Monday, April 21, 2014

DXCC #188: JW/SF0F Svalbard

Twenty meters was a bit noisy when I got home from work just before 6pm local time (2300 UTC). On the cluster was Svalbard, a country I've seen spotted several times but for which I've never seemed to have favorable conditions. Tonight, Ove JW/SF0F was loud on 20m CW. Better still, he was lonely! I dropped my call after his "QRZ?" and got him, just before a flood of other stateside ops started pouncing on him. Soon after, his signal took a dive in strength. Timing really is everything. No mention of JW/SF0F in any of the online DX bulletins so I have no idea how long Ove plans on operating from JW. The QRZ listing for his home call suggests he prefers to use LOTW, so I have that to look forward to.

Update 27-Apr-2014: Six days after working JW/SF0F on 20m I came across JW0FA on 17m CW. Worked him quickly and got LOTW confirmation a couple of days later (QSL #158 Mixed and #127 CW).

Thursday, April 17, 2014

DXCC #187: FW5JJ Wallis & Futuna Is.

I've heard FW5JJ many times in the past but never seemed to work him until (local) Sunday night (Mon. 14-Apr at 0458 UTC) when I got him on 20m with just a couple of calls. Heard him again Wednesday evening after work (16-Apr at 2306 UTC) and worked him just as easily on 15m. Super strong both times into central Texas.

DXCC #186: T88QX Palau

Worked Bodo DF8DX operating from Palau as T88QX on 17m early Saturday morning (11-Apr at 1217 UTC) with fairly good copy. After that I saw spots every day but never heard him again. Operation ended 15-Apr.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

DXCC #185: A35V Tonga

A35V Tonga on 12m CW, so weak I can barely hear him above the background noise. Send my call, I hear WW2... come back. Send it again, I hear...PT. Send my 5NN and log it. Within seconds, I'm in ClubLog. DXCC #185!

 I love this hobby!

KX1 Returns!

Just when I thought The Walking Dead Season 4 has ended, my KX1 has risen from the grave and walks among us once again. A few months ago when my latest bout of QRP mania struck I dug it out of a box where it had been packed since our last move. Upon opening it up I found that the AA batteries that I'd forgotten to remove had leaked and pretty much ruined one of the battery holders. No other damage was apparent, no corrosion on the circuit board or any components, but when I hooked it up to my 12 volt power supply it refused to play -- nothing on the display, no signals received, no output on key-down... just some hiss when the AF Gain was turned all the way up, and the little lamp on the side still lit up.

I put it aside for a few weeks until I had time to dig into it. When I finally found some time I began poking around inside, hitting any solder joints with the iron that looked suspect, checking voltages per the construction manual. I emailed Don W3FPR for some advice, he confirmed my voltage measurements and gave me a few things to try but no luck. Finally hitting the limits of both my tool and skill sets he suggested I send the KX1 to him so he can look at it with some real test equipment. So off it went.

Upon arrival at Don's place, he plugged it in... and it worked. Perhaps the US Postal Service fixed it en route. I dunno. Whatever made it happen, the thing suddenly sprang to life, and I'll take it. Don did a quick once-over and did a calibration while he had it, changed out the damaged battery holder, and shipped it back to me.

First night back, I fired it up at the desk with the 12 volt supply just to be sure, and sure enough it worked. Took a little while to reacquaint myself with all of the menu settings. It wasn't transmitting at first, until I figured out that the ATU setting was wrong. A few attempts to make some contacts were in vain, but it appears to be working fine.

The KXPD1 paddle is kind of flaky, or maybe its just me. Either way, I'm making more mistakes than I do with the Bencher BY1. Fact is I'm just plain better with a straight key than I ever was with paddles. I'm looking into a mini key for this KX1 and someone suggested the Palm Radio PPK; I also found the KK1 by American Morse Equipment. Both look like they'd work.

Palm Radio PPK
American Morse Equipment KK1
Meanwhile I keep working with the KXPD1. It's not horrible, mind you. The lack of mechanical paddle movement just reminds me of that old Heathkit μMatic keyer I built years ago that used capacitive touch paddles. Just plain weird. I spent about an hour calling W1AW/4 (unsuccessfully) on 40m tonight, sending cleaner as I started getting more used to the KXPD1.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

March 2014 Wrap-Up

The TX6G DXpedition was the highlight of my month. I worked them on 8 bands CW, with a phone contact thrown in for good measure on 12m! Even got 'em QRP on 15m with the Flex 1500 just for kicks. Consistently excellent signals into Texas, especially on the higher bands, giving me cause to look into the VDA antennas they used. Hats off to the TX6G team for one of the best run operations I've ever worked. I barely had time to wonder if I made it into their log before confirmation appeared on both ClubLog and LOTW. Well done!

My CW is steadily improving. I'm reaching for the straight key more and more and stressing less and less whenever a QSO strays from the standard "TU 599" exchange. A lot of times I'll just have the radio on while doing other stuff in the shack and find myself copying a CW QSO in my head without even realizing it. So I guess all the work I've put into building my CW skills is starting to pay off. I'm still struggling at speeds above 25 WPM, but  it's coming along.

I was looking forward to operating some QRP in March having played for a bit in the SKCC Weekend Sprint on 3/9 and really getting infected with the QRP bug. But alas, I missed the NAQCC Sprint on 3/19 and the SKCC Monthly Sprint on 3/25, so other than the WES and a few quick QRP contacts with W1AW/0, W1AW/4 and TX6G I was QRO the rest of the time.

Speaking of QRP... my KX1 was sent to Don W3FPR for repair (or not, as it turns out -- he can't find anything wrong with it!); as soon as that comes back I plan to put it to use. Might even get around to building and installing the 80m/30m option. At this time I'm considering the possibility of selling both the Flex and the KX1 to help finance a KX3, something I've wanted for a while. But until then, the KX1 will have to do.

Only other thing on the radar at the moment is nGenLog. Been hearing good things about this free logger, and I'm having some serious issues with HRD Logbook on the old Dell desktop -- having to crash out of the program more and more often, especially when waking the computer up from sleep, and 30+ second pauses are making it impossible to use. nGenLog seems to be a little lighter on the processor, so I'll give it a whirl and see how it goes.

On to the box scores...

DXCC - Five new countries worked in March (Mozambique, UAE, Austral Is., Jersey and Fiji), and six newly confirmed (Vanuatu, Tunisia, Montserrat, Austral Is., Easter Is., and Belarus).

Last 10 New DXCC Worked
184FIJI ISLANDS3D2FJ3/28/2014

My QSL stats since January show big jumps on 40m (30 new), 30m (19 new), 15m (20 new) and 10m (19 new) in the first quarter of 2014; in the same period my CW total went from 75 to 117 confirmed (47 new), passing the 100 mark in mid-February, just a couple of weeks after scoring DXCC QSL #100 on phone.

DXCC Totals

WAS - Getting close to Triple Play courtesy of the W1AW Centennial stations. With KY and OH confirmed on LOTW and IA pending on both CW and Phone, I need just three states on CW (ND, WV and WY) and one on Phone (RI).

Worked All States
Basic *5080M2717M24
Digital *5020M4810M23

WPX -- Steadily increasing my prefix totals. Just hoping CQ is still in existence by the time I get around to applying for the awards...