buy an IRC and don’t need to put a stamp on my outgoing request so why not?
I was also surprised to find this in the mail:
Thank you RRTC organizers. For the enjoyable event and for the nice little banner.
Last but not least, another episode in the ‘me and my big mouth’ series. There is a Dutch saying, and I translate: “You shouldn’t sell the bear’s skin before you actually shot the bear”. It seems I did sell before shooting since the latest WRTC 2014 qualification update moves me from #4 to #7. So all my considerations about going to WRTC 2014 or not seem absolutely premature. I won’t be losing any sleep over this since not being able to qualify settles the matter right away.
And since the title is about hibernating and while we’re talking bears, I just came across this:
Bears have an impressive hibernation physiology. They are able to recycle their proteins and urine, allowing them to stop urinating for months.
Now THIS is the ultimate solution for those long contests!
Over the past months there have been a few attempts to break through my inner force field. I managed to keep all bacteria and viruses out most of the time or at least limit their effect but I never took the time to recover from these attempts of ‘breaking and entering’. So about ten days ago, I had to give in. I fell ill. And I didn’t care to fight back this time. I just let myself crash and burn. I’m not about to expose my entire medical record but believe me it was a bad case of flu. I was very tired and I still am actually.
It’s been a very long and cold winter. We’re not really used to that anymore around here. I’ve lost track of how many times the country was covered in a thick layer of snow this season. Snow falls and is gone after a few days. Sometimes even after one day. My three year old kid has seen more snow already than I have over the decade before he was born. Even last Sunday I woke up to see a layer of snow covering the landscape. Oh no, not again – it’s almost Easter! Yet it remains very cold. It freezes at night and we haven’t seen nor felt much sunlight. It was on the TV news and our doctor confirmed: many people start feeling the effect of being deprived of sunlight. Count me in!
It’s not only on the WX front that the sun lets us down. What’s up with propagation? While thinking of WPX SSB and what to do, I noticed earlier this week that SFI dipped deep below 100 again with high A/K values. Oh come on Sun. Develop spots for RF propagation and let your warm light shine down on us!
With still being very tired and not really boiling with energy and motivation, I decided not to do an all band entry this time. Fifteen meters can be fun in SSB but only when propagation is good. But it doesn’t seem to be. Now what? Do an SOAB just for fun? But I took down the second set of elevated radials for another round of trimming trees. That leaves me without 80. I don’t care about 160 in WPX so that’s not a problem. I guess I’ll just crank up the tower and see what happens on the highest four bands (40 > 10). Oh wait – ten meters? *chuckle*
It won’t be a full time competitive effort, especially not given the mood I’m in and the mode the contest is run in. It’ll be another round of strolling the bands and trying to have some runs. If you hear me, give me a shout!
I haven’t been taking a rain check for a major CW contest in a very long time. But for this one, I did.
Friday afternoon, I was putting the elevated radials back up again after I took ‘m down for tree / hedge cutting the week before. I was ploughing through the remains of a nasty layer of snow, leftovers from a sudden but fierce snowfest earlier last week. The wind was blowing in my face when I headed for the tower to winch it up. I just didn’t want to do it. I’ve done it too many times with the wind blowing and all ropes just get tangled up into a nylon spaghetti. Furthermore the wind plays with one of the ropes controlling a safety flap sixteen meters up and then I can’t lower the flap because the swinging rope is heavy enough to retrieve the flap, which in turn means I can’t secure the tower unless a brief and well timed lull in the wind force allows for the rope to relax and the flap to fall down. And then I would have to get 80/160 up, which in turn is a struggle again when the gales take the copper wire everywhere except where I want it. I knew that on Saturday, the wind would even blow harder, so delaying it was of no use.
But I just couldn’t get myself hyped. The thought of spending yet another twenty four hours in the shack was not appealing. I was already tired from work at work, work at home for work, and work at home for home. And not to forget a busy few days with two rascals demanding my attention. Tired already, I would have to struggle my way through the contest only to be a wreck afterwards. And start yet another workweek as a zombie.
Add to that the announcement I picked up somewhere that during the weekend the propagation could be disturbed, and I decided not to participate.
Which is, believe me, a strange feeling for me. Not that the contest can’t go on without me, but… I can’t describe it. It almost feels like betraying myself or what I stand for. A self declared die hard contester skipping a major contest? Maybe it would be like the pope staying in bed on Easter Sunday for a change? “No urbi et orbi this year guys. I had a rough week at the office and it’s cold out there on the balcony. I’ll take a rain check. CU next year folks!”
But I shouldn’t worry. And neither should you I have been going through this phase before. A brief period where I have had it with the operational side of contesting but not with ham radio. Being fed up with the hobby? Couldn’t even if I wanted to. Yesterday I was in the workshop drilling holes in aluminium for a hardware project. And I’ve been thinking to try a new WARC antenna that can stay up when the tower is down. That way I can still work DX for fun without having to crank the tower up. But no contest for me this weekend…
Finally a week without a contest HI.
So last week I started working in the garden. The annual job Sisyphus labor of shaving the spruce trees. And I have a lot of those. A three meter high hedge running along half the circumference of the garden for about eighty meters or more. The other half of our lot does have a simple wire fence, no need to trim that. The spruce need to be cut both inside (garden) and outside (street) and of course the tops have to be cut short and leveled. The green waste has to be loaded on my trailer and hauled to the town’s recycling park. No wonder I delayed this chore for a few months this time. But waiting even longer means only more and harder work up to the point where a chainsaw gets involved.
To do this job I need to remove the elevated radials for the 80/160 antenna that I run on top of the hedge. Doing this is pretty convenient since the radials are out of reach for man and animal and no additional supports are needed. But as the trees grow, the wires tend to get tangled up pretty hard.
And this is how I spent three half days last week. Under a blue sky. And kept warm by sun rays. Wearing a T-shirt. It was real spring weather up to 18°C or more. Until Saturday, when the temperature dropped. By Sunday it was plain cold again. And when I woke up, there was snow on the lawn. From almost 20°C last week to -2°C this morning. And there is more snow coming. What’s it gonna be Mother Nature?
My 5B4AGN filter set arrived last week. I didn’t bother to open it up since I saw pictures of the inside on Bob’s website. The box is bigger than anticipated. It has a high quality black finish and cables come with plugs already soldered on one end. Two cables were supplied: for 12V power and in my case 4 bit BCD band info following the ‘Top Ten Devices standard’ established a long time ago. I only needed to terminate the supplied cable with a DB25 male connector. I use the ACC slot of my microHAM MK2R+ SO2R controller. This output has a lot of user configurable pins. The band data output on the K3 is already taken and fed into the MK2R. For the Dunestar filter set on the other radio, I bought a microHAM accessory dongle that goes between their band decoder‘s output and the antenna relay switch. Since they discontinued this device and the decoder altogether, I had to find an alternative. The Dunestar needs a source or sink current per band to drive the relays. The 5B4AGN box has this option too as well as an on board band decoder accepting TTL levels. Which is just what I could get out of the SO2R controller. It worked.
A nice unexpected touch is that the four arrows turn red when the pin has a high TTL level. For those who need more info, you can find a table explaining it on the N1MMLogger site and in the W9XT decoder’s manual. The only downside from this scenario I discovered is that when the PC is off, the MK2R+ does not seem to pass band info on the ACC connector. Not a biggie since I can’t remember making a contact with the computer off and even then: as long as I don’t do SO2R the filter set might just as well be in bypass mode.
Since manual control is a paid option on the Dunstar that I didn’t buy, I never bothered to switch manually but the 5B4AGN filter set has a manual band selection switch on board too. For the first time I could hear the effect of a band pass filter. If you select a band on the filter that does not match the RX, you hear nothing. Nada. Great!
I also played some more with the Netduino board. I needed to come up with code to write to / read from the micro SD cards since one of my students had a hard time doing this. Can’t blame him. This seemed easy but in the end it turned out you cannot simply port normal .NET code to the .NET Micro Framework / Netduino environment. Once again I found that problems and anomalies are reported widely on the net and appropriate forums but useful hints and off the shelf solutions are scarce. Detailed documentation for RTFM and self-teaching is also hard to come by.
Last but not least: there is a new version of CW Freak. I like this program a lot but it never worked on my Vista laptop. Yes I have been and still run Vista on my 2008 laptop. The machine is still very much ok except for the battery but I’ve had it with Vista. I’m planning on moving to Win7 soon. Anyway CW Freak .NET now runs under Vista and I’ve been having fun again. I only play ‘competition mode’ since I’m not planning on going QRQ.
Right now I can copy flawlessly up to 42-44WPM. When it goes faster, I sometimes err which I’m told is human. My biggest problem is that I’m so used to ‘type ahead’ in CW contesting (copy and type prefix, send prefix, complete typing suffix while PC is sending prefix until it catches up – this way there is no silence between callers and my reply). So when CW freak fires a callsign I go Pavlovian and hit enter after the prefix – but CW Freak of course counts this as a busted call since the call’s suffix is missing. Anyway copying 100% first time at 48 WPM is already too much for everyday contesting. Even 32WPM which I consider slow is already too fast for many people. But having some leeway is nice especially in WAE CW when someone bombards you with QTC at 38 WPM.
I really should wear cans when playing my daily routine – the CW with varying pitch drives the dog NUTS. I let my four legged pal in because it was freezing, snowing heavily and blowing 5 Bft. He doesn’t mind that and the dog prefers freezing cold over tropic heat but it makes ME feel better knowing he’s on his blanket next to the pellet stove. Yes it’s winter again in Belgium. And how!
Last week I sent a mail and ON6CC confirmed my QSO data matched with the busted call in the log. It’s the first time I had to file such a request. Apart from the ‘not in log’ for XR0X 2002. Yes that one will continu to haunt me and I have to bring it up again (quote from here):
I have no experiences with NIL for DXpeditions, except for XR0X in 2002 where two locals heard me work them (we were on the local VHF talking away) but I wasn’t in the online log. QSL manager N7CQQ never wanted to let me know if it was a busted call or not. “Just send your QSL card and we’ll see” he replied to my email. Yeah right, me sending greenstamps to receive my own card back kissed by his ‘Not In Log’ stamp! Or does it take Dollars to get him to check the log for a busted call? I don’t know how a QSL manager works and at what rates.
But not this time. Glad to see they updated the file on Clublog (one out of sixteen QSO with Belgium on 160).
And they have their stuff already taken care of on LotW too!
This makes for the following DXCC score as of today:
There still is some work to be done on Top Band. I guess with some dedication and spending more time there effectively chasing DX, another twenty three entities extra aren’t that hard to work. And I keep six for when I’m retired. If I ever get there ;)
After two serious full time CW contests (ARRL DX CW and UBA DX CW), this was the third weekend in a row with a major contest scheduled. I’ve never done this one seriously, except for a few hundred QSO mostly SB efforts. The reason is simple: after two weekends I’m really tired and the work piles up. And for a CW contest I’d say ‘so what?’ but SSB…
Anyway the plan was to do SOAB seriously this year. But I quickly changed my mind to SB15 after the two previous weekends and the fall out of getting no sleep and ignoring urgent jobs. But when seeing the SFI/A/K values, I changed my mind back again to: ‘just mess around and have some fun’. It would be without 80/160 since I already took these down. I didn’t want to play radio at night. I wanted to sleep when normal people sleep. So knowing myself, I just took the wires down.
I worked some W/VE on 40 around Saturday’s sunrise, just to give my points to The Deserving, along with aiming my RF at TX5K. A day and night contrast with the CW part. Not many signals around and running in this mess on 7 MHz is impossible for me on phone. After lunch and some relaxing, I started what was still planned a SB15 effort. Pretty late, around 1300 utc. I was not in a combative mood. The signals were so-so and rate was absent. I thought it would pick up but it didn’t. There were spots on ten meters but the signals there were so weak I realized running there for fun would be useless so I’d focus on 15. But things were so sloooow I cracked and tried a run on twenty meters. It’s safe to say that if you don’t get spotted on the cluster, the rate is very low. A packet spot makes for a few hot minutes, and the rate can peak for a quarter of an hour, but then it slides back to low numbers when you’re a simple ON.
Since I was doing a casual effort I had time to halt and think/listen things over. I observed the following: two fresh spots in the bandmap for station A and station B, plenty far apart. Both are American calls spotted by EU. The whole continent lands on the spots, and it slows the rate down. In between A and B there is station C, again plenty of space between and in the clear. C too is another casual K from an easy state, nothing rare. C is unspotted and calls CQ. He gets called by some Europeans but in between contacts he launches a few unanswered CQ’s. For a few minutes I jumped back and forth A-C-B-C-A-C-B to see how their situation evolves. A and B get a lot of callers for a few minutes on end, C far less. My conclusion: people really jump from spot to spot in the bandmap and don’t spin the dial and listen what treasures might be hidden in between.
I have operated assisted most of the time since 2001. I don’t jump from spot to spot, except when using the second radio. And even then I turn the VFO knob most of the time. I know that fresh spots are to be avoided during the first minutes. Especially for juicy doubles in CQ WW. I have used the DX cluster as an assistant, telling me what’s up on other bands etc. I have never let the cluster lead me or command my operating strategy. Heck, if you’d see my CQ WW logs with 3000-4000 QSO as assisted and monitor the exact frequencies, you’d think I don’t even use the spots since I run most of the time and sweep the band from bottom to top when S&P. But now there seems to be a number of operators who don’t use the cluster as an assistant but rather as a guide. Not only is this thesis supported by the example I observed but also by my own experience when running. No spot makes for low rates, a spot makes the rate explode. Sometimes the spot effect wears out pretty fast, sometimes you get a new spot before the effect fades. And don’t get me started on busted calls, even on phone!
This is all just a personal observation, of course the Devine Assisted Bashers over at CQ-Contest would more than happy reiterate their views on us lesser god contesters who don’t have to do anything (which is good because they think we actually can’t do anything) because the cluster spots fill our logs with 150 DXCC and 40 zones on each band, just with a click of the mouse. While they move heaven and earth with blood sweat and tears to find a multiplier. I think they forget that these spot-hoppers make the difference between 80/hr and 150/hr rates when the boys are playing with just their radio. And it’s not the cluster that’s the problem, it’s how the cluster is used. Sartre already told us that “L’enfer, c’est les autres”. If he had been a ham, he surely would have come up with that line after hearing some of the East-EU modulation techniques used for SSB contesting.
Back to the contest at hand. I stuck to fifteen meters and went to twenty again on Saturday late afternoon but really, it wasn’t fun since I couldn’t get a run going. To quote W4PA in one of his postings when he was still reporting online: “I’m a rate hog”. The bands closed early for me and I called it a day.
Sunday morning I repeated the 40m routine, but there wasn’t much to work. Rather: there wasn’t much to hear except for the W/VE stations that can top the EU QRM-splatter level. I tried to run again but as much as I can pull that off in CW, it just doesn’t work in SSB. In the afternoon I decided to stick on 15 again because a brief excursion to ten meters didn’t produce anything decent. But later on Ten opened up pretty good as far as Texas and Arizona and I had a ball. I repeated that on 15 meters and late in the afternoon, with only 60-70 contacts on twenty, I decided it was time for my Fifteen Minutes of Fame, and even longer if I could do anything about it. After the rate fest on Ten Meters I officially had given up SB15 so it was time to present myself on a plate as Fresh Meat. Sure enough, the rate on twenty picked up and I was able to keep it high thanks to… *drum roll* packet cluster spots! I decided I had enough though. A competitive score it wasn’t, but there had been some fun in a few fast hours. I can’t remember the last contest I did part time, casual, not competitive and ‘only in it for the fun’. It seemed just like in the early days where I was not trying to be competitive nor serious.
I had a ball hearing the QRO-deprived EU’s give their power. Like Big Italian Multis giving ‘500’. *ON5ZO chuckles* Insertion loss between amp and exchange is about 10dB? Same with Balkan stations. That reminds me of a series of pictures I saw on an Italian multi op website after last year’s CQ WW. I forgot the call, honestly – but there were a dozen pictures of the complete shack: rigs, interfaces, rotator control, antenna switching, the lot. But there was not a single amplifier to be spotted. It seemed to me that the photographer took extreme care in keeping those devices out of the frame. Yes I know, I have too much fantasy and a lack of trust.
ON5ZO’s Seal of Approval goes to DK6XZ who suddenly started CQing darn close to me but boiling over with ham spirit he kindly agreed to move when I politely told him he was jamming me as he just popped up. No harsh words, no hassle, just an ‘OK’ and off he went. Thanks OM!
An all time new one on the air. A pretty rare one too. I’d like to work it but I don’t like spending much time in unruly pile ups. My time is too valuable to get frustrated on what should be fun and relaxing. So I closed a deal with myself: no SSB since I only work towards CW DXCC and not too much chasing band slots. One or two contacts will do. I’ve been spending too much time in the shack already over the last two weeks and a half and I need to get some work done!
I had tried to work them on 30m during a lull in the ARRL DX SSB contest. They were loud even way past our sunrise. The operator showed INCREDIBLE skills. He ID’d almost after every QSO, working only EU at a fast pace. Really: the rate was incredible and he picked full callsigns out of the mud most of the time. Only seldom he had to come back with a partial call. I don’t know who he is, but RESPECT for this guy’s skills. At one moment I figured they were feeding the mega-pile up into a local skimmer so the calls were on display for the operator to pick. I hope my daring and of course utterly imaginary suspicion triggered by envy of this operator’s skills is false. Boy this guy knows how to work a CW pile up! I’m not easily impressed but this guy… WOW!
But the QSO was a no go for me. My self imposed time limit was over. A spot appeared for 40 CW and I managed to work an all time new one pretty soon after the QSY. The op here was very good too. And the signals were very loud for being 10k kilometres away. I guess having the antennas near salt water and a path that goes over sea mostly is the key to success. When the DX is in Central Africa on the equator, things tend to sound differently here.
So now we’re Monday morning. I’m having a day off from work and my plan was to lower the tower and start working in the garden. It’s cold (-2°C) but sunny and a blue sky. Lowering the tower is a must to keep me focused on all the work I have to do and keep out of the shack. But then there’s TX5K… After bringing the kiddos to school and day-care, I fired up ye olde amp and PC. Wow, 07.30 utc and they’re LOUD again on 30. A snappy operator, and most of all what I was counting on seemed to be the case: much less IDOTS (sic) on frequency. It’s a deliberate typo, since on Saturday and Sunday there was a self-appointed DX cop sending ‘IDOT’ over the DX when some other screwball was QRM’ing the DX. Anyway: with less of these clowns QRV (maybe they do have day jobs?), things should be easier and maybe less frustrating for yours truly. I couldn’t get through today either so I went to listen on 20 CW. Again: loud! A few calls was all it took for QSO #2. Almost no fun (almost!). So back to thirty meters since it was a case of now or never. I’m really reeling the wires in and crank the tower down this morning.
I knew it was a matter of time: the signals were loud, they were focusing on EU, the pile up was not that big, the operator stepped on the gas so everything was favouring me. They could of course always leave 30 and QSY elsewhere. But after I guess about fifteen minutes, I managed to work QSO #3. That makes 40-30-20 CW. That’ll do. I can now lower the tower and not wonder too much about Clipperton.
Great expedition, great signals, great operators, great hobby of ours!