Scanning the bands one slice at a time

That’s what running any FlexRadio feels like when you’ve got your CW filters running around 50 or 25 Hz.

First of all software defined filters don’t ring. Honest.

They’re really really narrow and if you don’t get the signal right in the filter’s bandwidth forget-about-it! They’re that narrow.

And with the Flex knob that locks itself onto the SDR window (unlike a mouse that works in the window it’s hovering over) and the 25Hz filters tuning across the band during a CW contest, it’s like doing your own MRI scan of the band one slice at a time. Individual signals pop in and out of the filter’s bandpass. Impressive!

During last weekend’s CQ 160 meter CW contest where everybody who is anybody in the Ham Radio contesting world crams themselves into 100 KHz or so of the band and runs as much power as they can into huge antennas, the Flex 1500 performed like a super contesting rig.

Even with Harry, VA3EC, running 360 meters north of me banging away like crazy and John, VE3EJ, whose world-class contesting station is high above me on the Niagara Escarpment, running so hard that my noise floor lifts and falls with his signal, the FlexRadio worked perfectly.

Already getting ready for the ARRL CW contest Fe. 18-19.


No More QSL Cards

One of the more treasured aspects of Amateur Radio just bit the dust today with the announcement that the ARRL and CQ Communications have signed an agreement to support CQ-sponsored operating awards on Logbook of the World.

LoTW was created in 2003 and despite some criticism from hams who found its registration requirements ponderous, the electronic logging program has been growing in popularity with contesters and DXpeditions (who, depending on Internet connections, can upload logs in real time).

LoTW also provides a built-in QSL confirmation service that compares uploaded logs and confirms contacts. From this database the ARRL has been automatically creating notifications of awards that it offers amateurs such as DXCC and others.

With the new announcement contesters can now upload their contest files from CQ sponsored contests and be eligible for CQ-sponsored awards.

When you consider the cost of QSL cards and the problems associated with some country’s volunteer QSL bureaus, this spells the end to paper QSL cards.

First it was my spark transmitter, then AM mode and now QSL cards. What’s next?

CCO Winter Luncheon

Contest Club Ontario is a world-class contest club and with that comes world-class operators and world-class executives.

This year’s executive group lead by vp Dave Dudley, VE3OI, put on a great show with a delicious lunch at an airport hotel followed by three excellent presentations.

Here’s president John Sluymer, VE3EJ, giving us a slideshow on his trip to the South Orkey Islands 2011 DXpeditition.

One of the highlights of John’s talk wasn’t the seals who were everywhere, it was the fact that the islands are just about as far away from everybody else as you can get in the world. It’s a five-day crossing by chartered ship!

The DXpedition was awarded DXpedition of the year at the Dayton Hamvention which comes again this year in May in Dayton, Ohio.

Hot Bands For NAQP

The North American QSO Party starts at 1pm local EST tomorrow and band conditions are hot thanks to solar flares this week.

Right now DX Summit says the SFI is 150 with an A index = 3 and a K index of 0.

NAQP is an excellent contest for newcomers. It’s SSB on 160-10 meters and the exchange is your name and section. For me that’s Peter in Ontario.

With conditions like these, anybody with 100 watts (the contest power limit) and a dipole is going to have a blast.


What’s RAC Doing?

So what is RAC doing in 2012?

Since nobody is talking let’s take a couple of semi-informed guesses:

  • Because RAC is being run by people who understand large-scale management my guess is by cutting back on expenses RAC will likely show a small profit;
  • Don’t confuse a small profit created by cutting back services as a success story;
  • Still it beats a loss.
  • Membership will continue to stagnate because of the lack of leadership from the executive group and the lack of new initiatives to attract new (or younger) hams for which we’re all responsible;
  • Because RAC is being run by administrators instead of leaders, we’re likely to see a continuation of the huge amounts of work being done on the infrastructure which is a lot like rearranging the deck chairs as the Titanic steams forward under its own momentum after striking the iceberg. Musicians like myself continue to play on seeing the inevitable coming to pass;
  • BTW growing up to be an administrator is a noteworthy accomplishment. Unfortunately, like CARF before it, RAC has tons of administrators below decks but nobody is steering the ship;
  • The surplus of administrators tends to create territory-protective thinking and thus the issues currently affecting Field Services and the schism created in our emergency service ARES especially in Ontario;
  • It’s telling that nobody with experience or education in finances or public relations will touch RAC with a 10-foot antenna mast right now. It’s a no-win scenario;
  • Unlike the Titanic, RAC hasn’t hit an iceberg, it’s just run out of gas and is slowly drifting like The Flying Dutchmen doomed never to reach any port or in RAC’s situation any relevancy; 
  • The entire RAC debacle reminds me of the sinking of the Costa Concordia. Doesn’t appear as anybody was really in charge does it?
  • Finally, what could RAC do to change course right now?
  • Go see CQ Canada. It’s all there.

How To Win Some Wallpaper

This certificate just came in the mail this afternoon. It signifies my placing first in the North American division of the World Wide WPX Contest in the QRP category SSB single operator on 15 meters. If I’m correct, this puts me in second place in the world.

Okay it’s not the all-band QRP award but it’s an achievement at 250 QRP QSOs and I’m working on the next step.


FlexRadio from the other side

I’ve been raving about the receiver and panoramic display on my $600 FlexRadio 1500 for over a year now and some of the contest guys are getting pretty sick of listening to me.

Fair enough but on the weekend I got a chance to listen to the difference running a FlexRadio makes when you’re on the receiving end.

Harry, VA3EC got a FlexRadio 3000 from Santa so he installed the SDR software and virtual port emulator and using N1MM contesting software and 100 watts (which is all that’s allowed for the NAQP) he started contesting.

Harry used to own a well-known and highly respected contest radio from one of the big three and it didn’t matter whether he was running 100 watts or 800 watts when he was on the band I knew about it.

You see Harry is 360 meters north of me and his old transmitter created a lot of noise for me when we were on the same band. Now using the 1500 I could still work and minimize the splatter but with Harry now running a Flex 3000 I didn’t know he was there.

His signal was so good (I could see it on the panoramic display. It was perfectly formed with no splatter that I could see.) that I called him on the telephone to confirm he was running at 100 watts out. We could easily work within 5KHz of each other.

This is amazing stuff folks.

Both Harry and I noticed several other well-known contesters and their signals were no where near as clean but then again they weren’t running a FlexRadio.

What’s RAC doing about Bill 118

In 12 months, the limited time-exemption that Ontario hams enjoy from Bill 118 expires. So far, RAC officials have had one meeting (that we know of) with the provincial minister of transportation. Woohoo.

More needs to be done and it needs to be done now before it’s too late.

So let me be helpful.

In today’s National Post David Booth has an excellent column entitled “Cellphone bans haven’t made roads safer.” RAC’s Ontario directors should read this article.

The RAC group should assemble all the articles and presentations that are available online (and there’s a bunch of them. The hams in Hawaii had a particularly good presentation.) along with the National Post article and preface it with a compelling letter signed by our president and presented in person to the minister.

More important they should do it right away.

Why the urgency?

Because if the minister rejects our arguments we’re going to have to lobby the provincial MPPs. That means all 107 MPPs need to get a package, a letter, and wherever possible a person visit from someone from RAC, Then every MPP needs to get a follow-up phone call to solicit their support to encourage the minister to make our exception permanent.

This will take a month or more to pull off and RAC has never been noted for its speedy action on matters that affect the membership.

Here’s an opportunity for RAC to show some real leadership. Let’s see how they do.

Online magazines are going to be our future and one of the best in the Ham Radio world is PileUp! from Contest Club Finland.

At 68 pages volume 15(5) 2011 is a tremendous effort and well worth the time to read. Enjoy.

Hauskaa joulua which is Merry Christmas in Finnish and the only word I remember in Finnish which we spoke (sort of) with my Finnish grandparents when I was a child.


2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 23,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.