Should contest rules allow and act upon 599K QRM reports?

Friday, 30 December 2011

Elecraft K3 band-select and quadripple band-stacking

Reading eham reviews you would think the K3 has none of the above features. The people who have made these remarks haven't RTFM. Band Select: To select the (10/12/15/17/20/30/40/80/160)m band I do the following: M>V and then press the appropriate keypad key (1/9/5/7/2/3/4/8/0) configurable. Band stacking: To select any portion/mode (cw/data/beacon/ssb) within any band I do the following: M>V and then press the appropriate memory key (M1/M2/M3/M4) configurable. In this way I can get to any band portion within 4 key presses. In some ways the Elecraft system is better than Yaesu/Icom/Kenwood as instead of scrolling round bandstacking registers with continual key presses of the band button, with the Elecraft system you select exactly which portion to jump to. Unfortunately the above system isn't implemented in the default menu settings of the K3, so the ops that give up too easily or that can't use menus don't get the benefit of these essential features. Pressing the band and mode up/down buttons is for appliance operators only :-).

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Thanks eQSL

Some people have dedicated 50+ years collecting paper QSLs for awards, pleasure etc. They have spent hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on cards, postage and storage over that period and then there's all that valuable time spent writing them out and cataloguing them. It doesn't matter how good eQSL is, some of these people will always regard eQSL as the devil's spawn, as it brought up the thorny question of 'was all this time and effort for nothing?'. Some who have considered this question, have pushed the unthinkable answer away by decrying eQSL and making sure eQSLs are not valid for awards etc. A quick look on will readily identify these people who normally state "no eQSL". eQSL is simple, effortless and automatic, what possible reason could their be for this statement, other than it being soley based on the principal of it. Another criticism is that eQSL lacks the security and validity of other systems that followed on from eQSL. With regards these other systems, please let us all remember that this only a hobby and people that cheat are only cheating themselves. In my opinion, additional levels of security are only necessary for the people that have forgotten that this is a hobby and want to protect their achievement whilst cheapening others achievements at the same time. eQSL was the perfect solution for radio hams to keep card collectors off their backs, now the next threat to using eQSL are award chasers. Why not petition the award organiser itself for not accepting eQSL instead of the pestering the eQSL user?
Anyway I'd like to personally thank eQSL and my logging program DXLAB for shielding me from most of the QSL nonsense for many years without me having to invest any of my own valuable radio time.
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you eQSL.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

MM3T Croatian CW contest 2011

I took a snapshot of 28.025MHz at 12:50Z today during the Croatian CW contest.

The top station I'm listening to is RT3T, he's showing key clicks (top centre). He's just worked someone with a clean signal (top left).

The middle station is RN3F, he's also showing key clicks (centre left and right). He's just worked someone with a clean signal (centre).

The bottom station is K2SSS who's transmission is strong and clean.

I took this snap as it shows a nice comparison between clean and dirty transmissions. This is typical of what anyone in the UK has to put up with during every 10M contest. There really is no contest happening here as both RT3T and RN3F have a massive advantage over everyone having to put up with the effects of their transmissions. It must be bliss to able to run without your rx sounding like a machine gun and having to QSY every few minutes.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

MM3T in ARRL 10M 2011

Great contest marred as usual by key clicks. Tried all sorts to survive, the only way I could run was to have AF limiter at 22, AGC off and preamp off.

Final score :

States worked:

Missed Idaho and Nevada for some reason.

Nice split between EU and NA.

Stns causing QRM :


Ridiculous key clicks from all the above. These were the top 5, but there were plenty others who didn't quite deserve being outed. The problem with good condx on 10M is that the UK is hammered by poorly set up stations who don't care (or don't understand) what effects they cause to others.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


My rx got really hammered by two stations in particular this year:
HA1A and UA5A.

Both stations were super strong which isn't a problem with a good rx like the K3, but when they appear in my passband when I'm over 5KHz away, there is no contest.

With the contest element removed for my entry, I started to wonder what the point was and the fun just evaporated.

Who knows were the problem lies, but hopefully it will be sorted for next year.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Elecraft K3 Expensive from the UK?

I recently bought 2x 8-pole filters from Elecraft amounting to a US cost of $316.80:

2x $139.95 for filters
+ $36.90 postage

Considering that the item is barely more than a jiffy bag, the postage seems expensive. However this isn't the end of the story. Parcel Force intercepts the parcel in the UK from whoever the US postal company is, and then collects VAT (UK Import Tax) and adds their own handling charge:

import VAT £39.26 + Parcel Force Clearance fee £8 = £47.26 ($75.96)

To add insult to injury Parcel Force are located sparcely throughtout the UK, so if you aren't close enough to pickup the parcel and you work for a living (meaning you can't receive a parcel during working hours) you have to pay an additional fee of £12 to get it delivered on a Saturday.

So total cost to buy 2 filters from the US is approx $420!

Ok, after a few seconds to swallow that one, do I still consider a Elecraft K3 to be expensive to own in the UK? I bought my K3 back in June 2008 and up until then I was spending too much money swapping and changing radios every 6 months or so, buying the must haves and latest and greatest for contesting. I don't dare to think what I was spending! However since 2008 I haven't felt the need to change my radio, more so, there still isn't anything better than the K3 IMO out there. Ok I have been buying extras for it and upgrading parts, but I still feel that the investment is getting better with each passing year.

Don't get me wrong the K3 does have it's faults, but what radio doesn't? If you were to ask a K3 owner about his radio, he would most probably moan about this or that, but the deciding question should be whether he is willing to swap it for anything else around the same price..... The answer to that question currently (for the majority of owners, I would think) is a most resounding NO!

I still own all my old radios and at times where the K3 has annoyed me, I have rooted out an old favourite and apart from appreciating better ergonomics I immediately have been disappointed. I thought there must have been a fault developed in the RX due to lack of use, but no it's just that I knew no better when I used it last.

The K3 has definately spoilt me and my expectations are now so high, no other radio seems to come close. Your mileage may vary, but I judge a radio foremost by it's rx performance and for this amateur there just isn't anything else in the same price bracket.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

MM3T CQWW Phone 2011

With the recent conditions on 10m being so good, I decided to do a single band entry this year (10m). This decision was helped by the fact that I have been concentrating on optimising my station for 10m in readyness for the up turn in the sun spot cycle.

This year I swapped my RG213 for Westflex and also got the 3 ele-yagi another 1m up above the ground (now 8m up). I can now only just lift it and the rotator into the vertical position and it is really the best I can get away with and keep the peace with the neighbours.

I haven't heard 10m in such good contion since I was licensed back in 86. I started at 0630 on Saturday morning and swung the beam round for ZL. As the day progressed I followed the greyline from North all the way through East, South, West and back to North. Highlights were JA/HL/XU/VU/V55/CX/KH7 and KL7.

My K3 had a faulty DVK card and I had hoped to get it replaced before the contest started. Unfortunately it arrived too late to risk installing it before the contest, so I soldiered on with the old faulty one until I couldn't stand it any longer. My throat was getting sore, so on Saturday night I finished early and swapped the DVK out with the new one. Luckily all went well and the new keyer worked perfectly.

I managed to work 39 out of 40 zones (missing zone 32) and also worked 140 countries. I closed the scoring early on Sun evening approaching the half million point mark. It had been a long weekend, low points were getting my frequency taken by a GW3 who couldn't hear me and also the usual splatter coming from south eastern EU. I think this is my best result yet.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

MM3T IOTA contest 2011

category : Single-op, low, cw, 12hr, unassisted, island.

Note: I was Island category and not dxpedition due to the currently flawed rules and prize categories. It's not a contest you can win if you enter the dxpedition category as you are pitched in with 24hr monster multi-op stations, stupid or what?

Island : EU123 Isle of Bute
Maidenhead loc : io75jw

I took the families boat out from Tighnabruaich and motored across to the nearest point Bute (Rubha Dubh) on Saturday morning. All was calm and landing was easy a few hours before high tide meaning I could get the boat in over a large sub-surface boulder field.

As you can see in the picture centre above, the site is on the point of a peninsula meaning I have the advantage of being surround by sea water for 270 degrees. On the downside it's surrounded by mountains, but hey it's only a small boat and beggars can't be choosers.

New this year was the addition of a toilet tent. Not for it's obvious purpose, but rather for it's small footprint giving me the ability to pitch it on the beach at the high tide mark. I found that any tent that allows you to stand up in is too large to be securely pitched on sand. It was just large enough for me to sit on a chair in front of a small table...perfect! I could also stand up in there when sitting became uncomfortable and easily get in and out to adjust antennas etc.
You can just make out my green toilet tent and my red pop up tent further up the beach in the photo below.

Unfortunately the tide really goes out quite far (30m) at this point, so I had to get antennas up before high tide to keep them near the salt at low tide. It was a real battle to beat the tide and I managed to go in over my wellies several times whilst trying to get radials out over deeper water.

I was late to start, but as it was only a 12hr operation it didn't matter too much. Equipment used was Elecraft K2, microham cwkeyer, alinco dm330mw SMPS and SDMO booster 1000 petrol generator. Wintest was used running on a small Samsung netbook. Antennas were all vertical monopoles as high as the rules allowed and right down by the waterside.

I afforded myself a quick cup of tea from the gas stove before I started calling CQ.

Details to follow.....

Sunday, 5 June 2011

National Field Day (NFD) Region 1

Active as GM4AGG/P this weekend for NFD with Terry GM3WUX. Using N1MM, Elecraft k3 and top band doublet.
Used dual receive capability of the K3 all contest. N1MM really helps allowing easy tx switch between main and sub rx frequencies:
ctrl-right arrow : tx to sub freq
ctrl-left arrow :tx back to main freq
In this way you can run on the main whilst s&p on the sub. This is easy to say but not easy to do efficiently.

Notes to self :
1) Always use full break-in whilst doing the above, it allows tuning the sub whilst txing on the main. You can tell when you've got a hot one in the sub even before you finsh a CQ.
2) Main and Sub CW speeds in N1MM are separate (cool).
3) RIT is up and down arrow
4) Speed is page up and page down
5) The volume control on the K3 may be better with it configured as a balance control

Terry can do this himself, but it's easier with a buddy who understands whats happening and who is also listening to both rxs. The buddy can help by constantly tuning the sub finding running stations in the contest. He also controls the volume by following the operators tx indication on the K3 LCD. When a weak one calls the volume of the sub/main can be reduced to help the operator 'tune-in'. In this way the operators hands never leave the keyboard.

With just 2 operators for 24hrs we managed to beat last years score despite worse conditions. The only difference was using the dual rxs in the K3. We also had 1 hr down-time this year due to a faulty PSU.

last year 940Qs, this year 1070Qs

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

GB5TI cw pile-ups

During GB5TI we were mostly using the K3 in split mode (tx on B VFO, rx using A VFO) I initially set the radio for 1KHz split up. This served to get the rate back up as the pile-up could now hear me.

Notes to self:

1) Always use QSK when calling for split DX. During GB5TI I realised that some operators would keep sending their callsign until I sent anything then they stopped. If I waited they just kept sending with hardly any gap. If I got a complete call I could go back without hesitating after the last letter. If they weren't on QSK it invariably went quiet after I sent their call as we both doubled on his second time through his callsign. I wanted to try to set a single call rhythm but that's hard to do when people aren't using QSK.

2) During GB5TI I would occasionally forget to tune the A VFO about after working the last station in the pile. I couldn't believe the number of stations that weren't listening for the stations I was working to find my rx frequency. Instead they would be blindly calling 2KHz up or something and eventually I'd find them even although they were 59 and the last stations in the pile were 51. When you finish the pile the temptation is to reset to 1KHz up and call CQ again. At home, if I'm not the default 1KHz up and I hear the op calling CQ I'll now try tuning to 1KHz up +/- a few hundred hertz especially if only "up" is sent.

3) I found that opening the width control (DSP filter coupled with automatic roof filter selection at key points) right up to around 800Hz DSP with 1KHz roof filter (deselecting the 400Hz roof filter) was the best setting at the height of the pile-up. This way I could pick off the highs and the lows without taking my hands off the keyboard. It also meant that the pile-up spread out as stations jumped off the centre frequency to tail end the last station worked. This stops the pile-up guessing listening frequency patterns/tuning directions and a nice even spread emerges.

4) At the height of pile-ups, as I'm less than a little pistol, calling immediately is pointless as the strongest station invariably wins. Better to hold off a callsign length or two and then pop one in lower than the suspected listening frequency.

5) Always remember to disengage split after working the DX. On a number of occasions I heard stations I'd already worked randomly sending their callsigns on my listening frequency. After several attempts to re-work a specific Russian station I realised he had just forgotten to disengage split.

GB5TI cw pile-ups with N1MM

I have used N1MM twice before, enough to be able to log with it, but never in any great detail. Initial CQ calls brought one or two callers then we were spotted and all hell broke loose. I'd never operated split with N1MM before and instantaniously hit problems:

1) If I tuned the A VFO over the pile-up the software took me out of run mode and sent the S&P macros instead. I noticed it doing it and got into the routine of putting it back in run mode every time it jumped out. Later (and after much swearing from me) Gordon MM0GPZ found a selection in the setup menus to stop this happening.
2) I had to use the key to send partial calls to whittle the pile-up. The tent was freezing and the tent walls were flapping off my key hand making things difficult. If I tried to use ESM it tried to log the partial call. The solution was known by Bill GM4ZNC who recommended I type a ? after the partial call which served to send the partial call query but not to try and log it. Then it highlighted the ? ready to be over-typed with the full call.
3) Two or three times whilst trying to edit the callsign field, N1MM would engage the RIT and move my RX frequency. This might be a handy feature for casual operating, but was a real pest for me during GB5TI. I now know that this was due to me accidentally pressing the up or down arrow keys when editing the callsign field.

Monday, 2 May 2011

GB5TI Island of Lunga EU108 (Treshnish Islands) photos


Well it's all over, hope you worked us! Some initial pictures of the operation:

Landing on Lunga is tricky when carrying equipment, then there's the boulder field to clamber over.

(l to r) Jim MM0BQI, Cary, Gordon MM0GPZ, David GM4WLL, Bill GM4ZNC, Doug GM0ELP

GB5TI operating site on Lunga, verticals (l to R, 40m,80m,20m) as near the salt water as we could get.

Me on a short break exploring Lunga

Thanks for the contacts and for stopping by.

Hams4hams 18m pole on Lunga EU108

I've previously posted details about the Hams4hams 18m pole, but haven't tested it out in anger. I can now rectify the situation as it was used by GB5TI to support an 80m 1/4 wave vertical antenna over a 4 day period on the island of Lunga EU108. The clamps were all made up as suggested in the instructions and they worked perfectly to stop the pole collapsing down. The provided lower material guying collar was used as it seemed to slide down to the correct height for the first guying point. The second (smaller) material guying collar wasn't used as when pushed down the pole it seemed to stop at a point too high up the pole after the first guying point for our installation. We settled for a second guying point 1 section lower than the smaller guying collar allowed. The pole remained perfectly errect through long periods of gusting winds up to about 30 mph. The team were all impressed with the pole and all members had experience with the other pole manufacturer and agreed the hams4hams pole was great value for money.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

GB5TI EU108 Treshnish Isles

Just announced and I'm going to be part of it (yeehah!). I hope I can do it justice, I'll knacker myself trying no doubt. Gordon MM0GPZ is picking me up at the house in Hamilton at an unearthly time on Thursday 28th, we need to catch the first ferry from Oban to Mull and then make our way to the boat thats been charted by MM0BQI to Lunga. If all goes well we should be on the air late afternoon, probably 20 and 15m (CW and SSB). There are only 4 of us for a 4 day operation so please be patient with us as sleep deprivation creeps in.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Elecraft XV144 offset fault solution

Well hats off to Elecraft, they've come up with a fix for the "offset fault" I reported. Seemingly they had a crystal supply problem in the last year or so and ended up swapping their supplier. Unfortunately the new supplier is providing Crystals marked 116.010MHz. These crystals are obviously 10KHz out from the original 116.000MHz ones.

The Elecraft K3 and K2 transceivers will only correct +/- 10KHz offset in firmware so any inaccuracy in the +ve side of the new 116.010MHz crystals renders the transceiver "off frequency". Unfortunately this was the case with my supplied crystal.

The Elecraft fix involves cutting a link and adding an adjustable inductor coil to "pull" the 116.010MHz crystal within the offset capability of the K3/K2 transceivers.

I decided that after paying the extra money for the crystal oven option, I would rather have a more accurate crystal inside the oven rather than "pull" the crystals frequency using a coil outside the oven. I have now replaced the crystal with one from a local supplier:

QuartsSLab (+442071006357)
HC49u, 5th Overtone - 116MHz, series o03s
Price £21.83

This replacement crystal now brings the XV144 up bang on frequency. Now to get on with using it :-).

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Elecraft XV144 and Yaesu FT-1000MP MARK-V

Whilst waiting for Elecraft to come up with a solution to the "offset fault", I decided to hook up the XV144 to the MK-V. My set-up is as follows:

Mk-V Menu settings:
3-3 (tr-disp) = 144
4-0 (rf out) = 10
8-4 (FrontEnd) = flat

Mk-V switch settings:
IPO (on)
rx ant (on)

Mk-V <-> XV144
ant B -> tx in (via 16dB attenuator)
rx ant in <- rx out tx gnd -> key in

I bought a microwave modules 16dB attenuator from Ebay which reduces the menu restricted 10W drive from the Mk-V down to the 250mW required by the XV144 (also capable of 1mW and 5W drive levels by link selection). The result is perfect, with the XV144 responding similarly to the K3/K2 1mW drive.

What is straight away apparent is that the Mk-V drive is 100% stable from first key of the mike (unlike the K3/K2 which ramp up slowly over a 10 second period on first key of the mike, thereafter stable until pwr/band/switch-on event). The Yaesu PA behaviour is so much better than Elecraft have been able to achieve to date. I didn't know if the ramp up in power was the K3/K2 or the XV144 but I now know it's the K3/K2 PA.

On first switch on the signal strength meter went to about S7 due to the MkV rf amplifier "tuned" profile. I toyed with ATT values, but felt the "FLAT" rx profile best, as this combo gave me S0 on the meter with an accassional flicker up to S1....perfect! The rx gain loss caused by engaging the cascaded 500 or 250Hz (2nd and 3rd IF) filters on the MkV can be leveled out by using the MkV "tuned" rf amplifier profile.

There is no mention of transverter operation in the Mk-V manual and very little extra in the FTV-1000 manual, but the methodology of use is that you dial in 28.000 on VFO A then change menu 3-3 to 144. This then calibrates the frequency display to 144.000. To account for the Elecraft "offset fault" I must set VFO A to 27.978 and then set menu 3-3 to 144. This brings up 144.000 on the frequency display and compensates for the Elecraft "offset fault" ...thank you thank you Yaesu! Maybe Elecraft could learn something here.

There seems very little info on the web about this subject so hopefully someone out there finds this useful.

Monday, 10 January 2011



Who could believe that the UK could produce such poor signals in this day and age? I'm tempted to name and shame on this blog (as the clickers had much higher scores than me), but that may be construed as hard cheese. In some cases I had to hunt more than 1KHz to find the clicker. Hopefully someone will have recorded the whole contest and has measured the clickers bandwidths. Feel free to reply with the results :-).

Is it lack of knowledge?
Is it lack of money?
Is it that no-one can get close enough to you to cause rx problems?
Is it deliberate.....?