Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My QRP Adventure Begins

I scored well on a recent eBay auction and purchased a new to me Icom 703 Plus. It's great to receive a radio used that looks like brand new. I have not purchased too many used pieces of equipment over the years but I would have to say, this is the best "used" piece of equipment I have ever purchased.

With summer still several months away, I have plenty of time to dwell on accessories and antenna's that I can use with my Icom. My list is bigger than my budget but I'm excited, as this was the first major step to my QRP / portable operating. We have so much great country around here and with my ATV, I can get to most of the places, outside of Denali National Park of course (inside the Park on foot).

Operating up north at 63 degrees is a challenge for 100 watts let alone 10 watts. I chose the Icom due to the internal tuner and extra 5 watts over the Yaesu QRP rig. I have always had Icom HF equipment so the decision was not hard. So I need to make sure my antenna's will be as good as possible as I will need all the help I can get if the bands are not in very good shape.

My operating will be (most likely) 99% CW and digital (PSK31). Again, my mind wonders on the possibilities and of course, I'm limited due to being in the field. I am already looking at solar as my main source of power (I mean, we have so much daylight in the summer time, why not?).

I had my very first contact with the 703 with my close friend Sean, KL1SF. I also experienced 60 meters for the very first time! Granted, it was with Sean who lives only a few miles to the north of me in Healy, but it was still great. The joy of a new toy!!

Now, if only summer would hurry up and get here!!

72,
KL8DX

Saturday, December 19, 2009

RAC Winter Contest

RAC Winter Contest

Call: KL8DX
Operator(s): KL8DX
Station: KL8DX

Class: SOSB/20 HP
QTH: Alaska
Operating Time (hrs): 6

Summary:
Band CW Qs Ph Qs CW Mults Ph Mults
----------------------------------------
160:
80:
40:
20: 312.......14............9............. 4
15:
10:
6:
2:
----------------------------------------
Total: 312 14 9 4 Total Score = 18,772

Club: North Coast Contesters

Since I did not operate this contest from the beginning, decided with my schedule this weekend to catch it on Saturday. I like the 24 hour format but I only operated the last 6 hours. 20 meters left a bit to be desired but I have heard worse. I did well starting off with VE6RAC and I worked many of my contest weekend friends (too many to mention them all). It's always great to hear from my Twitter & Blog DX friend Scot KA3DRR, who has become a regular in my logbook - thanks Scot!! A highlight of course is being called from my long time personal friend (and DXer / Contester that I have looked up to for many a year) Dan, W8CAR. Fun to work back into my old stomping grounds by working Dan W8CAR and of course Rick, WB8JUI! Both Rick and Dan live only miles from where I used to reside in Northern Ohio.

I expected to work many more VE (Canadian) stations but it must have been the band conditions. I did work many that I normally hear in contests and it's always great to work the Eastern Canadian group (including VE1DX, VE9DX - my fellow DX stations). VE6AO gets the strongest signal award. Great working ALL the Canadian stations as they are the money contacts at 10 & 20 points a piece.

The weather here was -25 F at the start of the contest and by the end of the contest we were about +14 F! This was due to once again a southerly wind flow that brings in the warmer temps. We were forecasted to get 50 mph wind gusts but as of this writing, only seeing the upper 30's.

The SKCC club had their DX-Travaganza during the same time so I worked a few of my fellow straight keyers as I always have my Navy Flameproof on deck and ready to go.

I really like the RAC Contest from the 24 hour format to the exchange not to mention having both modes to choose from. If you have not worked the RAC contest, you're missing out. Lots of fun and it's always great working a contest dedicated to our Canadian neighbors.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

WSPR

Having some extra days off in December finds myself spending a bit more time on the internet. Today I decided to experiment with WSPR (Weak Signal Propagation Reporting Network).

I am into the digital modes of communication in Ham Radio and there seems to be new modes coming to life from time to time. With computers and the internet, it could not be any easier to get started on some of these modes. If you have your radio hooked up to your computer and can send / receive signals via software, you're home free. You can download any of this mostly free software and get to experimenting almost immediately. It is always highly recommended that you read the instructions on how to operate the new mode first but like many, I jump in with both feet.

After my wife was off to work, I decided to fire up the WSPR program and read about how it functions. After skimming over the user document, it was not long before I was transmitting a signal using the software I recently downloaded. I was pleasantly surprised to see that my less than 10 watts signal was being heard by a station in Europe (see map, top left).
I have some local noise or hash on 14.09560 so I am not receiving any European callsigns as of this writing but at least I'm being heard on WSPR for the very first time. My first receiving signal on this mode was NU8D, once I turned my beam toward the lower 48.

Being a DX'er, I'm always interested in propagation paths. I find this should be a great tool to see what section of the globe that my signal is being heard. I enjoy chasing the HF beacons but this adds a new exciting element to live propagation reporting.


Some of my WSPR results in the first hour or so of operation listed above, hearing & heard (TX = 8 watts).

Monday, December 7, 2009

With 5 Watts, where do I go from here?

As Ham Radio Operators we are always looking at the latest and greatest equipment to color our latest versions of QST, CQ and other related publications. Always wondering what is new and what large full page advertisements we will see next. What's not to dream about? Hard to believe their is a market in our hobby for $10k HF radios. Way out of my league! Many of the equipment manufactures cater to the BIG guys. They are often toting world records while these stations are using "their" equipment. Well, it's not only about the radio. These guys have stacked arrays which top out at several hundred feet. Lets not forget the top notch operators and the miles of copper used for receiving antenna's. There is more to a world record than a radio. You just don't see many advertisements for a small station doing great things with "their" (equipment manufacturers) the much less expensive versions of "their" equipment. I have the highest respect for the BIG GUNS and their stations but from a little fish in a big pond, what's in it for us little fish?

I have really enjoyed learning about others in your hobby. Often times we are inspired by people to do different things. I have been impacted by others which lead me to operate everything from satellites to digital modes and from echolink and APRS! Once I experienced these different modes, I often times found them as a regular form of operating from my station.

Most recently, I have really taken a keen interest in QRP CW operating. Alaska brings with it many operating challenges and one of them is the propagation. Operating QRP from here can be as rough as our weather. I have been a member of the SKCC (Straight Key Century Club) for a few years and I have enjoyed that organization from the start. I operate a Navy Flameproof Straight Key and a few other straight keys. That involvement has peaked my interest in the NAQCC (North American QRP CW Club). I am a recent new member of that club so I'm just getting started and I have plans of operating in several of their contests during the winter. But, at the top of that list of others or organizations that I have been recently inspired by is wG0AT, Steve. (Another video guru is Randy, K7AGE)

Steve lives in a beautiful place and takes advantages of two things, his love of CW and radio and his love of the great outdoors. After watching Steve's numerous professional grade videos on YouTube, it got me to thinking. Since March of last year, I have been trying to get my health in check and what better way than to spend time outdoors, right? I find myself working behind a desk all day and then coming home to sitting behind a radio. Not the healthiest of lifestyles to say the least. Steve has two goat companions, Rooster and Peanut. Now, I don't have goats but I do have a Polaris 700 EFI. My wife (KL8SU), daughter, and myself along with friends, often times are riding and enjoying the millions of acres of non-Park Service land around our location. I can carry several pieces of equipment on my ATV (which I already do for our outdoor excursions) but it would be nothing to drag along some QRP equipment. Light bulb just went off!

So, where do I go from here? My daughter enjoys hiking so I hope to do lots more of that next summer. In the mean time, I plan on shopping and purchasing my first portable QRP set up. This will be the radio, antenna, keyer, battery packs, etc. I'm hoping that once summer returns to the Interior of Alaska, a new signal will enter the airwaves, that being KL8DX/p. What better way to combine a great hobby with some good exercise and make some contacts while I'm at it? I live in such a beautiful area and I enjoy sharing my experiences with other hams. Many have not been to Alaska before and are always curious about living and operating from the 49th. Bottom line is, don't be afraid to try new modes or new things. I can't afford a big contest station but I can sure have as much fun for much less money and enjoy some pretty awesome scenery at the same time.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

LOTW

After uploading my contest QSO's from the CQ World Wide CW Contest, I decided to see how well I am doing on LOTW. I think more and more stations are taking the plunge and doing electronic QSL's. For me, this makes perfect sense. Yes, I do like the old fashioned QSL cards and I don't at all mind exchanging them. I have every QSL card I have ever received from day one. But, with today's postage rates and the weak USD, it just makes perfect sense to me to use such a great resource. It may take a bit to set up and get running but most software programs make uploading and downloading to e-QSL and LOTW extremely easy.

With that in mind, I looked at my QSL numbers using LOTW. I currently have 25,903 QSO's in my logbook. Of those, 12,396 have QSL records attached to them! Not bad as my percentage of QSL confirmations have increased over the last two years from just under 30% to 47.8%. Using LOTW only, I have confirmed WAS (Worked All States) on SSB, CW, RTTY, and am working on several other modes and band endorsements. I also have 129 countries confirmed via LOTW out of 185 worked and 158 confirmed via cards AND LOTW.

I just started to look at e-QSL stuff and have 80 + countries confirmed for my DXCC there and all 50 United States. Now that CQ accepts e-QSL confirmations, I think I may attempt to file for my first ever CQ awards once I get the confirmations that I need.

QSL'ing can be extremely expensive especially if confirming over seas contacts. It took me a while to get on the "boat" when it came to electronic QSL'ing but I'm glad I finally did. Oh, and in case you were wondering if hard copy QSL's dropped to near nothing, that is not the case. I get many confirmations both electronic and hard copy for the same QSO, which I don't mind in the least. I'm sure as we progress into the future, hard copy QSL cards will take a back seat to other means of confirming QSO's but until then, I enjoy them all. The bureau drops are fun but often times exhausting due to the amount of work involved to confirm several hundred at a time. I had an offer from an awesome QSL Manager to take over my QSL'ing duties but I'm still having way too much fun doing the "paperwork" side of this hobby. Moreover, one tends to collect a nice broad range of postal stamps from all over the world.


Monday, November 30, 2009

63 Degrees Worth of CQ World Wide CW 2009

CQ World Wide CW was this past weekend and I think it has become one of my most favorite of contests. Everyone can "work" everyone and it's 48 hours of world fun. In 2008, I made 1210 raw QSO's for a score of 219,156. From the latest certificate I received from CQ, that number dropped a bit as my official final score was 218,025. I'm sure I threw a callsign or two and it is always worth an extra few seconds to make sure you have the callsign and exchange right.

With the holiday weekend, Thursday was fun as we had friends over to our humble abode and we enjoyed several hours of company. I could not help but think of what Friday was to bring. My wife shopping for bargains and me getting ready to start the CW contest. Being this far north, the band conditions are always a concern. I kept my eye close on a few propagation websites and the outlook did not look bad.

Enter Friday! I started a straight key contact which led me right into the start of the contest. While I was finishing up with my QSO I was firing up my contest program getting ready to start calling CQ. Calling CQ when I lived in northern Ohio and calling CQ here in Alaska are two very different experiences. There are many more operators calling CQ in from Zone 04 than there are in Zone 01! With that in mind, the pile-up is much more extreme here, something that it took some getting used to (and I'm still learning). Over the years I have been surrounded by great contesters and their organizations. The same applies to here in Alaska. With their knowledge and advice in many emails, listening to them operate, and having a great resource to have my questions answered, has helped me greatly in my confidence.

I was happy to work station K8AZ right from the start (2nd contact) along with N5XZ. Being from back east, I'm always looking for club members of the North Coast Contesters and the Northern Ohio DX Association. The lower 48 opening was somewhat short lived due to the time that the contest started however, I decided to focus on Japan for the first part of the contest. This would give me 3 point QSO's which I felt would help my score. I normally work JA's off the back of my beam which at my location, is normally pointed to the lower 48. This time I pointed directly to Japan and points North East toward Asia in hopes of working as many as possible before the band closed. I operated until 0330z and threw in the towel on 20 meters. I had too much noise on 40 meters due to high winds so that help me decide to operate only 20 meters. I did not come back to the radio until 0618 hrs. This was when I started to hear Europe. I worked European stations until 0930z and then finally went to bed for the night.

I was back up at 1400z and once again started to pick off European stations. I worked into Europe until around 1640z. The signals faded and I focused my efforts on the lower 48. Once again, my desire was to find a somewhat clear frequency and call CQ! I did this for a large part of Saturday until the band gave out. A contester has to make sure they have a comfortable chair as they will spend countless hours in their premium contesting operating position. Once the band closed, I spent the rest of the evening with my wife and I went to bed a bit early in hopes of getting up early.

I got up early on Sunday morning but was I bummed to find the band dead! I was hoping to see several signals on my spectrum scope on my IC-756PRO but nada! I ended up going back to bed only I was not able to sleep. I got up and paced the floor like an expectant father waiting for the bands to open. Finally, around 1600z and with the antenna focused on Europe, I was hearing some stations. I worked a much needed EF8M, CR5X, EA8URL, and 9L5A! Europe was done by 1700z! I then repositioned my beam once again to the lower 48 and started to call CQ!

As the day progressed I knew I needed a few zones down south, not to mention country multipliers. Since I had not worked Zone 7 or 10, not to mention 9, 11, 13 and most deep south, I did not want them to slip away. I decided to wait until the propagation was "hot" from that direction and then do some S&P (Search and Pounce). I started this task at about 2100z and it paid off for me. I landed PJ2T, P40W, ZY7C, P49Y, HC8GR, 6Y1V, P40A, J39BS, TI5A, PS2T, 8P5A, HI3A, P49V, KP2M, CW5W, PZ5X, PR7AR and finally CE3DNP! Wow, did I need those! It took me just about an hour to tune the band and add those QSO's to my log. I then looked for a clear frequency which was getting to be ever increasingly hard.

I called CQ and stayed put until the end of the contest. But I had one last surprise before it ended. I was called by CE0Y/SM6CUK during the last six minutes of the contest. I have read others comments about getting some juicy multipliers during the last few minutes but damn, it actually happened to me!!


I'm no speed demon on CW but I had lots of fun working on my contesting skills. My rates were not high by contesting standards but I'm happy with the rate I was able to keep (see graph above). Again, when at the receiving end of a pile-up, you need to control it and it can also be rough to get a full callsign. When the stations calling are all the same signal strength, it's not uncommon (at least for me) to even combine callsigns. I'm glad people took the time to correct me and that is the reason I resend their callsign at the end. Macros are always a contesting conversation but having my callsign busted plenty (confused with KL7DX, as I was many times again during this contest) I want to make sure I have it right. An example of my macro in the beginning is:

W1*** 599 01

An example of my follow-up is:

W2*** TU de KL8DX

This lets them know I corrected their callsign and if not, I would hope they would call me back and correct me. I also end with my callsign so nobody has to wait on frequency to see who I am. I find nothing more frustrating than sitting on a frequency and the sending station does not send their call frequently. Many just send a few "dits" or just send "TU". You wait several minutes to find out who it was and if you needed them. Heck, maybe this is a good strategy keeping your competition parked rather than working stations up and down the band. For whatever the reason, I wish a few BIG stations would send their callsigns more often. Many have short callsigns (look at the EU ones I listed above) so it is not going to cost them any more time by sending your callsign rather than just "TU".

I experienced several dupes late on Sunday. At 2309z, someone posted me as KL7DX. Wow, I had several just call me that I had worked before. I had my suspicion as to why but I confirmed it after the contest when I did a search on DX Summit.

When the dust cleared and it was all said and done, 26 hours of operating (I stepped away several times and did not turn off the timer so it's a bit less) I worked a total of 1646 QSO's before log checking for a score of 355,990. I did reach my goal of beating last years score and it gives me something to beat next year, which would be easy if I operate multiband. Either way, this little station used up some bandwidth and accomplished a new personal record. I have to keep asking myself, what would that number have looked like if I had operated the entire 48 hours of the contest? Hum...



Tuesday, November 24, 2009

November Sweepstakes SSB Version

SSB contests have not thrilled me much since I became deeply involved with CW and Digital. I am spoiled by the filtering ability with these modes and lets face it, there are more SSB operators than there are CW. Anyone with a voice can operate SSB but CW is basically learning to speak another language. I tend to shy away from these contests (SSB) for this reason but also in most of the major contests, Alaska is well represented in SSB versions anyhow. I do like to search the bands for friends or other stations that I frequently work just to give them a point or two and maybe even a multiplier.

With that said, I decided to concentrate on something other than 20 meters. I have lived on 20 meters for several years as it is by far my strongest band. It's a great band to work but I am really looking forward to 10 and 15 meters being open day after day for several hours. Not sure we will be in Alaska for those openings, if they are more than a few years out, but I'm always watching and listening.

Just prior to the SS, I was on 10 meters and working stations on SSB. I end up doing SSB on 10 meters ONLY because there is very little CW during band openings (exception is the beacons of course). I saw some 10 meter activity was posted to the DX Cluster so I tuned around a bit and darn if I did not hear stations. So, I headed to 28.405 and after making sure the frequency was not already in use, I called CQ. The fun started from there!

I ended up working several states on 10 meters and I was chatting with stations until the start of the contest. Once the contest began, I was able to make an additional 22 QSO's, a few stations I had already worked just before the contest (thanks for stopping back). Once 10 meters gave out, I shut down the rig and went on to other duties.

I turned on the rig on Sunday and I found some activity on 15 meters. It was slow to open but when it did, wow! The band became crowded quickly but I was able to find a hole and call CQ and the rates began. As you can see from the graph, I peaked briefly at 126 Q's per hour but I was able to stick pretty steady at 104 to 112, for the most part. Due to the information that was passed (much more than your average RST - Really Shouldn't Tell, and a ZONE or State) it took a bit longer. When dealing with a pile-up, it can take a bit extra time to pass onto the next station. Being a small station myself, I'm always looking for smaller stations or somewhat weaker stations. I was surprised at how many QRP stations were in this contest. Some contesters will complain about QRP in contests as often times, it can take twice as long to pass a contact along. If I'm running a 1000 watts the QRP station is probably hearing me pretty darn good but if the QRP station is running 5 watts or less, it could take several attempts to correctly pass information between our stations. Add in the fact that the band is normally crowded and you have another high power station nearby adding "splatter", it makes for a tough time now and again.

By the time 15 meters dropped to a handful of stations, I had made 358 contacts. Not a lot but for the few hours I was on and considering the band, I was super pleased. I decided to vacate 15 meters even though it was not totally closed and head to 20 meters. It was wall to wall with splatter and was rough. 20 meters is not for the faint of heart especially during SSB contests! But I was in search of a few other multipliers that I had not picked up on 15 meters just to see how close I could get to my "sweep". Well, as luck would have it, I did not come very close but I only missed the following:

NH, NNY, DE, VI, SD, NL, MAR, QC and NT.

Not too bad for a few hours and not really hunting down multipliers. Once the dust cleared, I had around 7 hours of operating in with 402 contacts overall with 71 sections worked. Again, I'm in it to have fun but it has made me think of maybe trying to see what I can actually do if I try! I have never worked a contest from start to finish staying up the entire 48 hours. Being that I have a smaller station, winning is something I don't comprehend. But, from a "little pistol" perspective, it could be fun to see what kinda of damage I could do if I actually tried. I am more apt to work an entire contest of RTTY or CW than I would SSB I'm afraid. Maybe working at a MULTI and helping another station out is just the ticket for those contests.

Little or not, contesting is always fun and a quick way to rack up contacts that count for numerous awards. It's easy to work DXCC or WAS in a weekend if you apply yourself and just get on and operate. I have never referred to my station as a "contest station" but more of a DX station looking for new countries and chasing various awards. My goal is to give out Alaska as much as possible while we live in such a beautiful but propagationally challenged place. It makes me feel good when I'm told I helped someone complete their sweep in a contest or have given someone a new state or DXCC country. That's what I enjoy most about making contacts and with my log containing over 24 thousand contacts to date, I have enjoyed each and every one of em. My log has been submitted and it also has been uploaded to LOTW and e-QSL. You don't have to be a contester to enjoy a contest and almost every contact is worth at least a point. If it were not for us "little stations", the contests would end well before the 48 hour clocked stopped ticking.

Monday, November 16, 2009

WAE RTTY

This past weekend saw the WAE RTTY Contest otherwise known as Worked All Europe Contest. This contest is a bit unique as stations in different continents can send and receive QTC's, or traffic. I currently use an older version of N1MM Logger for RTTY contests and N1MM makes it simple to send and receive these QTC reports. For the last few years, I never took the plunge to send and receive QTC reports but I finally decided to give it a shot this year. It could not be easier.

N1MM has it's own help file but simply, Ctrl-Z gets you the QTC receive screen and hitting Ctrl-Z the second time gets you to the QTC transmit screen. Just click on the information that is being sent to fill in the blanks or click to send your information to the other station. Pretty easy.

This contest was lots of fun but once again hampered by the solar conditions on day two. The aurora levels peaked and absorption was once again my enemy when attempting contacts over the North Pole. But on the first day, 15 meters opened and I worked 110 stations, which was down right fun. I managed another 349 contacts on 20 meters and 7 more on 40 meters. I operated a bit over 16.8 hours during the 48 hour event but I had fun for the short time I was able to dedicate to operating. Work and band conditions took care of the rest.

There is also a CW and SSB version of this contest that I have yet to participate in but I'm sure those versions are almost as fun. RTTY has really become a popular mode now that it does not take an expensive TNC to get on using that mode. These days, as long as your computer has a sound card you can build an interface or purchase one. This connects your computer to your radio and you're in business (after downloading many versions of free software from the internet). I operate FSK to take advantage of the internal filtering in my HF radio which helps greatly during crowded contest band conditions. Great to see such an old mode of communication so popular in today's modern world. Takes texting to a new level!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

November SS

There was a time that I did not operate in the CW Sweep Stakes and have only taken an interest in it over the last few years. I like this contest as it pushes your CW skills to the limit. This contest requires much more information exchanged than your typical weekend contest. I have yet to do more than hunt multipliers and call CQ a few times in this contest but it becomes addicting. I use it more for a warm up of my CW skills for the CQ and ARRL contests in the coming months. After having a summer off and doing more digital, it goes not take long for my CW speed to slide back to slow. It would be great to get a clean sweep in this contest but it takes skill, timing, and cooperative propagation. The 2009 CW SS has been fun so far and the band conditions have been pretty darn good especially for this northern station. There are still several sections that are white on my map above but hopefully I can fill in a few more before the end of this contest. If you have not tried it, give it a shot. If your CW is slow by your standards, I worked several slower stations toward the upper part of the CW sections on 20 and 40 meters, one even calling CQ SS QRS! Soon you will find yourself looking for that broom!
***************************************
I could not operate but a small part of the contest but I did manage to work all but 9 Sections. I missed out on the following; EMA, ME, RI, WTX, NE, ND, NL, QC, and MB. If I could have devoted more time to the contest, I'm sure I could have made this list smaller. I entered unassisted so it's much harder to earn that sweep! Hats off to the fast CW guys & gals that can run high rates in this contest. My CW will never be that good but I will sure be participating when I have propagation and my schedule allows.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Twitter to 20

Recently, I became Twitter friends with a certain ham radio operator. She mentioned she was going to be attempting an upgrade of her license to General Class. I was excited to read that she recently passed her test and upgraded to the world of HF on ALL of the bands. We talked about having a QSO and that took place on 10/31/2009 on 20 meter SSB.

I'm talking about Kami, KF4UFY. It was obvious when she described her station that we would be able to work easily if there was propagation. She picked a frequency and I was happy to hear her voice. The bands were not quite open to the east coast but I had a good copy on Kami.

In this day of modern technology consisting of Twitter™, Facebook™, MySpace™, it's great to see a young person interested in ham radio! We need to do all we can to promote our hobby and show our younger generation that our hobby may be old but it has several modern elements as well. Just work a contest where an operator sends their age as part of the exchange. It will open your eyes to the average age of ham radio operators world wide. We need some young talent and interest in our hobby so that it maintains a bright future. I'm always reading about SK's (Silent Key's) in QST and in forums and we should also be announcing newcomers to our hobby as well.

Congratulations Kami on your upgrade and here's to wishing you the very best of experiences in ham radio! Keep getting on HF and making contacts! You sounded great and it was a pleasure to contact you. May DX fill your logbook and propagation be your friend in your many years to come in this great hobby.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

KL5O Wrap-up from station KL8DX

It was great to be part of such a grand event as the statewide KL5O operation. My station is small so of course, my contacts were not many but I had fun for those that I did make. I tried to make some contacts on 10 meters but from the interior of AK, I would have have been more successful digging for gold in my backyard.

My 285 contacts consisted of the following band breakout:

3.5 CW - 28 QSO's
14 RTTY - 29 QSO's
14 SSB - 201 QSO's
28 SSB - 0 QSO's
21 RTTY - 27 QSO's

I recorded some audio from the Alaska side of things. I don't operate SSB very often but enjoyed a small pile-up while operating KL5O. So to hear what it sounded like on my 2 hour stretch on 20 meters, take a listen to the following wav files;

KL5O from KL8DX


KL8DX as KL5O

The final numbers I believe were over 5K QSO's but check the website at KL5O for the final numbers when they get posted. You will also be able to look up your QSO's at that site.

Again, lots of fun and I hope you logged KL5O during the operation. It was a privilege to operate with so many great AK operators.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

KL5O Begins with a Bang!

Come join in on the fun! It's Alaska Day! 50 Years of Statehood for the 49th! KL5O is operating CW, SSB, & RTTY from 1800z on Sunday thru 0600z Monday! Many stations throughout the state of Alaska are participating. If you need Alaska on one of these modes, now is your chance. Help us celebrate this grand occasion!

Monday, October 12, 2009

County Hunting

I have not actively started to hunt counties but I have always thought that someday I will see how many I have left to obtain that award. Knowing nothing more than me needing to confirm contacts with all the counties / boroughs in the United States, this is one heck of an accomplishment and for many people, it takes years to reach such a goal.

I know at least a little about county hunting due to my long time friendship with Ed, K8QWY. Ed has chased counties for many years so I have always had somewhat of an interest in the award, but nothing close to serious.

A few years ago, I received a certificate in the mail called the "MARC LAST COUNTY AWARD". This award is apparently given to stations who give the very last county to those on that hunt. It appeared to have been generated by a contact that I had with W9MSE back in 2006. I set the certificate aside but I kept it out to remind me to look deeper into the award.

Then it happened once again but this time, I received a "Red Seal" which was generated by a contact that I had with K8OOK in 2008. I got to looking at the certificate and I saw where there was room for a Red Seal, Gold Seal and finally a Blue Seal. This is not an award that I nominated myself for nor did I chase this award. It just so happened that I was able to help a few hams out with their last county and this appreciation was recognized by them and the MARAC organization.

One of the true highs for me is being able to confirm Alaska on a certain band or mode for anyone chasing awards. I enjoy reading or printing (digital) their excitement when they work me. There are plenty of stations active in Alaska and it always puzzles me to know that I was a first for somebody, little ol me!

And just tonight, I received an email from WB4KZW regarding his last county. I was probably as excited as he was about the request. After a couple brief e-mails back and forth, I sent along a frequency and just as I landed and got settled there, his big CW signal was heard calling me. We had a short QSO and afterwards, I got to thinking even more about this "county thing". My thoughts were how much of an accomplishment this feat is, working and confirming all 3077 counties! My hats off to Gene, WB4KZW and to all the others who have accomplished this great task. And to those who are chasing them now, either for the first or tenth time, good luck!

Someday you may find me checking into one of the NETS or maybe just chasing the mobiles as hams go out and operate counties with their own time and funds. Mobiles I'm sure, make a large part of this possible, hams driving thousands of miles just for other hams. For this very reason, this is why I love ham radio. I will always try to do my part but I had the easy job, giving out their last county. I now proudly hang this certificate with my others on the shack wall as this like many, do NOT belong in a filing cabinet someplace.

Thank you!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Contest season is just ahead!

Job and life have kept me pretty busy this Fall and now that Winter has arrived, hopefully I can spend a bit of time working some contests. I totally enjoy the CW and digital contests but I will be doing some SSB contests, too. But lately, it's home improvement projects that have taken a front seat to most everything else. Fear not my DX'ing friends, my little signal will once again be trying to find contacts around the globe. Even though I have not been extremely active (only 23k contacts in 6 years) I try to get on a few times a week. Not sure if I have a main focus for this year. New DXCC countries? New modes? Better scores? Only time will tell and as we lose daylight, I normally gain shack time. It's a sad day when the sun hardly shows itself in December and January but the warm sound of DX does the body good!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Kilo Lima 5 Oscar

October will be an exciting month for Hams all across the State of Alaska not to mention the world! The American Radio Relay League has named this year, "The Year Of The State QSO Party". Alaska has not had a State QSO Party in ages however, this is your chance to get an Alaskan credit for this award.

This is also the year the Alaska celebrates 50 years of Alaska Statehood. What does all this mean? A party as big as the State of Alaska. What party you may ask? See the official news release below;

The Alaska 50th Anniversary of Statehood Special Event will be on the air October 18, 2009 from 1800Z until October 19, 2009, 0600Z. There will be fifteen or more stations on from around the state of Alaska all using KL5O (kilo lima five oscar). We will be on all bands/modes, from 160 through 10 meters, including the WARC bands. This would be a good opportunity for those stations needing Alaska on a particular band or mode to make that needed QSO. Operation will be scheduled to facilitate working North American stations, though all stations worldwide are encouraged to participate.

Making a QSO in this event qualifies as credit for Alaska in the ARRL Year Of The State QSO Party.

QSL confirmation will be electronically via LOTW, eQSL and via mail to AC7DX with SASE for a colorful commemorative QSL card.

The website for this event is http://www.kl5o.com.

Myself along with many other Alaskan Ham Radio Operators will be participating. Bookmark the link above and check it often. I will not be missing out on the fun so mark your calendars and make sure you don't miss this great opportunity to hear and work Alaska on all bands and many modes! There has not been this much excitement in Alaska since Sara Palin was announced as a running mate to John McCain! Well, you know what I mean...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

JT65A

So, I have been curious about that interesting sounding digital noise on 14.075. I found a website that helped me identify the sound I was hearing and so I spent a bit of time listening in on JT65A this morning. Like any new mode, I like to sit back and watch before jumping into the propagation pool, if possible. Not sure when I will take the plunge and give this mode a try but it will require a bit more reading. Very different when comparing it to the other modes I operate but again, was curious about this mode as there seems to be lots of activity.

So many modes, so little time but with our dark and cold winter fast approaching, I'm sure I will venture into even more new modes in the very near future.

On a New Mode Roll

While working Jan, SP3AMZ on 20 meters this morning (Olivia) he wanted me to QSY to a new mode, that being Throb. Once again, DM780 saves the day as it was just a matter of switching modes. I asked Jan to call me and only seconds later, I was enjoying my first THROB-4 QSO!

The fun did not stop there! Jan asked to QSY to MFSK! Once again, easy to switch and run to enjoy the fun!
I have really been enjoying the "other" digital modes and at the same time, help a fellow Ham out with a new country. That's what this hobby is all about, having fun and helping others.


This morning in central Alaska, the sun is shining, it's a beautiful day and I have worked a few more modes that were new to me. I only wish work was this much fun!


Saturday, September 5, 2009

A little Hell

I called CQ on Olivia and was answered by John, KI4UKF. I had worked John before according to my logbook. John was 100% perfect print even though he was running QRP. One of the main reasons I enjoy this mode as it's great for crappy band conditions and it seems we deal with such conditions here on a regular basis. John had mentioned he was looking for Alaska on Feld Hell and wanted to know if I would be willing to QSY to 14.063 to work him on that mode. Seeing that I had DM780 up and ready to go, I was excited about the request. I had never worked that mode before so why not?! I explained to John that I would be more than willing and it would be a fun mode to try.

I was only on 14.063 for a minute or so when I saw John's print exactly where he was supposed to be. I answered John and he copied my text perfectly. We chatted for a brief few minutes before I had to head to lunch. So easily done with such great software and it's free (again, I would highly suggest donating to the developer of any software that you enjoy using especially those that were free).

Will I try this mode again? Well, Hell yes!

QRZ Hell?



Monday, August 24, 2009

Olivia

While listening to PSK31 today, I observed a signal on the waterfall which I had figured was Olivia just up the band a bit. So, I closed out my PSK31 software and fired up DM780 and was soon copying a callsign sending CQ. That station happened to be VE7NBQ, Peter. I was brand new to this mode and after stumbling a bit, was able to throw my callsign out using Olivia 500/16.

To my surprise (kinda) Peter came back to my callsign and the QSO began. After getting the usual formal information out of the way, I explained to Peter that I was new to this mode. Peter and I had a great conversation regarding Olivia operating including some helpful hints on websites and frequencies. Furthermore, we went on to try Olivia 250/8 and 1000/32. I got a good feel for those modes but our conversation was for the most part using 500/16.


Now, as any good ham should do AFTER making the first contact, I need to read the instructions with DM780 and learned how to actually use the software for Olivia. I have mentioned about working new modes and this is one that I will be looking forward to operating again. Olivia anyone?


PODXS 070 1000th Member Tribute Contest

Recently, the PODXS 070 Club celebrated it's 1000th member. One of the main attractions for me is that the 070 club is active but also free! It's a digital club focusing on PSK operating. I am honored to be their 889th member. Now, this is not a sign up for free and get your certificate immediately type of club, however it's very simple to join the ranks. You actually have to operate PSK and show that you have worked stations using that mode. You also need to submit proof of a PSK contact by sending along a scanned copy of a QSL confirmation. But again, simple. Especially to those who are already using computers to do cool stuff like PSK.

I don't get on PSK as often as I should as I tend to spread my operating activities around the "mode globe". I will operate in "spurts" doing CW, PSK31, RTTY, SSTV and maybe throw a mode in that's new to me like Olivia or Hell (SSB can be hell for me sometimes, too). But when they have contests, I will always try to support the club by getting on the air if my schedule allows. I may not submit a log due to my work schedule and time constraints but I will be there handing out contacts when I can.

I was not able to work the 1000th member but I did work several over this last weekend (32 contacts to be exact). What I like about PSK is the low power perspective. You can work the world on 25 watts or less. It's a great weak signal mode (assuming you have your software configured right). There are several free programs available that support the digital modes so if you have a computer and the ability to hook it to your radio, you can be operating in no time.

One of the things that make me laugh to myself is when I hear on 14.070 or so, someone starting their computer and it transmits across the airwaves the Windows start-up song. Or, you can often hear that annoying Windows error "clunk" when someone tries to multitask and open something that gets them the fatal error sound while sending PSK. And you can even tell when someone's computer is taxing their Ram memory from the sound it makes as the PSK tone skips a beat or two during transmission. How do I recognize these sounds? Yep, been there, done that and have the t-shirt.

I am hand logging most of my contacts as I am using an older version of PSK31 software that I just darn like (photo above). I like using WinPSKse due to it's ability to copy two signals easily and the ease of monitoring and switching between multiple waterfall signals. Yes I know, there is other software out there that can do the same thing but I just like how this plays. I do have Digital Master 780 downloaded and installed for those "other" modes. I had some bad experiences with Digipan sending random crap stuff when using multiple macro's so gave that up. I also did not like it's weak signal decoding abilities. Again, my personal preference and take on it and I'm not trying to start a Ford vs Chevy debate.

But in getting back to the 070 contest, it was a great milestone for the club and even though it's unlikely that all 1000 members are active, it says a lot for the organization. Run by volunteers, who not only promote ham radio but promote a great mode of communication. A day when a dollar does not go far anymore, it's unbelievable the dedication of those behind the scenes of this club that make it so successful. Congratulations on the 1000 members strong and for all that you do to support such a fun mode of communication. If you have not tried PSK31, give it a try. Experience the many callsigns that you can find across the "waterfall".

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Buckeye

So, I decided to participate a bit in the Ohio QSO Party this weekend. Sad part being, the bands were poor for me as a result of the increased solar wind I'm sure. I did not start hearing Ohio stations until pretty late in the morning. Most of them were busy on 40 meters as seen on the cluster. I stuck to the only band that had activity for me, 20 meters.

Some comments regarding this very fun contest:

Kudos to Jim, K8MR, for getting the information out regarding the website crap.

The INCORRECT website: http://www.oqp.us/

Followed by the CORRECT website: http://www.ohqp.org/


I knew that I would have a challenge with my callsign if I parked and called CQ. I followed the lead of many others who sign their call with a /state. What this does is, when I sign my call as KL8DX/AK, this helps identify me for those who are not paying attention as being in Alaska. Mind you, the "KL" says that I'm in Alaska but what throws people off is the "8" in my callsign. And as I expected, I had stations calling me who were NOT in Ohio. I would ignore them at first and if they kept calling I would acknowledge them. If they were not in Ohio, I would just continue on, not logging them and ask for Ohio stations only. Not sure if those who called me anyhow thought the /AK was a county or what?

Lots more CW activity than SSB activity! I did not expect to hear much on SSB due to the band conditions but CW was the way to run. I was able to pick up a few mobile stations as often, it's the mobiles who make the multiplier count and make sweeps possible.

On the mobile's, many in the QSO parties have a great habit of signing their call followed by the county they are in. In my opinion, this is a must! I actually sat and listened to a mobile station working the OHQP that was just signing /M. Problem was, do I call or don't I? I had no clue what county he was in so I did not want to create a dupe. And then if he had a long dry spell not working anyone, I just wasted my time sitting there waiting to be enlightened. A few times I just moved on in hopes I was not passing up a multiplier.

The cool part of working the mobiles is I worked W8CAR/M whom I know personally. I was able to give W8CAR my QSO #49 for one of our contacts. For those who don't know (don't admit it if that is the case), Alaska is the 49th state. Okay, so it was cool to me.

And then there was the mobile that just signed their callsign (no /M)! I knew well enough that there was a 99% chance that this ham was mobile just from previous QSO parties. But for the rest of the world, someone may not know and pass that station up if hearing them later on, assuming it will be a dupe.

All in all, this was a lot off fun but wished the band conditions were better. I would love to give this contest my all, working the entire 12 hours and making contacts on a few bands. As luck would have it, the bands sucked and I was not able to even break 100 QSO's!!

I try to get on for all the state QSO parties but since I was born and raised in Ohio, this one has a special place on my contest list. It's a chance to work familiar callsigns, friends, and just maybe help a few buckeye's with a multiplier. And to top it all off, I did manage to work my old county or residence, Ottawa. Hats off to W8IDM for passing that one along to me. Another highlight was working the young contester himself, Cal K0DXC. I managed to work him on both modes. He has a very bright contesting future ahead of him. And another fun highlight was having Allen, KL5DX working Ohio stations. It just happened to work once that we were both calling the same Ohio station. Kinda funny as he did ask for a few repeats before sorting it all out as I did not catch at first the KL5DX was also calling the same time I was.

Even though it appeared most of the activitiy for this QSO party was way out of my reach (40 & 80 meters) I still had fun for the few short hours I chased stations. I managed just over half of the counties, 45 total. Maybe next year the propagation will be better. But if not, your friend in AK will be listening and calling those 8land stations from Ohio every chance I get!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

SSTV

I got up this morning and decided to operate a mode that I have not done much with, SSTV (Slow Scan Television). Seemed to be lots of activity on 20 meters but the band was up and down. Most of the SSTV stuff hangs out at 14.230 (just listen for the annoying sound as you can't miss it. Almost sounds like a weather satellite) and everyone seems to send there. When the band is open, it can be fun but many stations are sharing the same frequency. Kinda sucks when you are receiving a signal from a station who is not real strong and a stronger station comes in and takes over the picture. But, it's fun none the less.

I enjoy my bureau drops as it's fun thumbing through the QSL cards to see the different designs and comments. The same applies for SSTV. Neat to see some of the photos that people send across the airwaves. Mine personally are all photos that I have taken or files I created. But it is not long before anyone doing SSTV begins to see a collection of photos in their history file. I save photos from my QSO's and I have a few saved that I copied, especially those that I thought were neat! Not a big deal when I can take a picture with my phone, attach it to a text message and send it across the globe faster than I can receive one across the ham bands.

I got started in SSTV by hanging out on the LOTW Sked Page and a VE station there was trying for WAS. I enjoy helping those who may need Alaska on any mode or band (assuming I can operate them) and since I do lots of digital stuff, it was easy to set up and get going (literally within 5 minutes including download time). Just another mode to operate and the QSO's even count toward WAS. But for now, I'm content being a weekend warrior so to speak. I will jump in from time to time sharing photos with other stations around the globe. I'm still a greenhorn when it comes to sending photos across the HF bands. There are many modes to enjoy with ham radio and there is something for everyone. Me, I like anything to do with ham radio, even SSB at times. Even when the bands are not picture perfect, there is still almost something to hear or see with the help of an antenna, radio and some free software. If you have not tried it, give SSTV a shot, or some other mode. It's fun to venture out of ones comfort zone for a bit of excitement. I think you get the picture, right?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sounds cool!


I'm not talking about our next weekend forecast but just some of those sounds you hear on the ham bands. For years I have thought that the sound of HF packet was cool! Being involved in several digital modes (a few I just copy and have yet to make any contacts on) HF packet is one I still enjoy just listening to. Back in the early to mid 90's, I would access HF gateways to packet bulletin boards and enjoy the 300 baud communication. I'm reminded of my enjoyment of this sound while tuning around in the SARTG RTTY contest a few minutes ago. I was up around 14.103 and I heard the sweet sound of HF packet. The last time I listened in, I copied a BBS system in Hawaii, but I was not decoding the sound today so I'm not sure where it was originating from. But either way, it was a great reminder of my pre-internet activities surfing the HF bands. I'm not sure how much HF packet activity there is today but I have and will always, enjoy the sound that has yet to be replaced by something as audibly soothing to me.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

This state we're in!

Another of my rants is the fact that many seem to think that Alaska is another country (non-DXCC speaking of course). What brings this to mind is looking on eBay for "stuff". People shipping items Priority Mail and only to the lower 48! News flash, flat rate is the same to Alaska as it is anywhere else. See the USPS commercial?

Many people in Alaska are used to paying extra for shipping. Most everything up here costs 20% or more due to our shipping costs. Most of the stuff here arrives by sea but stuff also arrives by air. We don't have Fed Ex here at my QTH and we don't have UPS however, we can still get them. But at least for me, MAIL is the only way to shop. It's great to find people who will ship using USPS. There are no house numbers were I live, none. There is no postal delivery to my mailbox. I have to head to the post office to get my mail. Try to order stuff when you don't have a regular physical address. It can be challenging at times. Oh, and my post office winter hours are 10:30 am to 12:30 pm daily.

Sometimes I have to swallow hard when I'm quoted a shipping price but again, a part of living where we do I guess. I have shipped my Ameritron AL-1500 back to the factory for repair work (without the power supply) so yes, USPS can ship big things! There have been so many items I would have purchased from eBay but the poster refuses to ship to Alaska. Their loss as it only takes a short time before I find someone who will ship USPS. I have had some success sending emails to the listing station asking for them to ship USPS. But in case you did not get the memo, Alaska is part of the United States! I won't get on my rant about those who inflate their shipping prices to make that extra million a year.

Yes, I know there are horror stories about the postal service but there are also the same for Fed Ex and UPS. When you really don't have a choice, you have to take a chance. So if you're selling something, remember us hams in Alaska and that we like to spend money too! We are part of the United States even though we are a seperate DXCC country. Our stamps are your stamps and our dollars are your dollars. We give our stamp of approval to anyone who ships reasonably to Alaska.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

QST & CQ Stinks?!

What happens with your QST or CQ magazine when it arrives? Mine does not sit on the counter very long as either myself or my wife will carry it into the oval office and lay it next to the throne on the bookstand. I can honestly say that I read about 99% of my magazines while participating in the ritual of bowl bonding. My wife hates it when QST puts a person on the front of their magazine and that person is looking toward the camera. She tells me that it feels like the person is looking at her while she is "busy" and she is always turning my magzines over. Kinda makes me laugh a bit since it is only a magazine.

So, how do you read your QST or CQ magazine? It's like an Oreo cookie I suppose, different people have different ways of reading their publications. I scan the front cover quick and if my eye catches any contest results and before I do anything, I will flip that those pages (don't you hate pages that don't have page numbers??). Knowing full well that this little station will never be hanging a plaque on the wall, I enjoy reading the comments and looking at the results. I am always interested to see how I place compared to other stations, especially those in Alaska. Since I am the waterboy of contest stations here in AK, it always makes me wonder what I could have worked if I only had higher and bigger antennas. One can dream, right?

Once I read through all the results and scan through the "QRM" I then find my way back to the front of the magazine. I then see what is featured in the magazine to see if there are any further must read immediately articles. My favorite sections are those dealing with DX'ing and contesting. I am one of those non-techie kinda hams so I will normally skip right over anything that has a circuit board and schematics. Not sure why I have no desire to build anything as I guess I just never had the proper influence or person to nudge me along. Maybe I just spend too much time operating?

If nothing else catches my eye, I then begin working from the front to back of the magazine looking for pictures of new equipment and anything that looks cool! My first breeze through the magazine is just that, a quick page through getting a feel for what I will digest (no pun intended) on my next trip to the library. I have to keep reminding myself that this publication must last a month so I need to take my time. I mean, what is a ham to do if he reads his entire magazine before the next issue arrives? You can only read the labels of so many hair spay cans and bathroom cleaners within reach of the ceramic circle. But like a good movie, it is sometimes a suprise when you re-read something and you find something you overlooked. But when I get to the point where I could transfer the magazine to the outhouse, I will even start to read through all the ham ads. This is my last desperate attempt to keep picking up the same magazine in hopes that the next issue will arrive. There are times, a month can feel like a lifetime and depending on your total seat time in a month, it can even feel longer!

My favorite of my two publications I receive is CQ magazine. Maybe because it appears to have less advertisements in it? QST seems to be mostly ads for the last 50% of the magazine and the first 10%. Sometimes I wished they would arrive in PDF form as I don't keep my old magazines like many hams do. I recycle them to the landfill. But, if they were in PDF, I would have to drag the laptop into the throne room to read my QST. If I have my laptop there it would not take long before I realized I can operate my equipment remotely from the bathroom! Hey, I no longer have to stop calling that new country when the urge arrives! The contest can continue and it counts because it's less than 50 miles away from my shack! The crapper trapper, I would never want to leave! Just think of the possiblities! But what's good for me is good for everyone else in the house, too. Not only would I not be in a hurry to vacate the family rest stop, nor would the rest of my group. Probably best to leave well enough alone. I have seen photos of people taking their magazines to foreign places, even underwater but I have never seen anyone being featured sitting on the crapper while reading the latest contest news and ironically, I would guess that most hams read them there more than any other location.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

NAQP Decision

I'm forced to make another stressful decision. Enjoy the great Alaskan outdoors or operate the NAQP CW Contest? Some of the decisions we make in life come with consequences but for this low profile interior Alaskan station, this was not a hard decision. I'm sure Alaska will be well represented, not as much as during a SSB contest but to my fellow CW nuts and contesting brothers and sisters, I wish you all the very best in your contesting quest. Me on the other hand, I will be enjoying the wilderness, extracting wild blueberries from the tundra and hopefully adding photos to the compact flash card in my camera as quickly as I would log contacts during any major contest. On the drive home from Fairbanks today, I saw the beginning color changes associated with fall! A grim reminder that although there are plenty of contests over the next several months that will keep my shack warm, summer is winding down and soon, just like the propagation during a high solar wind, it will be gone.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

QSL


QSL'ing for some is lots of fun. Others find it a royal pain and some just don't and won't do it. For those that get LOTS of QSL requests, a QSL Manager is the way to go. With today's internet, QSL information is easily obtained and often updated. There are many websites dedicated to storing the latest QSL information on stations all over the world. There is even stand alone programs that you can put on your computer like the GOLIST software that you can update almost weekly.

When I first got into Ham Radio, you would have to purchase a callbook named the "Radio Amateur Callbook". These books (one for DX and one for North America if memory serves me right) were the size of a Chicago phonebook. I purchased these each time a new one was published and that was how you obtained the address of the station you wanted to QSL. You would look them up in this very large book just as you would look up someone's phone number in a phone book. If you wanted to attract attention to your callsign, you could even pay to have it bold faced so it was easy to find!

The same applied to QSL managers. I would use the paper copy of the Golist, another subscription service, to look up callsigns of DX stations that I wanted to QSL. I also paid close attention to BARF-80 BBS information or back then, packet bulletins that you would read on many of the local BBS systems (Bulletin Boards) by checking the listings using your TNC for AX25 packet. Many times you would sit on a frequency until the DX station sent their QSL information. QSL'ing was not as easy back then as you really had to sometimes dig to find the QSL manager or simply the QSL instructions.

Today, this process has been simplified by modern technology but there is still an art to getting a QSL card. I was always a sender for many years when I lived back in Ohio. It was not often that someone really needed my QSL card. I used the shotgun approach back then, after every contest, I would print labels out for each QSO and stick them on a QSL card and fire them all off to the bureau in hopes that I would someday (often years) get a response back. I used direct when possible but that was and still is, very costly. Anything new to me for my award chasing, I would hold out on and look for a direct address or QSL manager. There were times I just never found a good route so I had to wait for someone from that same country to be active again. And at times, this was not only a DX issue, but a stateside issue. People often do not keep their address current with the FCC, which they are required to do. I have sent many direct requests to addresses listed on QRZ.com or the Hamcall website with the envelope being returned.

As always, you need to worry about postal theft. Yep, it does happen and more often than you realize. The slickest job I had seen was in one of my envelopes that I sent to a station in South America. It was apparent that someone carefully peeked into the envelope by slightly opening the back of the envelope at the bottom corner. Most envelopes are glued together and if you look at the rear bottom corners, you can see a small gap where the front and back come together. The skillful person carefully slit the bottom corner open and carefully continued up half of the envelope. They retrieved the one dollar I had in the envelope (it only took one buck back then to get a card from most places) and then glued the envelope back together. It was then stamped, "addressee unknown" and sent back to me unopened, or so I thought. Careful inspection identified the means of obtaining my green stamp. I did send a message to the DX station and he told me that it has been a very big problem for him and I was not the only victim to this type of theft when sending for his QSL card. Now I tape my envelope corners to make it harder to just peek.

Just some basics when wanting a QSL card from me anyway and these basics may work for getting QSL cards from others. My very first advice to anyone is check QRZ.com and do a Google search on QSL Manager information and check the various websites for information. Another great resource is checking the New DX Summit site. You can do a search for a certain callsign under the search menu at the top. Once you enter the stations callsign, you can see the last 25, 100, or even 1000 spots that were sent. Often times this is a good way to find the QSL route that someone may have posted in the comments but this is not always 100 percent accurate. If many stations are posting the same route, there is a good chance you will be safe following those directions. Assuming the operation was not a SLIM (fraud).

My information is posted on QRZ.com which I think is a great practice. If people don't want QSL cards, they should have the common smarts to put a note on QRZ.com and Hamcall. Most hams probably get postal addresses from these websites. Once you check, if there are directions, follow them as asked.

Send your QSL request with an enclosed SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope) enclosed. I enjoy getting QSL cards from around the world and over the years, I have obtained a very nice stamp collection (if you are into that kinda thing). I read all of my QSL cards and I respond to them by handwriting mine out for the return. Yes, putting a sticker on a QSL card, stuffing it into an envelope accomplishes the same thing but I like to make mine more personable. I hand write them out and sign them, sometimes with a comment, or sometimes not.

Anyhow, I normally open up my mail with a knife so putting your SASE in the envelope in such a fashion that would help me from slitting it in two would be nice. Have your self addressed envelope properly stamped and your return address legible is a big plus. Also, a time saver is putting either your address on the SASE on the front top left, or mine. This saves me a return address lable when I send my card back to you in your SASE. I also really like to get self sticking envelopes (peel and stick). I have not licked a stamp in years and I would prefer not to lick an envelope if I could. But, I gladly have and will continue to do so but sometimes if I get several, I will just tape the envelope shut which takes a bit more time.

Some of the other areas you may want to pay close attention to is:

  1. Make sure all areas of the QSL card have been completed. It drives me nuts when people don't fill in all the blocks of their QSL card. I may want to use your QSL for an award and if it appears to have been edited or manipulated, it may not be accepted. Take a few minutes to make sure that everything is completed. If you made a few mistakes, fill out a new card and make it look good.
  2. Make sure when you send it to me, you have MY callsign on the card. I have received several QSL cards for "some other station".
  3. The time on the QSL card is NOT your local time but UTC or GMT time. I think most everyone hates to go through their log by date and time looking for a contact if they can't find the callsign in the log.
  4. If you operate /QRP or /P or /something, make sure you note that on your QSL card. This includes the information from where you operated from. You may be activating a new county for me or even a new grid if on 6 meters in which I can use for an award. I may need your card just as bad as you may need mine!
  5. PLEASE always send your QSL card to me in an envelope when sending direct. For whatever reason, the postal service feels they need to test every stamp they own on post cards and this includes QSL cards. I have received some very nice QSL cards, ones in which it was obvious that someone spent some good money on having printed, get ruined by barcode labels and ink stamps which seem like they get a fresh stamp at each new postal stop. And besides, if it is not an SASE, you probably won't get my card back as I get hundreds of requests a year and I prefer NOT to use my postage stamps to send you one back.
  6. Make sure you have the proper postage on the return envelope. Alaska IS part of the 50 United States so a normal First Class stamp (USA only) will get your envelope back to you. This may sound funny to some, but I have received envelopes with airmail stamps on them. Save your postage stamps and if your envelope is an ounce or less, one First Class stamp will get it back to you.
  7. If you are sending from outside the 50 States, make sure you include one USD (U.S. Dollar) or a properly stamped IRC. Many foreign stations purchase US airmail stamps and will include their SASE using USA postage which works great, too. Just make sure that you put the proper amount on the return envelope. If our postal rates will be going up and it's getting close to the date, always put extra postage on to cover the price increase. I may be on vacation or not have a chance to get your card right back in the mail. I like to refer to this process as using "common cents".
  8. For me anyhow, I ONLY WANT ONE DOLLAR BILL. Often people send me two, one dollar bills. I know that some managers ask for this but for me, if you send me two bucks, you will get one back! One dollar is enough right now to get your QSL card back to you and as much as I appreciate the offer, I will not take the 2nd dollar bill.
  9. When sending a buck in the mail, don't make it obvious. I have always purchased new one dollar bills from the bank for QSL purposes. Why? They are much harder to detect by feel as they are fresh and thin. A used dollar has wrinkles and folds and it much harder to conceal in an envelope. It also helps by putting the dollar(s) inside your SAE or SASE as well. If you can hold up the envelope that you are sending me or any DX station under a light and see that there is a dollar in it, so can someone else. I also tear small pieces of thicker stock paper to put in the envelope to help conceal the buck.
  10. When addressing envelopes, DO NOT put callsigns in the address or return address. Thieves are smart and the callsign itself often times are what they are looking for. You might as well write on the envelope "cash money enclosed" if you put callsigns on it!
  11. Use security envelopes! These are harder to see through due to the way they are made. Yes, they are more expensive but have a few QSL requests at today's return postage rates (often times takes $3 bucks to get a QSL card back from a foreign country) stolen and you have paid for the difference. Cheap insurance in my humble opinion.
  12. I prefer to use European sized return envelopes that allow a bit more room for a larger QSL card. Or stateside, I prefer to use a #10 envelope for the very same reason. Have you ever received a QSL card from W6RO? You don't want a nice QSL card folded I'm sure. They send for the same amount of postage so why not go a bit bigger.
  13. And for me, I have a TON of airmail envelopes so foreign only (outside North America) stations need to only supply their address. This works best if they insert a return address label so I don't have to hand write their address on the return envelope. Again, this is for ME only, per my instructions on QRZ.com. A great reason to check instructions first before sending.
  14. If you are sending to a manager, just a simple note of thanks or maybe a bit extra in the envelope for them is not too much to ask. They are not paid to do this great service and if it were not for many of the QSL Managers today, lots of cards would probably go unanswered. Give them a pat on the back when you can.
  15. Last but not least, BE PATIENT!!!! People do have lives and it can take several weeks to get a confirmation back. Relax!!
There are many more suggestions and resources available online for increasing your success rate on getting a QSL card. Today, more people are choosing to do electronic QSL confirmations with either LOTW or E-QSL. I personally support this due to the excessive cost of postage. I do participate in LOTW and someday will again in E-QSL if they ever honor my request to re-active my account. So far, two emails have gone un-answered submitting through their website. I guess there are enough Alaskan stations who already do it. Either way, this is change as time moves forward and we become subjected to modern technology.

Who would have thought just 15 years ago that a DXpedition would be activated from some rare island in the middle of some ocean and you could see your confirmation in the logbook within a few short hours of working them while they are STILL on the island?

The bureau is still in operation but many are feeling the effects of the global economy and some have closed down due to lack of funds. I like the bureau myself as it is a cheap way to get a QSL card but it can take a few years to get them. If you are a patient person, this is another inexpensive way to get a confirmation, assuming the other station particpates. It costs some hams in foreign countries a bit of money to participate so many choose not to.

I enjoy receiving and sending QSL cards and I still have each and every card I have ever received over the last 20+ years that I have been playing on the bands. Not every ham shares my enjoyment of QSL'ing but it has sure been an eye opener working from a location where many people want your QSL card.

QSL?




Saturday, July 25, 2009

Giving Thanks

Nope, it's not a religious holiday but just one of those many things we take for granted. Our fellow ham radio operators and the internet. Take a look at your computer programs and count how many you currently have on your desktop that you downloaded for free. I currently have, just showing on my desktop, 17! Now, add in those programs that you have downloaded and maybe still have on your computer or maybe for whatever reason, deleted. I bet there are many more.

We have become spoiled with being able to surf the internet for programs, downloading them, and having them operational in just minutes. I did this just recently with a program that allowed me to send and receive Olivia. But some dedicated person took time out of their life and busy schedule to create and publish that program.

I can honestly and proudly say that when I find such programs, I have more than once donated a few dollars to the author of a specific program. A cheap way of saying thanks and it helps support any future updates. Even a general note of thanks I'm sure would be appreciated if you are so damn tight you won't spare a few of your dollars even when you use such programs nearly every day.

What's in this post for me? Not a thing! The only code I know is Morse code but in looking at my desktop, it made me realize how many programs I have that came for free with no strings attached, many of which are still supported and get regular updates. So, don't be a LID, give credit where credit is due and next time you see where you can help by donating a few dollars, do it! And lets not forget about websites that support ham radio activity! These people have internet bills for bandwidth usage just like you and I. The more popular a site is, the more bandwidth that is used and the bigger their bill (I have financially donated to these sites as well).


Think about it, a small price to pay for your enjoyment of our great hobby.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What's up with the bands?



Oh, now I know!! Larry, N1TX (KL2R) got me hooked on this website.

It's very interesting to see the correlation between an increase in solar wind and absorption. I now follow this website almost daily. Living up north is already challenging but this is a great tool to use when it comes to deciding if I'm going to play in the shack or if I'm going to do something else. This explains why I'm not hearing much tonight on the bands. After checking out HAARPs Riometer, it's always off to Spaceweather.com! The numbers say it all and just confirms that I need to partake in some other project. Oh, and a final number check tells me that the SFI (Solar Flux Index) is 68, the A index is 22 and the K index is 1. Yep, grabbing my I-touch and heading to a new location normally called the living room to be socialiable. Wonder what's on TV?? Time to listen to Daughtry's new album, again. If you have not listened to it, it ROCKS!!


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

July 21st, Auroral Propagation


Many spots on 6 and 10 meters here but only heard K7EK beacon in CN87 at my QTH on 10 meters.

Bands are rough due to the absorption and auroral activity.


As far as 6 meters, Garth, VE8NSD, has a new antenna up and it sure is working great for him. Heard him very strong on 6 meters, 50.125. Garth has been a solid performer into BP53 so far this season.

And the aurora, if visible, would be nice tonight I'm sure.