Monthly Archives: March 2013

Weak Planning, Weak Execution Leads to Weak CQ WPX Performance

Well another CQ WPX SSB and I’ll be turning in a pretty low score.

What wasn’t ready?  Lots – I wasn’t, my computer wasn’t, and life wasn’t ready to let me get free.

After a long long week, which finished only a half an hour before the contest started, I didn’t start the contest with a contester’s attitude.  I was tired, had way too much computer screen time all week, hadn’t even had time to warm up my gear.

So no surprise that when I started my rig things kept locking up – that is after I spent a while fussing with contest logging software first.

Because my machine hadn’t been on in a week, it was trying to update – Windows, Adobe Reader/Flash/Whatever, Anti-Virus (Murphy;s law was that it wanted to do a major full update rather than just a data update), DDUtil even got into the act… oh and then some other stuff moaned about needing updates as well.

Also the Anti-Virus and Windows both wanted to do disk scans.

I soldiered on for two hours, getting on the air only an hour and a bit, before I threw in the towel.  I also had made a big mistake by delaying/postponing the stuff the computer wanted to do in the hurry to just get on the air.

Saturday brought chores, the need to do some work, phone calls and Skype calls, correspondence, a visit to family, errands, and I finally arrived end of the day wanting the quiet of reading, not the frantic noise of contesting.  Then I remembered I was going to go to Easter Vigil at 8pm which put me home late and even more tired.

Up early on Sunday to finish chores and by the time I was organized it was time to meet family for Easter Brunch.  After visiting and other stops, it was after 4 pm before I could fire up the station again.

I had left the Dell running and the software all had played badly with each other while idling.  PowerSDR was froze, the Anti-Virus had gone into some sort of terminal collapse that required a deinstall/reinstall to sort out, and even DDUTIL had folded and a begging for the updated version.

Another Skype call on the Mac needed attention, and by the time I got the Dell sorted and stable it was 40 minutes to go until the contest ended.  Two phone calls cut ten minutes off that.

Of course then the Dell ran perfectly, and I logged what I could and after teh contest ended switched to 160m to ragchew with the group.

Like cooking. contesting usually works out with a few substitutions, but fails if you substitute too much.  I had violated too many contesting preparation checkpoints:

  • I wasn’t rested and ready
  • My machine wasn’t fully updated, and ready
  • I hadn’t cleared life tasks away to get on the air at the best times
  • I hadn’t even interested enough time to know when those best times to be on the air were forecast to be

Of course that it was Easter Weekend couldn’t be helped.

Maybe next year??!





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Radio Tube – Amplification Explained

A vintage AT&T Film that starting at 7:58 in explains vacuum tube amplification in very straight forward terms.



Photos from Raspberry Pi running fldigi

K9ZW Raspberry Pi running fldigi

Here is the overall setup. I don’t usually get to set computers up on the kitchen table.

fldigi running Feld Hellschreiber in transmit mode.

Haven’t put it on the air yet – still trying to resolve some of the artifacts from processor overloading.

This is the Raspberry Pi itself, cased in a Pi-Shell.

Lots of cables.

I picked a decent powered hub, and power the Raspberry Pi itself from the hub.

I tried a less costly hub and had keyboard issues wwwwwhhhhhhheeeeeerrrrrreeee it couldn’t read the keyboard and other random reboots.

I really needed the first book. I haven’t dug into the second one yet.

Here is the Raspbian Wheezy default desktop.



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Upcoming CQ WPX SSB

Next weekend is the CQ WPX SSB contest, and I have a chace of putting in a better than average (for me) showing.

Basic contest information (just the info I need):

CQ WPX Contest Dates SSB: March 30-31, 2013
Starts: 0000 UTC Saturday Ends: 2359 UTC Sunday


Period of Operation: 48 hours. Single Operator stations may operate 36 of the 48 hours – off times must be a minimum of 60 minutes during which no QSO is logged.

Bands: Only the 1.8, 3.5, 7, 14, 21, and 28 MHz bands may be used.

Single Operator High (All Band or Single Band): QSO alerting assistance is not permitted. Total output power must not exceed 1500 watts.


Single Operator Low (All Band or Single Band): QSO alerting assistance is not permitted. Total output power must not exceed 100 watts.

Single Operator Overlay Categories: Single Operator entrants above may also submit their log for one of the categories shown below by adding an additional line in the Cabrillo log file header called CATEGORY-OVERLAY. All Overlay entries are grouped into high power and low power in the results.

(a) Tribander/Single Element (TB-WIRES): During the contest an entrant shall use only one (1) tribander (any type, with a single feed line from the transmitter to the antenna) for 10, 15, and 20 meters and single-element antennas on 40, 80, and 160 meters.

Exchange: RS(T) report plus a progressive contact serial number starting with 001 for the first contact.

I have several Easter Weekend events at Church and with Family, but I do think I can squeeze in at least a 1/3 available hours effort. SOmewhat concerned that the time slots I have opne are not looking very productive for propagation.

Big thing to get ready is to get a Voice Keyer up and running. I was loosing my voice during the Wisconsin QSO party and was only only a bit more than 2 hours.

I’ll have to decide if I want to run 100w or high power, and if I want to run with assistance or without. Presently thinking Without, 100w power will be the choice.

I should quality for the TB-WIRES overlay endorsement.

Hope to catch you on the air next weekend!



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VOA Radiogram — More Digital PSK Mode Trials

Again I received fairly late notice that this weekend Voice of America is trial broadcasting several PSK mode broadcasts.

VoA Radiogram

VOA Radiogram — “Soft launch” of VOA Radiogram this weekend.

  • Modes menu for VOA Radiogram, March 23/24, 2013

    VOA Radiogram for March 23/24 will be similar to the past weekend’s program in that it features the PSK modes. Much of Kim’s script will be the same. In this weekend’s broadcast, however, only one mode at a time will be transmitted. This should improve the signal-to-noise ratio and ability to decode each mode.

    Each will be centered on 1500 Hz:

    1. BPSK31 (1:00)
    2. PSK63F (1:00)
    3. BPSK63 (1:00)
    4. PSKR125 (1:00)
    5. PSKR250 (1:00)
    6. PSKR500 (1:00)
    7. PSKR1000 (1:00)
    8. PSKR125 (3:45) Plain text
    9. PSKR250 (2:40) Flmsg* formatted (with html)
    10. MFSK32 (0:55) Image

    *Install Flmsg. Then, in Fldigi: Configure > Misc >  NBEMS > under Reception of flmsg files click Open with flmsg and Open in browser, and below that state where your Flmsg file is located.

    If decoding performance is still not satisfactory, VOA Radiogram in future weekends will feature more robust modes, such as MFSK, MT63, and Olivia.

    See VOA Radiogram: how to decode the modes.

    VOA Radiogram transmission schedule
    (all days and times UTC)
    Sat 1600-1630 17860 kHz
    Sun 0230-0300 5745 kHz
    Sun 1300-1330 6095 kHz
    Sun 1930-2000 15670 kHz
    All via the Edward R. Murrow transmitting station in North Carolina.

    Please send reception reports, audio samples, screenshots, etc.,  to

This is a neat extension of both the use of the PSK digital modes more popular in Amateur Radio and VoA broadcast mission.



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Phone Virus Scam Spearphishing for Radio Amateurs?

Phone Virus Scam Spearphishing for Radio Amateurs?

Have received several phone calls from overseas numbers in an obvious scam.

The callers have such heavy accents that they sound like characters from an old-style Saturday Night Live skit. You can hear the other central Asians on their scam phone calls in the boiler room’s ambient noise.

Call number is unrecognized and likely an VoIP call into the USA system somewhere.

The call’s script starts with “Do you have a Windows computer, as we can see it has a virus…” which unfortunately comes out as “Du yew abb ah Whin-Dooze Come-pew-tur…” in the heavy accent.

Thought I wanted to say “No ‘Peggy’ we are religious fundamentals who are not allowed computers” I instead allowed one of the many callers to speak a bit more – they wanted me to go to my computer so I could download a fix they would sell me…..

When I asked the lady would this work on my MacBook, she started apologizing “no no ongeley whin-dooze come-pew-tur wurk sore-ee sor-ee.”

It wasn’t until we received the fifth of these pesty calls and I started asking around if anyone else I knew was getting them that I discovered the only people how I knew who had said they were called were fellow hams.

Now correlation does not equal causation – meaning just because I hear from other hams that they have received these calls doesn’t make it a sure thing that the calls are targeting hams.

But it does seem like Spearphishing (a type of phishing targeting a specific victim) with a phone and computer joint attack scheme.

There is no way some Indian firm knows if my local machine has a program on it – heck they were only guessing we had a computer in the first place and were making a second guess as to what operating system we were running.

That a number of hams seem to be reporting receiving the calls suggests that as hams we’re in the target group for this attack.

Have you been called?



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