Category Archives for "Commentary"

Attending Conventions

image We’re coming up on two big conventions in April and May: the Visalia DX Convention and the Dayton Hamvention. Later this summer comes the Pacific Northwest DX Convention and then the fall kicks off with the W9DXCC Convention in Chicago.

Do you attend a convention in your area? Not a ham/swap fest, but a convention?

Conventions often will have things to buy and sell, but more often, they are noted for having programs on specific things oriented to the ham operator.

And just because it says that it is a “DX” Convention, don’t think that contesters won’t be there as well. Contesters often go on DXpeditions just to operate in a contest and many DX’ers are also contesting.

It’s also a great opportunity to meet up with people you have worked on the air or converse with in ham radio e-mail reflectors. Or hams that also have blogs!

Conventions offer a great way to stay connected with the leading edge of the hobby through seeing the programs, checking out the latest from the vendors, and catching up with on-air friends.

“Eyeball” QSO’s count and a convention is a great way to have them.

And if you are a contester, don’t forget to sign up for the Friday night Contest Dinner at Visalia and hear Wayne Burdick, N6KR, co-founder of Elecraft and principal designer of the Elecraft K3, speak on “Contest Ergonomics and the Elecraft K3.” You can sign up here.


Would you operate from here?

The place is EU189 — the Isle of Rockall.

If you would (it is located NE of Ireland), here’s your chance.

Scot, K9JY

Update: my confusion with East and West continues…NW of Ireland or West of Scotland as in the comments…

Contesters are Radio Active

Bencher Paddle Over breakfast this morning, I was reviewing the March issue of QST. In it, Carl, K9LA, was reviewing the 2007 IARU contest held last July.

What was interesting to me was that, in spite of being at the bottom of the sunspot cycle and being the middle of summer, participation in the contest was at a record level of logs received (3200). That was up some 5% over the last record year of 2005.

Now, there are those out there that don’t like all of the contests on the bands because it makes the bands very crowded and there is lots of activity. I can understand that.

On the other hand, contesting makes the bands very crowded and there is lots of activity — precisely what we should be showing to outsiders that crave our frequency allocations.

Contesters, in short, are radio active. Perhaps far more active than the rest of the amateur population (no statistics on that, just a gut feel).

For those who want to avoid the activity, contests are published and have a schedule. If you want to operate phone and there’s a CW contest on, you’re good to go. And the WARC bands do not have contests and this is a great practice. You can operate here with some very great propagation.

Record breaking participation? I’ll take radio active all the time.

Scot, K9JY

How to Comment on K9JY Articles

One of the more interesting things about this site is that hams e-mail me more about my articles instead of commenting on them here on the site. While I don’t mind the e-mails, I’d rather you share your comments about the articles in the comment section.

Comments are an invaluable resource on a blog. Comments allow you to extend the conversation, add additional information about the subject of the article, and ask questions that you want answered that myself or others could answer for you. I will often learn more from the comments on the article than from the article itself. Comments rock!

How do you find the comment section?

Right down at the bottom of each article is the date the article was posted and then to the right of it is a link to the comments. It will either say “No comments” or the number of comments on the article such as “3 comments.”

Comments -- none

Click on that link and you will be taken to a page where you can enter in your comments at the bottom of the article. The comment form looks like this:


I usually put in my name in as Scot, K9JY, or just K9JY.

The e-mail is required and I use it so I can get a hold of you if something is weird about the comment. The e-mail address does not show on the comment form when completed. I perfectly respect your e-mail address; I hate spam. The e-mail address is also used if you choose to have further comments sent to you; but, regardless, the e-mail address is not shown.

If you don’t have a web site, no need to enter one. Otherwise you enter it in full, such as:

The big box is where you type your comment about the article. For those who love HTML (not me), you can imbed HTML in the comment.

Checking the box by the “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail” gives you the opportunity to have further comments on the article e-mailed to your same e-mail address you provided so you don’t have to return to the site. This is on a per article basis and you can opt out any time for that article using the link at the bottom of the e-mail you will get. It allows you to effortlessly stay in the conversation.

Finally, clicking on “Submit” will send your comment on its way.

Now, I moderate your first comment, but only your first. After that, your comment will go straight to the article. The reason I moderate your first comment is I get thousands of spam comments from machines and the software I use doesn’t get them all. So I review all first comments before they go on the site. Once I figure out that you are a trusted user and not some machine, we’re golden.

Comments help build the conversation around the subject of the article. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from the comments done on other blogs — sometimes more than the article itself. So extend the conversation and information by submitting a comment. Your fellow hams will appreciate it.

Scot, K9JY

Sending Signal Reports in Contests

MiannThere are some stations not sending the signal report as part of the contest exchange in the CQ WW Prefix contest this weekend — just the serial number. Some people aren’t happy about it since sending the signal report is part of the rules.

But, in every contest I’ve been in, the signal report is the same: 59 for SSB Contests and 599 for CW/RTTY Contests. Of course, in the thousands of contacts I’ve made as a contester, there have been a handful of operators who gave something different for the signal report. But only a handful.

In addition, all of the contest logging programs automatically default to the 59/599 signal report for the field in the exchange.

And I haven’t heard of anyone getting disqualified for not providing the signal report; it will be interesting to see if this happens from this contest.


Is it time to eliminate the signal report from the contest exchange?

Scot, K9JY

How Adaptable is Ham Radio?

HAM Radio EquipmentI read a blog post the other day from February (sorry, I don’t remember which post!) that marked the one year anniversary of the no-code license. While much has been talked about with no-code both good and bad, while reading that particular article I finally had a Blinding Flash of the Obvious:

The real issue isn’t code or no-code, the real issue is how adaptable is the amateur radio service to change?

Humans are tremendously adaptable. Companies are adaptable. Organizations are adaptable.

How’s our ham radio service doing on the adaptability scale?

I originally thought that radio doesn’t adapt well or that quickly. But, after thinking about that a bit, I think that’s incorrect. Radio is adopting to change very quickly. Just think about some of the changes over the last few years:

  • Computers are now hooked to virtually all ham shacks
  • Software for use with radio has significantly increased
  • Contesting methods, education, software and participation have significantly changed
  • DXpeditions have become significantly better in terms of operators, logistics, logging, publishing logs
  • LoTW has moved to electronic confirmation of contacts
  • Global QSL has provided a service for DX bureau cards
  • Ham radio presence on the web has increased significantly
  • Digital modes have significantly increased in number and participation

Is everything wonderful? Nope. Rules, necessarily because of FCC involvement, take time. Clubs come and go, depending upon the club leadership and the club mission. Debates about a particular segment of the hobby (e.g., no-code licenses) can degrade into pet peeves instead of being about the overall hobby. DX cops still think they can direct traffic for DXpeditions, while simply fulfilling their need to be shouted upon.

That’s going to happen.

But if you look under the hood, the hobby is significantly different than it was ten, even five, years ago.

Adaptability to change is critical to keeping the hobby — or any organization — at the forefront. How do you think we’re doing?

Scot, K9JY

Is the QSL Card or the Confirmation More Important?

Flags - BDA and British With the end of the TX5C DXpedition, QSL cards will be flying through the air to confirm the contact.

But do you really want the card? Or do you really want the confirmation to be part of your DXCC total?

It’s an important question. There is a tremendous amount of post DXpedition operator time spent on the QSL function. The QSLing, in fact, goes on for years after the event (I still get VP9 cards from my DXpedition there in 2005).

To be perfectly honest, QSLing is not what I came into the hobby to do. I came into operate. But, if you operate, especially in DXpeditions and contests, you will get QSL cards — thousands of them.

It’s not so much the cost of the cards, but the TIME. Finding time to go through the log, write out the card (almost as fast as creating a label), getting the card into the envelope, putting on the right number of stamps, and getting them into the mailbox or bureau pile (in country order…) is just a real pain.

On the other hand, confirming contacts via Log of The World is a piece of cake. After uploading the LoTW file for VP9, some 89 countries were confirmed and a total of some 300 contacts were confirmed for DXCC credit — two days after I came home from the DXpedition.

With the advent of Global QSL, bureau cards became just as easy to do. Take the bureau card, tag the file, export the file and upload it to Global QSL and the rest is done by them. I can’t tell you how much time has been saved using these two methods of confirming the contact.

Now, some people really want a card they can hang on the wall. Mine are all in files by country — and I haven’t looked at them for years and am seriously considering throwing them all out.

The saying goes that the final courtesy of a QSO is a QSL. But is the final courtesy the card? Or the confirmation of the contact?

Scot, K9JY

Opening up countries to ham radio

This month’s CQ Magazine leads off with an article by John Kountz, KE6GFF/T6EE, on finding "The Responsible Person: Bringing Amateur Radio Back to Afghanistan."

The story, a good one, chronicles the continuing effort by John and others to reactivate ham radio in this country ravaged by more things than I want to see in my life time.

One of the great things about our hobby is our persistence at bringing ham radio to more parts of the world, regardless of the circumstances that the country has at the time. In my ham radio career, off the top my head, we’ve had hams work with governments in China, North Korea, Albania, Libya, Palestine, Nepal and other countries to enable ham radio operations.

Sure, the efforts are somewhat self-serving in that these people want to operate from rarified DX locations — but the seeds of these efforts often grow into much more that ham radio brings to the table.

Public service, emergency communications, and good will across countries are often built from these (Herculean) efforts of individuals.

Without the efforts of these people, these individuals, the world wouldn’t be as small as it is today.

Here’s a tip of the hat and a sip of wine to those that promote the hobby to others. I certainly appreciate their work.

Scot, K9JY

CW Skimmer — A Monster or Killer Tool?

While away in Ireland, a technology busting new program from the makers of DX Atlas showed up on the scene, creating responses of reluctant acceptance, to ham-bashing, to declarations that CW skills will no longer be required.

Well, facts first.

CW Skimmer is a "multi-channel CW decoder and analyzer." Think of it as your PSK waterfall screen for CW. It’s not the first CW decoder out there on the market; WriteLog has had a CW decoder for as long as I remember having the program, pulling out callsigns from the ether through your receiver’s passband.

But CW Skimmer is a bit like WriteLog’s CW decoder on steroids. Features, from the web site:

  • a very sensitive CW decoding algorithm based on the methods of Bayesian statistics;
  • simultaneous decoding of ALL CW signals in the receiver passband – up to 700 signals can be decoded in parallel on a 3-GHz P4 if a wideband receiver is used;
  • a fast waterfall display, with a resolution sufficient for reading Morse Code dots and dashes visually;
  • the callsigns are extracted from the decoded messages, and the traces on the waterfall are labeled with stations’ callsigns;
  • a DSP processor with a noise blanker, AGC, and a sharp, variable-bandwidth CW filter

And a picture is worth a thousand words; this from a 3-kHz mode:

CW Skimmer

This is a pretty interesting program. Others have noted that, especially in the wideband mode, DXpeditions would have an easier time pulling out callsigns and contesters would too.

Detractors lament the lack of skill needed in this endeavor for copying CW, but I don’t agree with that position. The mind is a great filter and I’ve done enough RTTY contesting — where the machine decodes everything — to know that what is copied by a machine isn’t necessarily the right thing copied by a machine. The operator still counts.

Yes, it could make CW different, just like calculators made doing long division different.

I think this sort of stuff is great for the hobby — it shows that we continue to embrace technology for communicating through radio waves. It will be interesting to see where this program takes the hobby.

I know I, for one, certainly don’t miss paper logs and dupe sheets…

Other reviews:

Scot, K9JY

K9JY in Ireland — EI

For the last week, I’ve been in Ireland with Kate and having a blast. While not able to do any ham radio or participate in the ARRL contest, it’s still a great trip.

For the past week, we’ve spent four days in Dublin, touring the Guinness brewery plus taking two day trips to the far south and north of Dublin using their commuter train system. Pretty spectacular stuff.

Then, Thursday, Friday and today, we’ve spent at a bed and breakfast in Navan, about 40 KM northwest of Dublin. Our purpose here was to visit some of the ancient spiritual sites and to see the countryside.

Then, on Sunday, we return to Dublin and pick up a country-wide tour that covers Waterford, the Ring of Kerry, and Sligo before returning to Dublin next Saturday so that we can fly home on Sunday.

Our first week was to get acclimated, see a lot of Dublin as the tour doesn’t cover much of it, and get to the interior of Ireland a bit as the tour doesn’t cover that either.

The people have been great, the jet lag was tough, and Guinness is my new favorite beer. And Kate and I have spent some great time together. All in all, a really great trip.

Some pics:

Drogheda 011

This is a view of downtown Drogheda, a town on the Irish Sea north of Dublin. We got here using the DART, the commuter train after about an hour’s travel with stops.

Guinness Brewery 026

Having a complimentary pint of Guinness in the “Gravity Bar.” The bar has a 330 degree view of Dublin City from about seven stories up. Below is a picture of part of the city from the Gravity Bar:

Guinness Brewery 024

Taken through a window, of course, so you can see shadows of people there. But, a clear day in Dublin in February — very rare.

Dun Laoghaire 011

Finally, a picture of the harbor at Dun Laoghaire, a seaside city south of Dublin. We traveled here as well using the DART.

It’s been great fun.

Scot, K9JY