Archive for October, 2011

KC9BQA 432 Fall Sprint Report is 23 QSO’s in 10 Grids

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

      Last night’s 432 sprint had unbelievably nice weather.  We’re right in the middle of a long stretch of warm days and mild to cool nights.  Very pleasant night to go out in the shed and play radio.  It also was a great night to go roving or portable. 
     The band conditions seemed up on north/south paths, and close to Lake MI.  Band conditions are often enhanced near the lake in late summer and fall — especially in the evenings, overnights and mornings.  
      Activity levels right around here were OK.  We’re lucky to have two very workable rovers from Chicago’s EN52/51/61/62 grid corner.  Talking WB8BZK and K9JK.   Thanks Mike and John for going out so consistently ever since I got on in late 2003.  
     Why Milwaukee-area guys don’t put the EN62/63/52/53 grid corner at 70th and Lincoln to use, I’ll never know.  I used to promote this angle until I was blue in the face (OK, fingertips and keyboard).  I’ve stopped now; no sense in talking to myself. 

      I asked around to see if anyone was being heard from MN, IA, MO, IN or downstate IL.  Nothing was reported.  I called those ways myself many times and nothing heard.  Farthest NW I worked was the eastern part of EN54.  Both N9QZD and ND9Z were on.  Farthest SW I worked was N9LB in EN52, near Madison.   Called and listened hard to my NW, W and SW and not a peep.   My 432 is very quiet and even if I’d heard a whisper, you know I’d track it down.   
     MI was OK, and N8DJB got OH on the map.  Craig was S5 when we were peaked up on each other. 
    
     The band got extremely quiet after 8:45-9pm central time.  Seemed like there was nobody new to work, so guys switched over to the Brewers baseball game out in Arizona. 

     I did the vast majority of my CQ’ing on 432.095.  I’d call CQ, listen, call CQ, listen and then tune from 432.120-432.080.  Then adjust the yagi 10-15 degrees and repeat the process.  I’m sure guys out in the sticks mainly stay on 432.100, which can be a problem.  When you’re in busier areas (near Milwaukee and Chicago), if we all stay on 432.100 most of the time, it’s a mess.  I know W9GA was doing most of his calling on 432.107.   The most important things you can to do to improve your contest results are call CQ, use your VFO, and spin your yagis. 
      My log:  WB8BZK/R in EN52, 62 and 51;  K9JK/R in EN62, 61, 51 and 52;  ND9Z and N9QZD EN54;  K0PG EN61;  W9GA EN53;  N9LB EN52;  KR8T and KF8QL EN72;  K8JA EN82;  N9UM EN52;  WB9WOZ (who later discovered he was only running 2 watts!) EN61;  N9NFB EN53;  KO9A EN52;  N8DJB EN81;  N9NDP EN62;  K9VS EN52;  N8PVT EN64.

     The next sprint will be the microwave one, which is Sat. *morning*, Oct 22nd.  All bands from 902/903 MHz on up are in play.  I hear that 2m is used to help coordinate contacts (because microwave antennas are so pointy).   In our part of the world, I guess 144.260 is used.    
     All the sprint info is at www.svhfs.org.   6m sprint is Sat. evening, Oct 29th.

432 MHz Sprint This Wed. Evening 7-11pm. Great Conditions Coming up For Midwest and Great Lakes?

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

   Let’s face it.  Any sprint or contest is more fun when more stations are on the air.  It’s a LOT more fun when there’s great conditions.  This Wed., Oct 5th, we may have both. 
   Start spreading the word to everyone you know about this week’s 432 sprint.  Also start spreading the word that we may have a long-lasting period of enhancement, due to some beautiful Indian summer weather that is supposed to stick around for many days. 
   The Hepburn Tropo Forecast Maps http://www.dxinfocentre.com/tropo.html paint a tasty picture.  Remember to update them about 1800Z every day.   Pay attention to the trends, and the overall big picture.  Don’t get too concerned about whether it’s bright blue or light green at your QTH in a given 6-hour period.  These are not pinpoint, 100% accurate forecasts.  To me, they’re more predictors of potential and this week (especially later in the week and into next weekend) a LOT of potential is being shown. 
   Enjoy.
   More sprint info is available at www.svhfs.org

   EDIT — I always forget to add this, but it’s important.  Don’t fall into the rut or trap of only getting on the air when the maps paint pretty pictures.  Please. 
   There’s only one way to find out what band conditions are like and that is to call CQ and make contacts in different directions.  We have had net nights where the maps showed dead conditions yet signals were strong.  We have had nights where tropo maps looked strong yet stations were fairly weak.  The message is don’t become a slave to maps and the internet.  It’s putting RF on the airwaves that matters, in the end.

K8TQK 144.250 Net *ON* This Wed. @0030Z/8:30pm Eastern

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

   As mentioned in last Wed’s net report, I have decided to concentrate solely on the 432 MHz sprint Wed. night.  WB9LYH is not available, so this Wed. Oct 5th, the 144.240 long-range net is *OFF*.   I spoke with K8TQK last Wed. and his 144.250 net WILL BE ON THIS WED, regular start time of 0030Z. 
    If someone else wants to call around on 144.240, feel free to do so.  I hope dozens of you will create your own activity on the bands at any time.  Don’t wait around for a weekly net control to make things happen for just one hour a week.   If dozens of V/UHF ops would call CQ and stir up activity on their own, we’d be all set.  I know most guys are “just listening”.  On a dead band, “just listening” is next to useless.  Think about this… if you have 50 guys in multiple states and grids all listening, then you have a dead band, regardless of conditions.  On quiet bands, the cure is more CQ’ers and fewer listeners.   Just please don’t CQ on an active net frequency and don’t hold long ragchews on the 144.200 call frequency.
   EDIT — I need to clarify the comment directly above about calling CQ on a dead band.  I’ve been receiving email from enthusiastic 10 and 12 meter ops for the past few weeks, talking about how those bands have opened wide, and DX all over the world is being worked.  (Including today).  The most recent email I received talks about how it’s really bad to just be a cluster humper and open up with blind CQ’s on the DX that was just spotted.  Yes, on crowded bands with lots of DX, you do want to listen carefully and take your time before CQ’ing away.    
   V/UHF is a far different animal.  Our bands (90% of the time) suffer from too little activity.  When HF (or 6m for that matter) is open with widespread DX, that’s when it does pay to first listen carefully.  But on any old evening or weekend on 2m SSB, in most parts of America, there’s a big need for more activity.  That’s when it pays to have multiple stations calling CQ, and swinging their beams in different directions.   And yes, spreading out across the band if it gets busy on/near 144.200.
   There’s just some fundamental differences between HF and VHF operating.  But the main thing is that dead bands need more activity, which means calling CQ more.  Active bands need more careful listening, and also benefit from signals that are spread up and down the band.

September is Best Month Ever for this Website. Is it Doing V/UHF Any Good?

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

   7:15am central on Monday —  I’ll be monkeying around with this post and probably making a few others over the next hour or so…  2 other items I want to cover are the possiblity for widespread, long-lived band enhancement this week and into next weekend, plus the 432 MHz sprint on Wed. night, which could be a real hum-dinger, if enough guys get on and call CQ in all directions. 

   My website statistics for September are complete.  The numbers say that every single month, this website has more visitors, hits, bandwidth used, you name it.   That’s exactly what I want to see.   I put a lot of time into this and by now, I expect a return on my investment.  If what I’m doing isn’t doing any good, then there’s no point in my continuing.   Doing the website, the weekly emails, the nets … uh…  by now, it’s more work than fun.  There, I said it.  🙂   I probably don’t have more than another year or two in me.  I want more of my normal life back.  

    BUT… if I can see improvement, then it’s worthwhile.  My whole focus is on making the weak-signal V/UHF bands more active.  At all times — during normal day-to-day operating, band openings, nets and contests.   If you’re someone who’s helping in this regard, (and there are many ways to help) you deserve a lot of credit.  Thank you. 
   If you’re not helping, please start.  If you’ve lost your enthusiasm, I hope you get it back at some point.  If you’re one of the hundreds who moan that the bands just aren’t active like they used to be (which is true) but you aren’t helping to improve the situation then at least refer hams to this website.   I realize many of the disillusioned VHF’ers go back to the 1980’s, 70’s and earlier.  I also realize how natural it is to be tired after 30, 40, 50 years of hamming.  So take a load off and let me do the work for a while.   

   Since all I talk about in this blog is weak-signal V/UHF, I can’t believe I have many casual visitors.  If you’re not actively involved in this niche of hamming, what’s the point of visiting?  You’d soon be bored. 

   Given those assumptions above, here’s the statistic I’m most proud of — number of unique visitors each month to kc9bqa.com.  Starting in January 2010, here are the monthly numbers.  Sorry I don’t know how to produce a graph.   829; 805; 866; 764; 1200; 979; 1032; 1093; 1383; 1174;  1177; 1308 (now continuing with Jan 2011…) 1595; 1448; 1687; 1775; 2089; 2320; 2311; 2214; and most recently in Sept. 2011 the number of unique visitors to kc9bqa.com was 2607.   
   I don’t know how many active weak-signal V/UHF hams we have in the USA and Canada, but I can’t imagine it’s much more than 5,000-10,000.  If 2600 of them are visiting here at least once per month, that’s a significant percentage. 
   Also, in September of 2011, we averaged 202 visits per day.  In Sept. 2010, that number was 151.  So there’s solid growth in the daily readership of kc9bqa.com.  The goal is to translate the readers here into more signals on the air, on bands like 50, 144, 222 and 432 MHz.  The bread-and-butter bands of V/UHF’ing.