04 September 2014

CQWPX 2014 - official results came in

As I was expecting after the claimed scores, I ranked #5 in 21Mhz single-op QRP category. This was my second time participating in CQ WPX SSB, the first one was in 2013 where I worked just for 4 hours to get the feeling for it.

This time I wanted to be on the air for the full contest, but I was really sloppy: for some reason I thought the contest starts in the afternoon and I planned to do some antenna work in the morning. When I wake up Saturday morning and turn the radio on I hear the band full of contesters so I decide there's no time to waste, I get on air and work the first 4 hours with the damaged antenna - a 42m long OCFD with a broken arm. I take a break, eat, get on top of the building, fix the OCFD and install a 7.5m fishpole vertical, take a shower and get back on the air. The break took about 3 hours but it was needed, for the rest of the contest I worked with the vertical wich proved slightly better.

I managed a total of 260 QSO's (but 252 validated), 3.1% error rate, 207 multipliers and a final score of 76797. The winner of 21MHz single-op QRP (YT1CS) had 403 QSO's and 338 multipliers for a total of 225108 points; he is less than 400Km away from me and just a few degrees to the South, so no big geographical advantage.

For next year I plan to really be on the air for the full contest and hopefully I will have a better antenna. Still aiming at single-op QRP monoband, but still not sure if I will go for 15m or another band.

24 August 2014

Yaesu FT-991 - replacement for the FT-897

Yaesu FT-991 is the next upcoming model from Yaesu, as the replacement for the recently discontinued FT-897. Highlights include 3.5" TFT touch display, a spectrum scope, 32-bit IF DSP, internal antenna tuner and C4FM.

 Released specs so far for the Yaesu FT-991:

- 160 Meters through 70 Centimeters – SSB/CW/FM/C4FM Digital/AM/RTTY/PSK
- 100 Watts (2 Meter / 70 Centimeter: 50 Watts) of Solid Performance
- 3.5 inch TFT Full-Color Touch Panel Operation for Superior Operability and Visibility
- High Speed Spectrum Scope with ASC (Automatic Spectrum-Scope Control) built-in
- Roofing Filter 3 kHz and 15 kHz
- High Accuracy TCXO ±0.5 ppm and high resolution DDS and PLL local oscillator
- 32-bit High Speed Floating Point IF DSP
- IF WIDTH and IF SHIFT provides great QRM Rejection
- CONTOUR, DNR, IF Notch and APF (Audio Peak Filter, CW only)
- 160 – 6 Meters High Speed Automatic Antenna Tuner included
- 224*80*253mm, 4.3 Kg

To be honest, the TFT display on the FT-991 looks super, expecially when comparing to the FT-897, so this is definetely a plus. The touchscreen is only useful on devices entertainment-oriented, so it will probably be between useless and annoying when it won't work if you have wet or dirty hands, when wearing gloves or when you're trying to press a button while looking somewhere else.

The spectrum scope is useless on every transceiver i've seen it implemented because of the abysmal refresh rate and it will probably remain just a useless toy here as well; unless of course it has at least 25fps and work while the other functions aren't affected (not like on previous generation where when spectrum scope is on the AUDIO IS OFF).

32-bit IF DSP: sounds fine, but here it really depends on how well it performs, so until I see it at work I can't say anything. I still wish big manufacturers would realise this is decades old technology and make these fully SDR already but oh well, there are small manufacturers way ahead of the curve.

Internal tuner: this is a must on mobile/field day equipment, but only now a manufacturer gets it. Actually, the Yaesu FT-450 also had a tuner or option for a tuner, as well as the Kenwood TS-480SAT, but those are a superior (bigger, heavier) class.

C4FM: plainly stupid attempt to implement commercial technology in ham radio equipment. Instead of working on the really outdated RF chain, they waste their time with this. Disappointed.

It appears that there's no internal space in the FT-991 for batteries like on the FT-897, good; in portable you'll use external batteries anyway, in home or mobile use it's just a waste of space.

I really like the USB connection; just like the tuner, it's not something special but something that's normal to be there, like the steering wheel on a car, but still there are products without it.


21 August 2014

SOTA Tour YO 2014 - part III

<< Go to part II of the story

The morning at 2500+m altitude is not your regular morning: winds tend to be strong and the clouds were flying really low - even lower than us.

We had to wait until almost 11:00 local time for the sky to clear so we could depart towards our next target: YO/MC-008 Bucsoiu, 2493m - 10 points.

20 August 2014

SOTA Tour YO 2014 - part II

<< Go to Part I of the story

On the second day we woke up early as we had a long road ahead of us, so at 7 AM we were already on the way. The Transalpina road, crossing the mountains at 2000m altitude, looks beautiful in the morning sun.

18 August 2014

SOTA tour YO 2014 - part I

A team of romanian ham amateur radio operators travelling around the country on beautiful twisting roads, backpacking with their bags full of equipment and installing antennas on mountain peaks for their pure enjoyment; this is how i'd sum up this tour in just a few words. But a few words are not enough, not even alot of them wouldn't suffice; actually, you know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words ? Well, it would take about a thousand pictures to describe what an adventure like this really is, and still the feeling wouldn't be the same unless you experience it yourself.

08 August 2014

SOTA marathon in Romania (YO)

I will be joining Sorin YO2MSB in a SOTA marathon across the Carpathian mountains in Romania, looking to activate about 10 peaks in 5 days, most of them being 10 points. We don't have a strict schedule because this still depends on good weather, but this is what you should be expecting:

August 11th: YO/MC-078 (10pts), YO/MC-052 (10pts), YO/MC-50 (10pts)
August 12th: YO/MC-007 (10pts), YO/MC-049 (10pts)
August 13th: YO/MC-086 (8pts), YO/MC-009 (10pts)
August 14th: YO/MC-006 (10pts), YO/MC-008 (10pts)
August 15th: YO/EC-252 (6pts), YO/EC-331 (6pts), YO/EC-428 (4pts)

We will be joined at some points by other operators and we plan on working multiple bands and multiple modes in order to offer these peaks to as many chasers as possible. Also, we will try a night time activation on YO/MC-006 on 100W to give the chance to DX stations to work this peak.

Please keep an eye on Sotawatch for alerts and spots.

04 August 2014

SOTA activation YO/MC-014

YO/MC-014 Papusa peak ("The Doll" - 2391m) was my first official SOTA activation attempt, almost one year ago. The hike to the peak is no easy task, about 4 hours of continous uphill effort that takes you from 1200m altitude to almost 2400m. Even though it was a very nice weekend and I had the chance to meet and spend some time with very nice people, the weather wasn't on our side and we had to get back when we were 15 minutes away from the peak. Here's the story in romanian.

The peak is in the Iezer mountains, about 20-25km north of Campulung, the home-city of the ARO all-terrain vehicles. These were famous for their excellent offroad capabilities and in the late years they got really good engines and upgrades, unfortunately the factory closed in 2006 and sold their license to a czech company, that (still?) makes only a limited series.