ON5ZO – OQ5M

As of today my website runs on HTTPS. You should see the closed padlock icon in the address bar.

This won’t make much difference to you except that HTTPS is supposed to deliver the content faster than plain old HTTP. And google supposedly ranks secure pages higher. Yay!

Thanks to my hosting provider and the Let’s Encrypt certificate authority and a WordPress plugin (Really Simple SSL), the transition took just a few mouse clicks.

I never felt more secure…   ☺

 

With the absence of real achievements to brag about, this will have to do.

By now I know I am pretty accurate when it comes to logging, but it’s cool to find my callsign listed in two ARRL documents: the Accuracy Index Tables for the 2018 edition of the ARRL DX CW (link) and SSB (link) contests.

I find accuracy important because I count it among the essentials skills a complete contester should have. Even my six year old could log contacts if I showed him how. But for now what he’ll type won’t make much sense. Clean logs and log checking reports that won’t turn my cheeks red – how do I do that? It’s actually pretty simple if you follow a few rules.

  • KNOW CW! Yes, learn how to copy CW so that you don’t put any nonsense in the log.
  • A contest is not a casino. Don’t gamble. Ask for repeats until you’re sure. Only confirm and log the contact when the copied info makes sense.
  • About making sense: THINK! After ten years of log checking for both UBA DX contests, I have seen people logging the most crazy impossible BS. Callsigns like ‘portable five’ are logged as /P5. Yeah right. Or logging a call from a country 12000 km away on 80m at high noon. Or serial exchange #358 when only ten minutes into the contest.  Stuff like that. You don’t write this in your log if you think about it when you log the contact.
  • And finally: at least try to be accurate if you want to. If you just want to write down some characters because you don’t care: feel free.

After the OP0HQ operation for this year’s IARU the following issue came up. It’s also a problem in other contests. What to do with guys and gals who mix up WAZ and IARU zones or send a serial number? Of course you can try to talk the station into giving the exact exchange. But this isn’t always successful. It almost never is! Especially on CW. KNOW CW – remember?

Contesting’s number one rule: ‘log what is sent’. In most of these cases I simply break this rule and log what is supposed to be logged and not what is being sent. Luckily this situation only occurs a handful of times in a contest – if that. So why do I break the unwritten rule? A bit of gambling after all.

Someone who messes up the zones or doesn’t know what the proper exchange is, is highly unlikely to submit a log. So a cross check of ‘log what is sent’ is impossible. I have no idea what the log checking software does in such a case, but I reckon that the contact will be flagged as bad. So I just avoid that a genuine contact gets removed or worse: penalized because of the other party’s stupidity.

Suppose along the way or after the contest he or she finally gets it and alters the contacts in his log before submitting the Cabrillo file. Suppose he sent 5NN 003 and not 5NN 08. I have 003 in my log. Which is what he sent during the contact. But by the time his log ends up on the contest sponsor’s log checking platform, his log shows 08. What will happen with my QSO? Right: it’s flagged with a bad exchange. I lose a contact because he goofed up. Suppose one of my peers takes a look at my log checking report. I bet he won’t think much of my accuracy skills…

Not much to say about this most enjoyable contest.

I had a great time operating this one, as always. Fun factor? ✔

I used the ‘Post score to distribution server’ function in N1MMLogger+ to get the score cross-posted to the two online scoreboards. Enhanced contesting experience? ✔

Yes it was warm in the shack with our tropical summer 2018 but it has been worse and it was bearable. I had a fan running at max RPM. Operator coolness? ✔

More than 1200 QSO in 12 hours! Average rate +100 over the whole contest? ✔

Rate graph made by N1MMLogger+

I had fun competing with the others via the real time live score. That really helps me to stay focused and in the chair. It seems that the Russian platform is still more popular than the North American equivalent.

I still don’t have the tactics nailed for this contest. I think I did the most S&P ever which might explain that I have more mults than usual. I didn’t do SO2R because of the band switch limitation (which is cool because it adds a twist). But I must think it over as that might be the only way to improve.

The biggest surprise came five minutes ago while trying to put this year’s score in perspective. It seems my claimed 1330 Q / 330 mult / 438900 points is my best score in this contest. During the contest I had no idea about that. There you go. Personal record? ✔

Overview of my scores in EUHFC

Here’s an update to my Big Antenna Question from two and a half years ago.

In short: nothing has changed. TLDR people can quit.

  • I still use the OB11-3 for 10+15+20, on the tower since Spring 2007, never a problem.
  • I still use the Optibeam 40m rotary dipole, on the tower since Spring  2011, never a problem.
  • I still am very happy with how these two antennas perform given their dimensions.
  • I still use homebrewed temporary wire antennas for WARC (triband inverted V, sloping dipoles, ground planes with elevated radials, delta loop).

However, there are some things that did change. First of all: there is no budget for fancy expensive toys (anymore / for now). Instead I now cook dinners in a contemporary kitchen with slick design and modern appliances. And I take a shower in a luxurious twenty-first century bathroom. And the living room is about to get a giant makeover too. Choices, choices…

The Big Antenna Question is still valid though. I can tell you that not a single day goes by that I don’t look at my tower and ask myself that very same question again: what should I so? One antenna covering everything with gain from 7 MHz to 50 MHz would be so nice to have.

After the initial post of December 2015, I had been soliciting some comments about SteppIR and UltraBeam. It’s pretty clear that people confirm my concerns. A few quotes from what people told or e-mailed me:

About some UltraBeam model:

On 30 and 40m It has not any F/B at all, it’s like a dipole at the moment… [snip]… modify the DR and RF dimensions so I can get some GAIN and F/B, low SWR all bands.

And:

It is strong but very heavy and difficult to put in the tower, quite bad manual to install it.

And:

If I had to do it again I would not get it, just a 3El and a dipole for 30-40m.

One person said:

I know at least fifteen Belgian hams using SteppIR antennas and all of them had a problem, from coiled up and jammed conductive ribbons to electronics failure in the control box.

Another UltraBeam owner was happy with his antenna, although he called it too big and reported a lack of communication from the Italian factory.

I must admit I’m not too keen on doing business with Italian companies simply because I have heard more of these stories, not only for ham radio products. There has been a major change in the UltraBeam camp though. The German WiMo has taken over the brand in December 2017. They offer most of the products and took over the production process which they moved to Germany too. I much rather deal with a German company. It’s within driving distance, I speak some German and I’ve been a long time happy customer for WiMo. So that eliminates the communication and cultural issue.

Another thing that has changed: since two years or so OptiBeam also makes log-periodic yagis. Their model OBLY14-5 could suit my needs if I decided to abandon gain on 40+30m. And it has no 6m either. OTOH there is no real advantage over the OB11-5 then. Except that I think it has less visual impact. But then again not enough difference to matter.

The other OptiBeam antennas that have 5 or 6 band coverage are either too big and heavy or only have two elements per band which would be a step back. And that is out of the question.

So today I still am where I got stuck three years ago. I still have a strong desire for one antenna that covers 40+30+20+17+15+12+10+6 with proper gain. But I still prefer a (modest sized) static aluminum antenna over a dynamic plastic one with tons of moving parts. And these two criteria can’t be reconciled.

Since everything is performing great and my wire antennas work for the occasional WARC QSO (mostly 30m for now), I won’t be making any change soon. That OB11-3 is really a great antenna for being such a simple small tribander. I think that’ll be hard to beat.

Maybe upgrading to OB11-5 and 40+30m dipole from OptiBeam would be the best thing to do: cheapest and most foolproof with spare parts available in any serious local hardware store.

Anyway: I probably won’t. Or maybe I will?

I’ve been an ARRL member since 2002. I became a member as a newbie under impulse of one of my local club’s members. I was young and still had a lot to learn… Wouldn’t happen today. He argued that ARRL members enjoy a discount when applying for DXCC or an upgrade sticker. That’s what I did but soon after I lost interest in the DXCC award program and especially the money machine driving the endorsement sticker factory.

I did enjoy reading QST though. Even if half of it is either an ad or VHF/emcomm stuff that I mostly don’t even read. However for two or three years now, I don’t find that many interesting material in QST anymore. This spring I ploughed my way through almost a year of unopened QST wraps. Much to my surprise, I worked down that stack quite fast.

I am not bashing the ARRL because they can’t do that much for me as a non-US ham. I’m not putting down the editors of QST because they really do a fine job. It’s me: what’s in it is either old news or cannot raise my interest.

I don’t even keep the magazines. Once a year I offer all my QST magazines to a ham friend two towns away. He reads them and I think he then offers them to his club’s library.

A one year membership with 12 editions of QST costs $ 76 or € 65. It’s not that I can buy a new rig or amp with that so it is not a burden on the budget. But a while ago I adopted a new rule (not just in the hobby, in all aspects of life): I don’t spend money on something I have no use for. And I have no use for an ARRL membership and I will not miss QST.

The only thing I will miss is the online archive with the product reviews. But then again it’s not that I use that often (less than once a year) and in case of emergency I’m sure one of my US friends will be happy to forward a PDF.

The digital online QST is not my thing either. I’m not on the digital train yet (no smartphone, no tablet, no e-reader). I prefer tangible stuff. On the other hand there are so many online resources I consult that don’t even have a paper equivalent. This needs some reflecting.

I considered taking a subscription to NCJ. That would be a compromise: half the price (but also half the number of issues), and maybe that pure contest-related content might be more a match to my interest? And what with online (PDF?) issues of CQ Amateur Radio Magazine?

I think I will let my ARRL membership expire.