Finally here: Autumn Break

Today is the first day of my autumn break (1 week) and the day before CQ WW SSB. I slept almost 3 hours longer than on a working day, I needed it. I’m having mixed feelings about tomorows’s contest. The good thing is that’s it’s a contest and it has been over two and a half months since my last contest – but that wasn’t really a success. I really need to get away from it all. More precise: get away from work and empty the head. So what better than a contest?
The bad thing is that it’s SSB. Not my prefered mode, to say the least! And though I really like SOAB, I decided to go SB20. Here’s why.

  • SSB for 48 hours? No way!
  • SSB on the low bands? No way!
  • Retune my 80m antenna from CW to the SSB subband? No way!
  • Any other SSB-friendly band that supports DX propagation right now? No way! With 15m being very spotty and 10m a total wasteland…

So here’s the deal for today: clean up the shack and operating desk, hook up the headset for phone operation, do some work around the house, crank up the tower, take a shower, (try to) make some QSOs and hopefully won’t be disappointed when the band is (seemingly) dead.

BTW: my 3830 score from 2006 is this weekend’s target. I doubt I’ll pull this off…
More after the weekend, 73 / CU as OQ5M on 20m.


XP disaster (fixed)

Yesterday the shack PC gave a bunch of XP errors. I could not fix it and with the contests coming up, I decided to do a format C and then a clean install. Everything is working OK now in all 3 modes, even the MK2R+ and the USB device router were configured quickly.

20m seemed quite dead this evening (1800z), not too many stations and those who were there sounded pretty weak. Yesterday however 17m was ok (1500z) but then XP acted up… I hope 20m at least will have some propagation in a few days!



I decided to play some radio this weekend and entered the JARTS RTTY contest. A part time very casual entry. I am by no means an RTTY lover but any radio activity beats no activity and I remembered from last year that it was fun. RTTY people use LotW a lot which is good for my RTTY DXCC / WAS. Not that I work towards these but along the way we might get there.
Much to my surprise 15m produced good results to JA and the USA. Maybe the earlier pessimistic solar forecast was wrong? Let’s hope!

The JARTS exchange is the operator’s age. I think the average (RTTY) contester is way over 60 with roughly estimated 150 W QSO, 25 JA and the rest DX+EU for a total of approx. 300 QSO. Youngest age reported was 30, the oldest 89. The 99 numbers are for multi-op but I can’t exclude the occasional 99 year old RTTY operator.

Working this RTTY contest gave me lots of time to think about the upcoming CQ WW SSB. It’ll be SB20 HP. I hope that WX will cooperate and let me crank up the tower and that conditions are reasonable. As I type this it’s 18.30utc and while there are still US stations calling in with fair signals, I don’t know wether the band is already closing or that there is just not too many activity anymore?

That’s all for now. I’m going QRT and process the log. 73!


Say it ain’t so! (by K1TTT)

I’ve been counting down to cycle 24. I want sunspots, I want propagation, I want bands to open up and stay open. I want to be on 10m again!
Then K1TTT posts a message on the CQ Contest reflector with a link to this bad solar news. Say it ain’t so indeed! Two cycles gone to waste? That means I’ll be retired (retarded?) by the next decent cycle…

By coincidence I ended up on the website of the hamfest I visited a few weeks ago and saw myself with ON7WZ and someone handing out flyers. It seems that I sneak in there each year.

Last night K7GK called me on the phone to say that 20m was wide open. We tried a QSO but I immediately knew it would be a mission (almost) impossible with the tower cranked down. East coast would work, West coast with the current solar activity? Nope, phone didn’t work and CW only barely. That brings me back to the topic of this posting…

Other than this, nothing to report. QRU ES QRT


Viva Verticals!

This AM, I worked 5 ZL stations in a row at my sunrise – on 80m! Plus a bunch of VK/ZL on 40m, and a loud ZL7. My verticals really do play. Each vertical has 2 (tuned) elevated radials, and I think it is the simplest and cheapest antenna to work DX.

I spent an enjoyable Saturday in the company of a visiting US ham and let him use my station in the EU Sprint CW. I think he enjoyed it and made the most of my setup. What a great hobby we have!

73 before we jump into the working week…


DX on 17m!

Breaking news! I cranked the tower up this afternoon and around 1800utc there was DX life on 17m, I worked into W6/W7! I don’t think I made it that far on 17m in a long time. 3B7C yes, but W6?
Then I dropped to 20m where I worked some VERY loud W6/W7 again but VA2ZZ pinned the meter on 30dB over S9, with a peak to 40dB over. Currently SFI=69 and A=0. I can’t stop wondering what my setup will do when SFI goes above 100… Can’t wait for 20m to stay open and 10m to carry loud DX signals. And of course nice DX on 12/17m. And SSB single band contesting on 15m! Anyhow that ain’t gonna happen before 2009-2010.
But a little dreaming hasn’t hurt anyone – yet.




Actually, the update is just to say that there isn’t much to say.
I participated in the EU Sprint SSB last weekend, but as always Sprint isn’t my thing. The good thing is that I spent the whole Saturday prior to the contest fixing my 80m vertical’s feedpoint construction. I noticed that the fiber glass portion of the actual antenna has split in the bottom section so I need to redo that too.
I got ready just in time (15.35utc) before the start (16.00utc). My elevated radials are cut to CW length and I didn’t bother adjusting them so it didn’t give an ideal match. Though it seems that 80m worked best, maybe conditions were just plain poor – again!
Friday I cleaned and assembled the Fritzel 3 band vertical and with only 1 elevated radial per band, the antenna analyzer shows a good match right at the feedpoint which will broaden due to the added feedline loss.
Other than that no news from the ham front. Next weekend is EU Sprint CW but I have a (ham) friend coming over so we’ll see what gives. Tune in (but don’t tune on my QRG) after the weekend.

Bad conditions…

I was not very active in this weekend’s CQ WW RTTY. I made just over 100 QSO’s, mainly on 20m. SFI = 65 and A was high, so you can imagine what the bands were like. Probalby S&P would have been much more productive but I like to run.
That got me thinking about CQ WW SSB. I did SB20 in 2005 and 2006 and probably again in 2007. I don’t like SSB and especially on 40m it’s a pain. But 20m with these conditions? It’s been a long time that I had a decent DX run… I hope Cycle 24 will soon be here! I can’t wait for USA runs with high rates and big signals. And bands that actually open up and stay open.

About the hamfest: I didn’t buy anything. Actually I don’t need anything. I checked some rotary inductors for a high power matching network and an AC motor with reduction to crank up the tower electrically. But I guess I don’t have the time for all these projects right now and I didn’t feel like stocking too many items for future use. I sitll need to redo the 80m vertical that I have used for over a year in a temporary construction (hey, it works!) and get that bargain three band vertical up ‘n running.
I met a lot of people though and had a chance to chat with some amateurs.

NW QRU. 73!


Low on shack time

Typical situation: too much work to do and no time left to be on the air. Not quite work but close enough: I’m watching some ASP.NET movies trying to get started. It’s quite fun. I downloaded Microsoft Visual Web Developer Express and it’s actually quite powerfull for those familiar with one of the programming languages like Visual Basic. I am currently converting myself from VB6 to VB2005 for which I also downloaded the free Express Edition.

The Linux – Open Source community likes to bash Microsoft but here’s the deal… Last summer I experimented with the Ubuntu Linux Distro. That works but it’s a pain to get to the point where it starts working. Furthermore my laptop’s WiFi cannot be supported under Ubuntu (if someone knows how: please tell me!) – so there you go. Then I ran Drupal as a Content Management System (CMS). Drupal gets credit for being the best CMS – but again quite a pain to get started. It seems like that Linux – Open Source is like a brotherhood not willing to share easy info for newbees but only publishing tons of very confusing stuff. I think I am above average when it comes to using computers so I figure it’s a Mission Impossible for Average Joe.
But Microsoft products work, or at least easily give the impression to do so. And with the free Express Editions anyone can get started for free, and there is a lot of good starter’s material out there!

This weekend is CQ WW RTTY. I like RTTY but after an hour I have enough of that slow mouse clicking mode. I’ll get on for a couple of QSO’s, and maybe work some in the "Special QSO Party to mark 75th anniversary of Irish Amateur society". And there’s the Texas QSO Party too. Always nice to work some USA hams. And on Sunday there’s Belgiums biggest ham fair. But you know: Big in Belgium…

That’s all for know, 73.



So here it is, my first blog entry. YAB- Yet Another Blog? Should I or shouldn’t I?
Who’ll be reading this? Will anyone read this? Does that matter? Do I care? Do I have to care?

Anyway, this will be mostly about ham radio and contesting and all things related. Like telling I have been chasing 3B7C for two weeks in three modes. Or that I urgently need to work on my antennas. Or that last week I picked up a 3 band vertical (20+15+10m) at a bargain price. Or that I am hopelessly behind in QSL’ing.

That’s all for now, let’s not overdo from the first day shall we? 73!