Sunday, December 18, 2016

Winter Contesting Summit

Had a few contesting friends over Saturday afternoon for a winter contesting summit.  The plan was to spend the first part of the day working on our radios, coax and other misc equipment.  Justin re-terminated two ends and before the guys got there, I worked on some new powerpole connectors.  We also put a bunch of good labels on our cables.  We broke for lunch, which was the traditional bacon cheddar burgers, beans and mac-n-cheese.  We ate and then spent the 2nd part of the day going through N1MM, how to set up each contest for consistency and how to become better familiar with the software.

Within N1MM, we spent quite a bit of time on the band map window and how to use it to our advantage while searching and pouncing.  There are many ways to use the band map window, as the instructions are spread out through out the help files.  We didn't come to a conclusion on how we would use it, but we did figure out how to spot stations to come back and work them at a later date, how to populate it with confirmed QSO's and how to erase those after a specific amount of time.

We ended the day by stress testing N1MM.  Each person entered in call signs starting with K0AAA, N0AAA and W0AAA, changing the last number in the alphabet to help track entries.  After everybody got to AAZ and completing a resync of all our stations, we noticed Kevin had 1 more QSO than the rest of the stations.  We saw this behavior in the IL QSO party where N1MM missed some QSO's.  N1MM tech support said it was a network error, but we saw the same thing with very strong wireless network connections.

With the horrible weather we've been having and loosing time to just setting up and general chit-chat, we didn't get a lot done, but was very productive with the time we did had.  We will try and schedule these "contesting summits" at least once a quarter to become more familiar with our rigs, N1MM and how to reduce network errors when working in our portable setup.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

SH5 Log Analysis Program

I've been playing around with the SH5 log analysis program to look at stats after a contest.  Today I finally purchased a formal license key for $20 so it could analyze a full log file instead of stopping at 200 contacts like the demo.  This program is really neat.  It gives every stat you would want to look at after a contest.

Once the program is installed, you load your cabrillo log file and it outputs a folder within your windows profile and all the stats/web pages are located within the folder.  All stats are displayed via a webpage, so you can port it over to almost anywhere.  It even has an option to upload it to your webserver via ftp (no sftp). It can even export your whole log as an XML file for even more manipulation if you want.

Below is the main output screen and it's very good.  Stat headings are on the left, actual stats on the right.  It does everything from displaying the log to creating a kml file that plots all your contacts via the qrz address of your QSO's in Google Earth.

Here is my 2016 IL QSO log.  Click on the link to bring up the stats and poke around.  If you contest and want to analyze your log, this is a great buy.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Cold Winter Travel Preparedness

This post is not really ham radio related, but as winter gets closer, it's always good to have some winter items in your car.  Below is a synopsis of what winter items I carry around.

I do a lot of traveling for my job.  I can drive 60+ miles from one location to another during the course of the day.  Lots of these miles are not over the same familiar roads to and from one location.  One day I might be at a site 40 miles east of my house and the next 20 miles west, so I cover a lot of ground.  I have a Ford Fusion, not a truck or 4x4, so if it snows a lot during the day, I could get stuck on the road or at a site for a period of time.

4 years ago I was at a site 40 miles southwest of my house and a rain storm turned icy unexpectedly with temp dropping below freezing.  I started home once I heard it was going to get icy, but it was too late.  The interstate literally shut down around 30 miles from my house and I was stuck in my car for 12+ hours.  It wasn't the greatest.  I fortunately filled up on gas before I left so I could run my engine every 30 mins to get warm, but I was totally unprepared for the cold weather and basically surviving in my car for that length of time.  I did something about it and created my cold weather travel kit.  Every rotation of the seasons, I check this kit to ensure it's properly stocked and ready to go.

Here are the things I keep in my trunk at all times, no matter the season.  Some of these items you might need to bungy down as if you take a corner too fast, they could end up tipping over and spilling.

1) sandbags - sand can be used to grab traction in the snow
2) 5 gal water (full)
3) plastic drinking container
4) blue tarp
5) wool sweater
6) sweatpants
7) wool socks
8) basic tools - this is a cheap auto tool set form Harbor Freight
9) 2 gal gas container (full)
10) large camp chair
11) small camp chair
12) tow strap (3 ton)
13) extra log jumper cables
14) air pressure gauge
15) misc rags
16) 2m j-pole for ham radio
17) small shovel
18) volt/ohm meter with wire brush
19) OBD2 reader (with manual and code look up for my car)
20) work gloves
21) spare tire, jack and breaker bar/socket wrench

Things I keep in the cab compartment (not pictured) of the car.

1) heavy winter coat
2) heavy gloves, scarf & stocking hat
3) flashlight & extra batteries
4) paper USA road map
6) umbrella
7) ice scraper
8) 2m mobile radio with APRS

Inside the trunk, I also have a back pack that has a large number of items.  I keep this in my trunk year around too.  This back pack also has a 2 liter bladder for storing water.

1) Baopotato 2m/70m with rubber duck antenna & instruction manual
2) repeater book
3) extra battery that uses AAA batteries
4) sack to store radio stuff
5) zip ties
6) insect spray
7) sunscreen
8) snacks (peanuts, cliff bar, peanut bars, energy bars/chews)
9) higher db antenna for baopotato
10) fire starters (flint, lighter, cotton balls soaked in vasoline)
11) first aid kit (not a trauma kit) with misc items (hand warmers, Advil, band-aids, etc..)
12) 3 solar emergency blankets
13) emergency bivy
14) buck knife
15) leatherman
16) compass
17) paper map of my area
18) 3m dust mask
19) contractor trash bags
20) ziplock bags
21) light sticks
22) rain poncho
23) Maxpedition faxmax (pencils, write in the rain paper, markers, advil, chap stick, extra batteries, lighter, etc..)
24) work gloves
25) extra glasses
26) towels/wet wipes/toilet paper
27) scarf
28) 100ft 550 cord
29) duct tape
30) bowl + spork
31) eye protection

In my work bag I travel with the following items.

1) flashlight with extra batteries
2) Leatherman Surge
3) earbuds
4) extra battery for charging cell phones with cable
5) pocket knife
6) misc hygiene items (TP, Q-tips, hand sanitizer, first aid kit, etc..) 

If you search YouTube, there are hundreds of videos on cold winter car preparedness.  Your mileage will vary based on your location and what you feel comfortable with in your emergency kit.  I hope this post will get you thinking about what you would do if stuck on the highway for 12+ hours like I was.