Monday, November 14, 2016

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Ham Weekend and ARRL SS Contest Prep

With the ARRL SSB Sweepstakes coming up next weekend, I had a lot of preparing to do.

Ham radio efforts to do this weekend.  Some are SS related, some are were not but fun to accomplish.

1) Make a cable spool winder support
2) Make a dipole pulley for the top of a military mast
3) Rack Flex radio in new 6U plastic injected molded rack case
4) Build the connection system for 2 new quick disconnect baluns
5) Setup N1MM for SO2R configuration with the Flex
6) Record .wav files for N1MM CQ auto-cq'ing for the contest
7) Create a plan of attack for the ARRL SSB
8) Put out the IL QSO party video on my YouTube channel

Effort #1 - Make a cable spool winder support.  Since most of the equipment I use for portable operations is shared between a group of us, I needed to either build some equipment that I didn't want to borrow or at least have in my arsenal of equipment.  A cable spool winder is one of those items.  I have plenty of coax on spools, but no way to unroll but to roll it on the ground, so I needed to basically build a smaller version of this :

My version made out of PVC with a removable enter rod.  It's basically 22" x 19" with the center rod around 15" off the ground.  I have to pry apart the arms to insert the center rod, but it's easy to do since the rod isn't that much bigger than the length between the support arms.  Just a quick pry and it's out.  It works great, is very sturdy and lightweight, perfect for what I need it for.

Effort #2 - Build a dipole pulley for the top of a military mast.  I purchased a full supporting military mast at Dayton this year and decided to get some fiberglass poles to place at the top, since the aluminium ones would effect the SWR of a dipole.  On my way back from W9DXCC I stopped at the Peoria hamfest and purchased a few from one of the vendors.  I could then make this smaller dipole hanger closer to the mast system.

The system is nothing but a 2in T section with a top cap to fit over the diameter of the mast and then reducer to 1in PVC pipe with a couple of eye screws for hoisting up a dipole.  Before raising the mast, I throw some 550 cord though the eye holes and pull up the dipole.

Effort #3 - Rack the flex, PC and power supply into my new, much more light weight 6U case.  The previous case I had was a 6U, but was made from plywood and was very heavy.  It was 30lbs with just the case alone.  I don't think with all the equipment this new case weights 30lbs total!

One of the tops even has a zippered pouch for storing misc cables too, which is great.

I did remove the 2M rig from the setup, so that removed a shelf which helped bring the weight down.  Plus it gave more room for the PC and power supply to radiate heat from.  Next on the list is a 802.11b/g yagi that I can plug in USB into the PC to get good wireless coverage away from the mother ship.

Effort #4 - Build the connection system for 2 new quick disconnect baluns.  Well...I would of but my order from RadioWavz didn't come in.  I ordered two current baluns from them a week and half ago and they still have not showed up.  They are located 30 miles away from me, so I know it's not a shipping issue and to add salt to the wound, when I ordered them, they said it would ship last Friday or Monday at the latest.  I hate when people make promises and don't keep them.  Plus when you call their number, you get automatically dumped into voicemail.  Poor customer service.

I did make a blog post regarding these quick change dipoles here.  A video is coming soon regarding how to make the connection points.

Effort #5 - Setup N1MM for SO2R configuration with the Flex.  Loaded N1MM and became re-familiar with the keyboard shortcuts regarding SO2R configuration.  I wish the slash key would not only change focus on what VFO entry window your on, but also change the TX slice too.  Flex owners know what I'm talking about.  Other than this small issue, N1MM works great with the Flex.  Flex has SO2R setup on their website for N1MM but it's very outdated.  I'm tempted to update the document and also throw in my tips and tricks into the setup. On a side note, I'm waiting on the developer of QSOrder to put a VFO flag in his program so I can record all my SO2R activity and contacts.  Hopefully he will update it and I can capture some good audio for the contest to put on the website.

Effort #6 - Record .wav files for N1MM CQ auto-cq'ing for the contest.  Done!  I'll put out a video on this soon, but I basically record all my audio via professional mic (Shure SMB-7A into a Protools interface) into Audacity.  I then trim out the whitespace, clean up the audio and do some EQ, compression and normalizing on the audio before transferring it over to the N1MM computer.  I feel like this gives it some punch on the airwaves.  The process is straight forward but I think recording your audio on a good mic and doing some work on it before it's sent out on the airwaves helps improve the quality of it.

Effort #7 - Create a plan of attack for the ARRL SSB.  I don't have a plan, but looking at the number of QSO's from last year, I think my plan should be to start on 15 and 20m and run as long as I can.  Once 5 or 6pm hits, shave off 15m and jump on 40m.  Looks like a lot of the QSO's drop off after midnight local time so I might do some sleeping from 1 until 6am and then start back up.

I think there are 82 sections total you can work.  As you can see below, some people worked all 82 sections in 5 hours.  Some took 24.  Looks like the mean is around 8 to 10 hours to work all the sections.  If I work all 82 sections, I'll be lucky and be impressed.  

My goal for this first real contest is 18 hours total contesting time and working at least 40 sections with a total of 400 QSO's.  We'll see if I hit it!  I'm going to do some video recording of the contest and also capture the mic/qso audio for playback later.

Effort #8 - Put out the IL QSO party video on my YouTube channel.  It's out!  Go watch it here!!!

Monday, November 7, 2016