Tag Archives: DX Clusters

Sometimes the bands can leave a person simply puzzled!

Sometimes the bands can leave a person simply puzzled!

Working the regional 160m net was a chore, with S9+20 roaring noise.

It was only that I was having configuration troubles after upgrading software – much of which I may have avoided by more carefully reading the manuals and making better notes during upgrade setup – that I stuck in the station fussing with settings.

Much of the time I was wrestling with Audio Gremlins and Port Control Software configuration.

In the midst of messing, some listening & some DX Cluster watching suggested that 15m and 17m were moderate to long.


A quick point to the Caribbean brought Martinique and Cuba quickly:

TO5K 31Mar2012
00:40 17M SSB

CO6LE 31Mar2012
00:42 15M SSB

Then a swing to Asia based on DX Cluster reports start with a long listening session interrupted with several reboots as I sorted out software and working Japan, Thailand, North Cook Islands and Cambodia during an hour of much listening a tweaking on the station. A kind fellow ham tipped me off that my Audio was still messed up, so it was dummy load at 10w time with PowerSDR set to monitor my audio output back into my headset until I adjusted out the issues. Here is what I worked in between software tinkering:

JK1MZT 31Mar2012
00:54 15M SSB

HS0ZJU 31Mar2012
01:27 15M SSB

E51M 31Mar2012
01:33 17M SSB

XU7SSB 31Mar2012
01:54 15M SSB

On Software the two recent station changes – upgrade of PowerSDR to the latest v2.3.5 and use of DDUtil integration software – the PowerSDR upgrade has been the most frustrating. It would seem that my cheat sheet of “good settings” from the prior version is not going to work, and many of the Audio enhancements are suddenly so sensitive that I have to either turn them off or cut them back to less than 25% of their prior levels.

Audio settings are important for me, as my natural voice is not a good DX voice, being too baritone and resonant. With the Flex-Radio I sidelined my external processing audio gear and use the various software equalizers, compression options and other enhancements to create a competitive DX Voice.

Basically I filter and process my voice to a broadcast sound that is higher in pitch focus and has a more precise audio core.

One really weird part of doing the monitor of self listening technique is the slight delays in the system – they are minuscule though you do end up talking slower as you naturally wait to hear the end of your phonetics – “kilo niner zulu whiskey” slows down into “keyyylooow nighnnneer zoooolooooo whhhhissskeeee” as instinct creates a feedback cadence slowdown. Sounded link an Andy Warhol painting in audio!

I didn’t work but heard 9N1AA (Nepal) and an Indian station – the pileups were huge and I didn’t want to add to the din with questionable audio & weak copy on receive.

As I didn’t have Thailand or Cambodia in the log under my own call, it was a real pleasure to find that my “Mr Fixit” session had a bonus of a couple new DX Entities!

Sometimes the bands can leave a person simply puzzled!



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Special Event Spots – Courtesy or Run Amuck?

DXScape Screen Shot

DXScape Screen Shot

Have a peek of the DXScape screen shot above – Domestic Spotting of a Domestic Special Event has not only crowded out real DX Spots, but between N2CU and W2TB become virtually the only reports available to a user.

By reporting their domestic event spots every few minutes the usual DX Content has been all but pushed off the spot reports.

Given the back & forth dialogue between some of the Spot users first asking them to refrain and then name calling, these overwhelming spots are not excitement, but rather are excrement.

This is not new with the Salmon Run event, and occurs too often to make this one event a special standout, but it is an abuse of the Spot System in a way that is neither of interest to the DX hunters who use Spots nor a fair use of this limited resource. Mixed in later today were endless Route 66 Special Event Spots and another event I didn’t recognize. The Salmon Run apparently is some sort of contest as well as special event, but bluntly once these posts pushed real DX Spotting off the screen, who cares?

It isn’t as if the DX Spot community has a “channel B” to switch to.

Remember DX Spots are not Frequencies, and happen with a real cost, usually underwritten by individuals and clubs interested primarily in working DX.

The misuse by domestic special events could be likened to getting up one morning to find your driveway filled with a circus, uninvited, and being subject to their claim “well you always park here, why can’t we?”

It should be simple, they don’t own the driveway, haven’t paid for it to be built & maintained, don’t pay the taxes for it, and certainly don’t pick up a shovel to keep it clear in winter.

Perhaps the Special Event community could do with a Spot System or a way to Filter their spots for users of present systems.

I personally would really like the ability to follow Special Events this way, that is with a separate Special Events Spot System. It would be really neat and very useful, specially when working with youngsters or club members.

Short of a place to put these domestic special event and contest spots separately from DX Spots there is no resolution.

Perhaps the Amateur Radio Community can develop a more attractive place for these inappropriate spots and give everyone a good place to do their hobby?



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REPOST: Checking for Spots – Effective use of DX Clusters – Part II

This is a follow up to Checking for Spots – Effective use of DX Clusters – Part I

So how to effectively use Spots?

The easiest use is to look at Spots to see in what directions other station near you are able to work various DX locations.

You can do this without getting into too much detail just by noticing that other stations in your area of the country are reporting (spotting) working stations from let’s say France and Germany. You may want to swing your antenna that direction, find a clear frequency and call CQ DX.

You can “Read & Jump” swinging your antenna and tuning your rig to match the spot and try to work the reported DX station. Many amateurs substitute “Read & Jump” for their own tuning & searching for DX.

You can use Spots to help a friendly DX station. It is usually good form to ask the DX station if they want to be spotted. Some absolutely don’t want to have the instant pile-up and will even react badly (refusing to exchange QSLs, holding return QSLs for a “punishment year” or even responding “Not in Log” to QSLs from stations who spot them when asked not to). Usually any confusion can be prevented by asking if they want you to spot them.

In contests, provided you are working in an “assisted” category during a contest that allows use of spots, you can use spots to search for multipliers.

You can also use a spot to tip off other amateurs of a special event, island activation or other opportunity to work an unusual station or QTH.

In general you should avoid spotting other domestic stations, unless propagation has been so poor as to make that an event, or a sign of the band opening, or it is a contest where others would appreciate a chance to work the spotted station.

Don’t forget that you will likely be spotted as well! Specially if you are calling CQ and are being received well in a DX location, they may spot you! Some of the DX Spot websites allow you to look at the whole world’s spots and you might just see yourself noted!

Remember spots are archived and used by some amateurs to do propagation analysis. They are also used by contest log checkers to clarify if the QSOs in a log are consistent with propagation at the time they were logged and to check if unassisted stations were really running unassisted.



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REPOST: Checking for Spots – Effective use of DX Clusters – Part I

DX spots are real time reports of distant radio contacts made on various frequencies by various stations, which aggregated show propagation conditions into these areas.

Basically they are reports by amateurs of the DX they just worked, share to help others understand what propagation is at the moment and to encourage other stations to work the DX station.

The exact formats vary, but the components are DX Callsign, Time, Frequency, Reporting Station Callsign and Comments

These reports are shared by telnet, internet and packet radio.

An example is this screen shot of a quiet DX moment:

DX Spot Screen Shot

Some sample links to internet DX Spots are:

DX Summit
eHam DX Spots
N5IN DX Spots Resource Page

Pay particular notice to comments that say things like:

Up 1 – (means the DX is working Split and is listening 1 up from his transmission frequency)
QSX – also means the DX is working Split
200-210 – means the DX is listening to stations calling between those frequencies (Split again)
QRT – the station just stopped transmitting
QSY – the station moved frequencies or bands
CQing or cqn – the DX station is calling CQ
CQ NA – the DX station is calling CQ for specific areas, countries or numbers
6,7’s – the DX station is taking QSOs from US stations by callsign number, and is currently taking 6’s and 7’s
List – the DX station periodically asks for stations to call, forms what is heard into a list and works the QSOs in list order
Net – the DX station is participating in a DX net, and the net periodically takes calls for a list
WWDX, Sprint, BARC – the reported stations is working a contest – the name could be any one of hundreds of contests
test – the reported station is in a contest
via callsign – the QSL route is through the callsign in the comments
simplex – the DX is now transmitting & receiving on the same frequency (usually after working split for a period)
RTTY, Hell, PSK31 – the DX is working in that digital mode

There are many more, watch spots for a while and you will get the feel.

Unfortunately the comments section is sometimes used to editorialize or complain about other stations.

So how does one use Spots?

Check back for “Checking for Spots – Effective use of DX Clusters – Part II”



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