ARRL SSB 2018 Contest Results

The remodeled station performed well today during the ARRL SSB 2018 Contest. The station got a thorough high power workout today on 15, 20, and 40 meters. The results were very exciting to say the least!

There were a few tuner training issues, but the AT-AUTO’s caught up on the fly, after that, it was smooth sailing everywhere I went. As usual, I was able to work everyone I could hear. In spite of my compromise 40m antenna, I was able to work all the Hawaiian contesters along with KL7RA on 40.

The only glitch was the HF rotor azimuth indicator stopped working! Of all times for a rotor to fail! Actually the rotor still turns AOK, but the control box no longer indicates its position. If I’m really lucky, I’ll find pin 2 is not making contact at the back of the controller. Worst case: the position potentiometer in the rotor will have to be repaired or replaced. Not a big deal for now. The rotor in question has been in service for 14 years. So I worked this ARRL SSB 2018 Contest with the antenna fixed at 90 degrees.

ARRL SSB 2018 Contest Battle Station!
Contest Battle Station!

Objective: To encourage W/VE stations to expand knowledge of DX propagation on the HF and MF bands, improve operating skills, and improve station capability by creating a competition in which DX stations may only contact W/VE stations.

W/VE amateurs: Work as many DX stations in as many DXCC entities as possible on the 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, and 10 meter bands.

DX stations: Work as many W/VE stations in as many of the 48 contiguous states and provinces as possible.

Have you been here yet? Click through the link to learn more about the contest station.

ARRL DX SSB Results – 030418

The ARRL DX SSB Contest went great! Everything performed well, as expected.

Once again, I was able to work every station I heard. Using a Flex 6300, I worked S&P while utilizing a “3 click” zoom level which makes finding the ‘little pistols’ much easier. I then proceeded to rake the bands for all the tiny, in-between signals I could find, resulting in some great contacts. We’re talking about DX contacts at the RX noise level, in between two stations, (often ‘big guns’) blasting away. Very challenging play today! Very impressive TRX performance from the 6300. I can only imagine what an upgrade to a 6700 will be like. For this contest I used a 4K monitor for the first time. The added resolution made finding the ‘tiny’ guys that much easier.

What makes working the ‘tiny’ signals possible is the Flex ability (no pun intended) to place a custom width passband anywhere you need it. In this case, I place a 1.3khz passband in between the opposing stations. This allows me to pull the DX right out at the RX noise floor. The passband filter is sharp enough to sufficiently isolate these minute signals and render them listenable. Amazing. Next time, I’ll capture video. I made great contacts this way throughout the contest. Of course I work all the big guns as well, working them early (6am Local) and then hearing them in pile-ups later on!

By the end of the contest I found it difficult to find anyone that I had not already worked! After adding a 6700, the only other REAL improvement I could make would be the addition of a tower and full size antenna. Since I can work everybody I can hear, it only makes sense that I acquire “bigger ears”.

Audio Mixer: Samson SM10

I need a 1U mixer to combine the audio outputs from three PC’s and three radios. It looks like the obvious choice is the Samson SM10.  With 8 stereo, plus 2 mono line inputs this mixer fits the bill perfectly.

The Flex 5000 has a balanced line input, as does the Flex 6700, so  I’ll run a balanced line to each radio. This will allow audio from the PC’s and/or radios to be played back over the air. The effects send will be used to supply audio to the input of the Dark Ice Live Audio Streamer (running on the Ubuntu server). Web users will be able to stream live audio from any device in the shack that I choose.

The PRO-2500 Power Strip has to move to make room for the SM10 mixer

I will move the Monster Power PRO 2500 to the rear rack rails, and use that space for the SM10 mixer. I need to have the mixer in that rack position more than I do the two electrical outlets. This should be the last move before the new equipment is added and the station is finally complete. (XYL laughing in the background)

I’ve Decided, It’s a FlexRadio 6700…

After careful consideration I’ve decided to purchase the FlexRadio 6700.

It came down to several things:

  • RX comparison between Flexradio 6600/6700 nearly identical
  • 6700 only 3.5″ in height
  • 8 panadapters vs. 4 on the 6600
  • Contest BPF not enough reason for a 6600
  • 6600 mic connector on rear

I’m convinced the receivers in both radios “are close enough for jazz”, in that the RX specs are virtually identical. The 3.5″ height means I can remove this shelf and fit the 6300,  6700, and an  LP-500.

FlexRadio 6700 will reside here...
I’ll remove this shelf to make room for the 6700 and the new LP-500 Station Monitor

Comparisons also show that the 6700 is better suited for satellite work, should I ever decide to move SAT operation off the Flex 5000. Investing in a 6600 also meant the LP-500 would not fit. I was able to engineer a clamp-on shelf for the LP-500, but I would much rather have it in the rack.

I noticed the Flex website has announced that the 6600’s are shipping. This may cause a drop in the price of the FlexRadio 6700. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

Rotors Make The World Go Round…

My 14 year old Yaesu G-800DXA rotor has malfunctioned for the first time. It can be turned using the left/right switch, but there’s no movement of the azimuth indicator. This could be as simple as a bad connection, caused when I pulled the connector from the controller during the remodel. It’s possible, as I remember having trouble getting the connector out.

It could also be that the position potentiometer inside the rotor has failed. In which case I now have a “Plan B”. If the problem turns out to be inside the rotor I’ll replace the rotor, and consider repairing the old one for some future use.

I also have some rough spots in the G-800SDX rotor that I use for SAT azimuth. The rotor gives bad indication between 100 and 160 or so. This is surely an indication of impending failure. No worries, as the rotor was acquired secondhand for peanuts, and has been in operation for 6 years. It still works and will stay in operation until I replace the the HF rotor. The plan is to buy another G-800DXA for the HF antenna (since I already have a working computer interface card for it). FWIW the Idiom Press RotorCard from hamsupply.com is highly recommended. It gives your rotor its own COM port number, and can be accessed by any software.

If possible I’ll change out the SAT and HF rotors the same day. I will most likely purchase both rotors (G-5500 and G-800DXA) new from wherever I find the lowest price. I’ve owned the Yaesu G-5500 AZ/EL Rotor, and there’s no doubt it’s the best. My cobbled together KENPRO/YAESU combo has been serving me well, it enabled me to get back on the satellites at a greatly reduced cost, and was a deciding factor to stay on with the SATS.

The existing satellite rotors will be replaced with a Yaesu G-5500 AZ/EL
Yaesu G-5500 AZ/EL from my previous installation.

I’ll use the leftover G-800SDX to turn the W6LVP Loop. We all know a rotor for the RX only Loop Antenna is a must have. The loop can be rotated to find the null or the peak, depending on the signal situation. Thus far I’ve only used the loop in a fixed position, so utilizing a rotor will open up some new possibilities.

For the replacement rotor I am considering the Green Heron G800/RT21 system. I’m waiting for a reply on the shipping cost before I order.

UPDATE: 030818 – Well, I got my answer from GHE. I’ll be shopping elsewhere…

TelePost LP-500 Digital Station Monitor!

The next new addition to the station will be the TelePost LP-500 Digital Station Monitor. A must have to ensure proper station operation.

TelePost LP-500 Digital Station Monitor
The next addition to the station

From the TelePost LP-500 Website:

What is LP-500?

The TelePost LP-500 is a digital station monitor which displays detailed information about the transmitted signal of a station.

It displays the sampled signals in numerous formats including:

  • Power/SWR
  • Oscilloscope type display
  • Spectrum display

The sampled signals are obtained by demodulating the RF,  like in a traditional wattmeter, and should therefore work on any frequency for which there is a suitable directional coupler with the appropriate voltage scaling and time constants.

It should be noted that demodulated samples are audio frequency based and not the same as RF samples. With some types of modulation, the demodulated audio is not a linear representation of the modulation signals, therefore the spectrum display works quite differently than a true spectrum analyzer. This doesn’t pose a problem for AM signals, where the demodulated audio is faithful to the modulation signal, but is a challenge for SSB and other signals without a carrier. For this reason, we have developed special test signals which allow for some traditional SSB tests to be performed, although the tests cannot be directly compared to measurements from a true spectrum analyzer.

In many cases, though, similar information can be gleaned from the tests, and they can be used for comparative tests to see the effect of changes to the transmitting equipment. 

 

TelePost LP-500 rear panel
Business end of the LP-500
When you're linear, it shows!
So you know you’re perfectly linear!

To utilize this feature two couplers are required (per radio in my case). I plan to have both the 6300 and 6700 using input and output couplers configured like this:

TelePost LP-500 wiring diagram
Block diagram of LP-500 hook up

I’m looking forward to installing the TelePost LP-500 as soon as possible. There’s a waiting list, and I had to pass on my position in the list due to an unforeseen expense at the time of availability.

I can see on the TelePost website that regular shipping is back in full swing.

Back to the front

Handie Talkies

My first transceiver was a Realistic/Radio Shack HTX-202 “handie talkie”. They can be seen in pictures of my shack from the 1990’s. I used HTX-202’s and 404’s for packet radio when I first got started. They sure took a beating! I ran them 24/7 for 10 years. They were relatively inexpensive, and they worked great for packet. I eventually replaced them with Kenwood TM-V7A‘s.

The HTX-202’s worked great for packet radio!

The Kenwood’s were dual band transceivers and I connected a TNC to each side of the radio. I could do packet radio V/U V/V U/U. It worked so well I bought two of them. They also did 9600 baud which was a deciding factor.

Six packet radio ports on the air @KB2SHU in Cerritos CA

I never experienced any problems with the TM-V7A’s either. I had started as an SWL with a Kenwood R-5000 and after success with the TM-V7A’s I decided to look at the Kenwood HT’s.

Being a digital enthusiast, I purchased the Kenwood TH-D7A because it had a TNC and APRS built-in. It was another good investment, and I kept it for several years. I currently own a Kenwood TH-F6A. It’s very small. I bought it because I could carry it in a shirt pocket.

Then, there is the argument for the Baofeng . The Baofeng UV-5R has taken the amateur radio market by storm. These inexpensive $25 HT’s get the job done. Nothing fancy for $25, but they will get you into the local repeaters and sound just as good as anything else. I hear people using them all the time. And it never fails, someone will say “Hey, you sound good,  what are you using?”. Hard to tell what it is by the sound….could be a Kenwood…or a Baofeng!

Great little No Frills transceiver!

It’s amazing these can be sold so inexpensively. In the beginning it was hard to believe the price. Quite frankly, I didn’t care what it sounded like for $25, as long as it worked! I have no problems working the local machines with my UV-5R. Is it a Kenwood? No, of course not. But it’s $25! Buy two! Give them as holiday gifts! Keep one in the car, just in case!

No, I have no stats on failure rates. Like all my comments, these are based on my personal experience only. As they say: “Your mileage may vary”

SEO Breakthrough

It seemed like I wasn’t getting anywhere with the first SEO (Search Engine Optimization) plugin I installed. Today I installed Yoast SEO and I could immediately see what was lacking in my SEO configuration. You could say I had an SEO Breakthrough!

100% Local SEO
Homebrew SEO

Yoast is light years ahead of their competition. I found their user interface genuinely intuitive. Interpretation of the Yoast interface  guided me to making the following improvements:

  • Added ‘tags’ to all posts
  • Added ‘focus keywords’ to all posts and pages
  • Fine tuned content for improved SEO ratings
  • Search Result ‘Appearance’ settings
  • Keyword Research

I spent approximately 3 hours inputting all the new SEO data. It was not difficult, just time consuming, since all my pages and posts required the updates. Of course, now that I know what each post and page requires in order to meet Yoast SEO standards, I will include that SEO data as I create new content. e.g. this post.

There has been significant progress made in driving traffic to the site. Before I installed WordPress my legacy website averaged 400 visits per month.

Since installing WordPress (and the limited SEO plugin I just replaced) on 12/10/17, web traffic has increased from the average 400 visits to (whats tracking to be) 4000 visits this month. Here is my Webalizer data for the past 12 months. Go ahead and click, you can look through them if you like.



I’m finding Bing to be far more responsive than Google. I noticed that some subtle changes in “appearance” I had made, showed up quickly in Bing results, while not showing up at all on Google. Also the Google Search Console is virtually empty, while the Bing console is reporting everything. I’ve entered my “Google Verification Code” into Yoast, and I’m hoping this helps improve the results with Google. I’m certain both services crawls are allowed. Bing seems to be the “first to the party”.

The Bing Webmaster “Diagnostics and Tools” section includes a “Keyword Research” function. I used this tool to determine the most used search terms (keywords) as they relate to amateur radio, and more specifically, my website.

I’m hoping it will improve search results now that I’ve incorporated all the top rated keywords I found, into my content. I have no idea if this will improve placement in search results. However, it should cause my site to appear in search results it would not have appeared in prior to today’s enhancements.

It will certainly be interesting to see what affect, if any, the changes made today have on traffic and search results.

The Compromise Dipole

A better title might have been: “The Compromised Dipole”.

Due to the limitations of the small residential lot I live on, I am no longer able to get anywhere near the proper height for my 130 foot dipole antenna. At the present time the ‘apex’ is a mere 6 feet or so above the roof line. This is why I refer to it as my “Compromise Dipole”.

There was a time I had it 50 feet above the roof line. Truth be told, I never used it much because it was a hassle to tune it and to change the amplifier settings.  It also produced constant RFI problems, which discouraged my use of the lower HF bands for quite some time. However, as I made improvements to the shack (in terms of automation) the tuning hassles and amplifier settings were no longer an issue.

But the RFI was another story…Did I mention the shack is on the second floor?

I was experiencing terrible RFI problems in the shack and in other locations within the house. Any TX on 30m or below was a complete disaster. I was getting RF in all the PC’s in the shack, and several appliances in the house as well.

I realized it was time to get things in order with the dipole once and for all.

As I began planning for my recent remodeling of the shack, I added RFI mitigation to the list of things that required research. I needed to be able to operate at full output on every band without concern for RFI. It seemed like a daunting task at the time given my limited knowledge of the subject.

I decided to re-examine every aspect of how things had been connected previously. From the routing of the cables, to the physical separation of certain components, to my (less than adequate) station ground. It wasn’t long before I had developed a fairly comprehensive approach I was certain would resolve the problem once and for all.

It made no sense whatsoever to proceed with building the station if these issues were not completely resolved. So after some careful research I found a few documents that outlined exactly what needed to be done.

  1. Amateur Radio Station Grounding and Lightning Protection – by W5BWC
  2. Common Mode Chokes – by W1HIS
  3. Mosley Electronics MP-33N Docs
  4. Ferrite and Chokes by KF7P

My ‘take-away’s’:

From the grounding doc:

  • Install a Low Impedance Ground
  • Utilize Single Point Ground System

From the Choke docs:

  • Build a High Power W1HIS design RF Choke
  • Install Clamp-On Ferrites on both ends of every cable

From the Mosley doc:

  • Install a 5 turn coax choke at the feedpoint

From the KF7P website:

  • Use “MIX 31” ferrite material
Results

I detail the actual installation of the grounding, chokes etc. in the Rack Mounting Project blog. Rather than rehash that here, let’s talk about the results.

Another key ingredient was the addition of the AT-AUTO antenna tuners. These tuners keep the SWR to an absolute minimum. Now that the linear amplifier is properly connected to a Low Impedance ground, it functions flawlessly. And finally, with the addition of the Mix 31 ferrites, the entire system is indeed much quieter. Noticeably quieter RX. And finally, all RFI has been eliminated.

There was no better proof of this than the performance achieved during this years CQWW WPX SSB contest. I operated on 80, 40, 20 and 15 meters, at full output, with no trace of RFI anywhere. No doubt the installation of the massive W1HIS choke was effort well spent.

W1HIS Choke
The W1HIS choke design helped completely eliminate the RFI problems I was experiencing.

In the end my “Compromise Dipole” at roof line elevation, did a surprisingly good job. I worked into South America, New Zealand, Japan, Hawaii, Europe, the Caribbean, and Canada on 40 and 80 meters. This dipole antenna has finally yielded some good use!  (I call it a ‘zero to hero’ transformation)

I finally have a fully operational station. Fully automated, that can work on any band in any mode, at very low SWR, with quieter than the previous installation. More evidence of time and money well spent.

Numark Production Hub

Numark Production Hub

I came across the Numark Production Hub today and decided this was something I could use to solve a few issues.

  • Power outlets are needed on the desktop
  • A USB hub is needed for the W7 PC
  • A high current USB charging port is needed

The Numark Production Hub is an AC outlet strip with a USB hub built-in. The “production” moniker is a marketing buzz word aimed at today’s audience of young “producers”. Hi Hi!

In order to make room for the Samson SM10 audio mixer, I had the move the 1U Monster Power PRO-2500 to the rear of the rack, which cost me two AC courtesy outlets.

Moved to the rear rack rails
Monster PRO 2500 was moved to the rear rack rails in favor of the SM10 mixer

Additionally, The Windows 7 PC only has two USB ports on the front, and they are not enough by a long shot.

AC Power with USB Hub
Numark Production Hub

I also like the fact that Numark mounted the AC sockets at two angles to allow insertion of “wall warts”.

 

The high current charging port sealed the deal
4 USB Ports and a 2.1 amp USB charging port

Even though the sockets appear at a different angle in the close up, they are indeed mounted as shown in the top photo. The deciding factor for me on this purchase was the 2.1 amp charging port. I have some 2200mah batteries in the shack that should charge much quicker on this port than they currently charge using the PC USB port.

We’ll see how it holds up to RF. If it is susceptible, and ferrites don’t help, I’ll return it. All in all, the Numark Production Hub fits the bill in this case.