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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Phone Contesting Tips For DX Contests (AE6Y)

Proper use of a phonetic alphabet can be very helpful when working phone under marginal conditions. I’ve written a basic article on phoneticsover at, so you might want to review that. I recently came across an article by Andy/AE6Y on some tips and tricks to use during contests. He does a super job of explaining why the ITU phonetic alphabet isn’t always the best choice. I don’t usually reprint other author’s work on this blog but somehow this article really got my attention. Reprinted here with permission. – Bob K0NR
Phone Contesting Tips For DX Contests
Andy Faber, AE6Y
This article is prompted by the recent WPX SSB contest, in which I worked thousands of guys from Aruba as P49Y, which engendered much reflection (and teeth-gnashing, to be sure) about how U.S. hams can be best understood from the DX end.  I’m not addressing this to relatively clear-channel domestic contests but to the situation where you are trying to get through to a DX station that may be hearing a pileup, plus noise, ear-splitting splatter from adjacent stations and all of the other sonic annoyances that make many contesters prefer CW. If there is no pileup and you know the DX station can hear you completely clearly, then you’ll get through regardless, but if not, here are some suggestions:
First, be sure you are calling on his exact frequency.  In CW contests, it can be helpful to separate yourself from the pack by calling off frequency, but that’s not true in SSB.  Off-frequency stations sound distorted and are hard to understand.  The DX station may well come back to a weaker, but more intelligible station that is on frequency, even if you are louder.  In order to work you, he has to figure out which way to adjust the RIT, and then go ahead and do it. A tired operator on the other end may just not bother, until he has worked everyone else.
Second, make sure your audio is clean.  It is so much easier to understand clear audio, even if it is weaker than a louder, distorted signal.  KH7XS mentioned in his 3830 posting that this year there particularly seemed to be over-processed signals coming from South America, and I noticed the same thing.  It used to be that the Italians who were the worst offenders, but they seem to be better now.  This weekend, the Cubans were particularly hard to understand. The prize for the easiest audio to understand goes each contest to the hams from the British Isles.  The G’s, M’s and their derivatives invariably have very clean (and usually nicely treble) audio that can be understood even when the signal doesn’t budge the S-meter.  On several occasions I chose a weak but clear Brit over a loud, but distorted, competitor.
Ok, so you have a clean signal and are calling on frequency, now how do you get the information through, both your callsign and your contact number (for WPX)?
Here are some tips:
If you are loud enough and have an easily recognizable call, you can skip phonetics.  So this weekend, when K1AR called, he was easy to pick out, same for K3UA, K3ZO, N6AA, and a few others. But for most guys, and when in doubt, use phonetics.  Endless bandwidth has been expended on the subject of phonetics, and people have differing opinions on the topic, but here are my thoughts from being on the DX end:
The first thing to understand is that the standard, “recommended” international alphabet works dismally in marginal conditions.  The words are too short, and some don’t have unique sounds. Generally speaking, the one-syllable words just get lost, while the two syllable words are better, and the longer ones are even better.
Thus, one-syllable words like “Fox”, “Golf” and “Mike” are horrible.  Some of the two-syllable ones are OK (e.g., “Hotel” and “Quebec”), but others, such as “Alpha” and “Delta”, or “X-ray” and “Echo”, “Kilo” and “Tango” sound very similar, so are easily confused.  I worked a guy with the suffix XXE, and had to get a number of repeats until he finally said “X-Ray X-ray Ecuador,” which did the trick.
There are two basic cures for these problems. The first is only to use these crummy phonetics the first time as a trial.  If the DX station asks for a repeat, say your call twice, once with the standard phonetics and once with different ones.  Don’t just keep repeating your call the same way.  Something in either the way you say it or the way the DX hears it is creating ambiguity.  If you keep repeating the call the same way it may well be that part of it is just hard to decipher, and it may not get any easier.
If the DX station is a good English speaker then custom phonetics may work, such as “King George Six…” In fact when I thought a KK4 station was a K4, he used a very effective phonetic, “King Kong Four…” WA2JQK uses “Jack Queen King” in domestic contests, but that won’t work well for non-native speakers.  The Wyoming station N7MZW uses “Many Zebras Walking” sometimes domestically, but I noticed he was using normal phonetics in WPX.
The second approach is to switch to the geographical phonetic alphabet.  This features longer and more distinctive-sounding words, which are much easier to understand.  For example if your suffix is, say, HLF, then you can say “Hotel Lima Fox,” then try “Honolulu London Florida.” When I give my call with last letter “Yankee” and get asked for a repeat it works much better to say “Last letter Yankee, last letter Yokohama.” Many of the geographic phonetics work particularly well for speakers of Romance languages like Spanish and Italian (e.g., terms like “Guatemala”, “Nicaragua”, and “Santiago”). There are a few letters for which there are not good geographic equivalents.  Obviously, “X-ray” is one of them. For “Echo”, “England” is sometimes used, but “Ecuador” is better.  Although “London” and “Lima” are both geographic terms, “London” is much better.  And “Denmark Mexico” is many times superior to “Delta Mike.”
Numbers in the callsign can also cause trouble.  What if the station comes back to “K3” instead of “K6”? In general, just try to repeat the number, but if he still doesn’t get it, you can try counting, e.g. “Kilo Six, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.” Or for us West Coasters, “Kilo Six in California, West Coast” can be useful.
Which brings me to the subject of numbers in exchanges like WPX.  I commented in a 3830 post a few years ago that the English numbers that everyone uses are just too ambiguous, most of them being plain too short.  I recommended using some Spanish numbers, like “cuatro” and “ocho”, but that suggestion went nowhere, so I hereby drop it, unless you are trying to get through to a native Spanish or Italian speaker.  In fact, In WPX, I just couldn’t understand a number from a CO8 station with terrible audio. I kept asking, “your number 424?”, “your number 242?”, “your number 224”, etc. Normally, one doesn’t confuse “two” and “four,” but this guy’s audio was driving me crazy and I wasn’t sure how well he was understanding me either.  Finally I had the presence of mind to ask in Spanish, and when he said “dos cuatro cuatro,” he was in the log.  If he had said that in the beginning I would have understood him in spite of his maladjusted audio.
One source of confusion for the DX station is not knowing how many digits there are, particularly later in the contest when a number can have 1, 2, 3, or 4 digits.  There are a couple of ways to help. For example: suppose the DX station thinks he hears “[garble] six six” and he asks: ”your number six six?” If your number is just 6, you can say to be helpful “Negative. My number zero zero six, number six.” Adding the word “number” in front of the digit indicates there are no missing digits.  If your number is 66, just say “Roger, roger.” If it’s 56, say “Negative, number five six, fifty–six.” If it’s 256, say, “Negative. Number two five six, two fifty-six (or even “two hundred and fifty-six”). I know we were taught that it is incorrect to say “two hundred and fifty-six,” and we should just say “two hundred fifty-six,” but using the “and” makes it more intelligible.
In general, it’s usually best to say your number twice, in two different ways.  For example it’s often hard to discern, “two three” from “three three”. So you can say: “five nine, two three, twenty-three,” since “twenty” and “thirty” sound very different.  Similarly if your number is 15 and you say “one five”, that might be confused with “one nine”, so say “one five, fifteen.” If it’s late in the contest and you might be expected to have a three-digit number you can say “zero two three, only twenty-three”. And if you have a one digit number late in the contest, it’s best to add zeros, saying, e.g., “zero zero nine, number nine”, not just “nine.”
I hope these tips from the DX end are helpful.  They should be even more useful in the next few years, as declining sunspots forcing us increasingly into the QRM alleys of 20 and 40 meters.

Possible ISS SSTV on Wednesday | Southgate Amateur Radio News

Possible ISS SSTV on Wednesday | Southgate Amateur Radio News

China Plans to Bring Artificial Rain to Area Three Times the Size of Spain

China Plans to Bring Artificial Rain to Area Three Times the Size of Spain: Artificial rain is set to fall on mountainous plains three times the size of Spain. At least, that’s the plan for China’s latest weather manipulation project. The system includes solid fuel burners, drones, planes, artillery, and a network of weather satellites covering vast swathes of the Indian Ocean.

Monday, April 23, 2018


RTL-SDR brought cheap and ubiquitous Software Defined Radio (SDR) to the masses, opening up whole swaths of the RF spectrum which were simply unavailable to the average hacker previously. Because the RTL-SDR supported devices were designed as TV tuners, they had no capability to transmit. For the price they are still an absolutely fantastic deal, and deserve to be in any modern hacker’s toolkit, but sometimes you want to reach out and touch someone.
GSM network broadcast from a VGA adapter
Now you can. At OsmoDevCon [Steve Markgraf] released osmo-fl2k, a tool which allows transmit-only SDR through cheap USB 3.0 to VGA adapters based on the Fresco Logic FL2000 chip. Available through the usual overseas suppliers for as little has $5 USD, these devices can be used unmodified to transmit low-power FM, DAB, DVB-T, GSM, UMTS and GPS signals.
In a demonstration on the project page, one of these USB VGA adapters is used to broadcast a GSM cellular network which is picked up by the adjacent cell phones. Another example shows how it can be used to broadcast FM radio. A GitHub repository has been set up which includes more examples. The signals transmitted from the FL2000 chip are obviously quite weak, but the next step will logically be the hardware modifications necessary to boost transmission to more useful levels.
To say this is a big deal is something of an understatement. For a few bucks, you’ll be able to get a device to spoof cellular networks and GPS signals. This was possible before, of course, but took SDR hardware that was generally outside the budget of the casual experimenter. If you bought a HackRF or an Ettus Research rig, you were probably responsible enough not to get into trouble with it, but that’s not necessarily the case anymore. As exciting as this technology is, we would be wise to approach it with caution. In an increasingly automated world, GPS spoofing can have some pretty bad results.

Know How... 378: Stream How: Personal Streaming Part II

Know How... 374: Stream How: Personal Streaming

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Live Stream Archive - HF hangout, Digital modes, recorded April 21st, 2018

Tech Optimists See a Golden Future—Let's Talk About How We'll Get There

Tech Optimists See a Golden Future—Let's Talk About How We'll Get There: Tech evangelists dream of a future when we’re all liberated from mundane work by artificial intelligence. In the long term, automation of labor might benefit the human species immensely. But in the short term, it has all kinds of potential pitfalls. So, the question is: How do we get from here to there?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

10 Amazing Things You Can Learn From Your Poop

10 Amazing Things You Can Learn From Your Poop: To optimize your health, make progress against chronic disease, or know which foods are right for you—much of this information can be found in your microbiome. Viome's Naveen Jain lists a few amazing things you can learn about yourself by measuring these microscopic organisms and their behavior at a molecular level.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

APRS Messenger Quick Start Guide HFAPRS

Ham Radio - April 8th 2018 fox hunt. Hiding the fox!

Ephemera 101: When are you going to clean under your bed?

By Zoe Ann Stoltz, Reference Historian

ephemera 1 : something of no lasting significance 2 : paper items (such as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles

When mom ordered me to “clean under my bed,” she was not referring to the dust bunnies.  She was despairing over my teenage clutter: movie calendars, church bulletins, pamphlets, tickets, and so much more.  Fortunately, a lot of folks were not raised to worry about such clutter.  Rather, they collected and savored programs, advertisements, bulletins, and more. Some of these memorabilia find their way to the MHS Research Center’s Ephemera Collection.

Recently two pieces of ephemera from 1918 landed at the MHS Library.  These century old documents offer informative glimpses of Helena as well as Montana’s cultural environment.  The first is a theater program dated April 4, 1918 from Helena’s Marlow Theater. In hopes of understanding the context of the piece, I searched the 1918 Helena Independent. I discovered that just the day before, April 3, was the Marlow’s grand opening and Helena’s social event of the year!  Newspaper headlines described the “Capital Elite in Force.”  The sheer spectacle of scenery and costumes of “Show of Wonders” amazed the crowd.  However, the Independent critiqued the chorus as “young and pretty and shapely,” but “not a real voice in the lot.”  Also reported was a generous gift of $50.00 for “Red Cross Women to Attend Marlow Opening,” sent by the vacationing Senator T. C. Power. [1]

The Helena IndependentApril 3, 1918
Marlow Program
April 4, 1918
MHS Research Center Ephemera Collection

The program itself delivers a plethora of historic information.  It lists the schedule for the Marlow in the coming weeks, from vaudeville and musical performances to “black face comedians” and drama.  Fisher’s Millinery, the State Nursery & Seed Company, and Montana Phonograph Company are just a few of the dozens of businesses advertised.  The leaflet also lists the Theater’s stockholders and firms connected to the Theater’s construction.  In short, the program offers an exciting glimpse into Helena’s businesses, society, and the era’s entertainment culture. [2]

Montana State War Conference, May 28-29, 1918
MHS Research Center Ephemera Collection

The second booklet is for the May 28-29, 1918 Montana State War Conference, coincidentally, held at the recently christened Marlow Theater. Numerous delegate organizations are listed.  Governing bodies such as the Red Cross, Liberty Loans, Federal Food Administration, Extension Bureau, and County Councils of Defense are predictable.  The presence of groups such as YMCA, Rotary Clubs, and Knights of Columbus reflects the depth of mainstream participation. The Conference’s patriotic goals were highlight by musical performances of Marseillaise, America, and Battle Hymn of the Republic.  Newspaper reports emphasize the diversity of backgrounds represented by speakers. They included Lt. Paul Perigord, a Catholic priest turned soldier, and Dr. James A. B. Scherer, Lutheran Minister and expert on Japanese relations.  The Independent declared that “in Montana, politics, religion, sex and creed have been forgotten.” The common goal was to “help the national government win the war.” [3]   The many organizations represented at the Conference played integral roles in not only uniting Montanans, but in monitoring and regulating individual behavior. 

While the Marlow program creates images pertaining to 1918 recreation and entertainment, the Montana State War Conference pamphlet reminds readers of the countless organizations and coordinated efforts necessary to win the war.  Two very different perspectives of 1918 Montana, both accessed through items not meant to last a house cleaning – ephemera. 

[1] “Helena Theater Opened, Capital Elite in Force,” pg. 1 & 7,  “Senator T.C. Power Gives $50,” pg. 8, Helena Independent, April  3,1918.
[2] See Montana Historical Society Research Center Ephemera Collection, “Helena (Montana)-Theatres-Marlow Theatre.”
[3] “History is Debated by Councilmen,” Helena Independent, May 28, 1918, pg. 1 & 6.

W2LJ QRP - When you care to send the very least!: Another portable antenna from the QRPGuys

W2LJ QRP - When you care to send the very least!: Another portable antenna from the QRPGuys: Boy, these fellows are really cranking out the new kits! Any new portable antenna is bound to catch my eye - here goes: The QRPGuys Mul...

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Supporting clubs to encourage growth and participation

 | March 27, 2018
RSGB Strategy 2022We know that clubs around the country are doing great things to encourage new people into amateur radio and to help current radio amateurs to develop their skills at all levels.
The Society provides a range of services to support clubs in these activities, from the administration of exams to the provision of contests and the help of the Regional team. However, it also provides other tools to enable clubs to nurture growth and participation – two of the RSGB’s strategic priorities – and this month we’d like to highlight a few that are new or that clubs may be less familiar with.
Kit-building workshops: In order to encourage participation in construction activities, RSGB Legacy Committee funding has enabled the purchase of a tool kit that can be loaned to Affiliated Clubs and Groups. This new kit contains twelve sets of tools, currently transported in two roll-along suitcases, including everything you need to run your own Buildathon or Club kit-building workshop. Clubs are expected to provide the consumables, solder, kits, etc and a report of their event for RadCom but transport costs are being covered by the RSGB Legacy funding for the first year. Clubs will soon be able to book the tool kit by completing an online application form – look out for announcements across our communication channels. Steve Hartley, G0FUW will be coordinating the kits initially so contact him if you’d like to find out more by email to
Amateur Radio Direction Finding (ARDF) equipment: The ARDF Committee is keen to open up this aspect of ‘Sport Radio’ to regions where there isn’t any local ARDF activity. Their RSGB equipment can be loaned to Affiliated Societies and the 3.5MHz equipment is configured to provide five transmitters in a five-minute cycle accompanied by ten receivers. A map of the area to be used is not essential but the equipment gives a realistic feel for the ‘classic’ ARDF format. The 144MHz equipment comprises a set of five transmitters (with rechargeable batteries) and antennas but no receivers are included. To find out more about the kit or about possible ARDF Taster Days, contact Bob Titterington, G3ORY by email to
Expert presentations for club talks: The Society’s Convention presentations offer clubs a way of bringing world-class experts to club evenings. Currently there are 30 talks in our online video portal, with many more due to be released during this year. They are a fabulous resource at your ngertips and a great way to inspire club members to try new aspects of amateur radio. Take a look at
Building on this, the Propagation Studies Committee (PSC) has created two
downloadable, narrated video presentations for clubs: Understanding HF Propagation and
Radio Propagation – VHF and higher. Both come with notes and have the option of a
Skype Q&A session with a PSC member. Over 130 clubs have seen one of the presentations and the feedback has been excellent – would your club members be interested? To book one of the presentations contact Steve Nichols, G0KYA by email to

“help and inspire clubs as they work to encourage the growth of amateur radio”

Throughout this year we’ll be creating an online resource bank for clubs. It will draw together not only the great range of tools provided by the RSGB but will also highlight innovative activities from clubs around the country that were shared during the President’s review of clubs in 2017. We hope that this will help and inspire clubs as they work to encourage the growth of amateur radio in their areas.
Heather Parsons
RSGB Communications Manager

First UK 136 kHz ham radio transatlantic contact with USA | Southgate Amateur Radio News

First UK 136 kHz ham radio transatlantic contact with USA | Southgate Amateur Radio News

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Jim Langley's Bicycle Beat: Q&A: Dealing with disc brake rubbing and bent roto...

Jim Langley's Bicycle Beat: Q&A: Dealing with disc brake rubbing and bent roto...: A couple of questions about common disc brake issues came in recently. With discs on so many different bicycle types today, it's a good ...

Head for the Hills....: Persistence in the Bitterroots

Head for the Hills....: Persistence in the Bitterroots: This tour fought us the entire way.  A close to 2 hours drive from Missoula had us unloading sleds at the snow line on schedule for our day....

3D Printing - Adding lights to my Anycubic I3 Mega

Ham Radio Blog by AG1LE: Time Reversal Fractal Antenna

Ham Radio Blog by AG1LE: Time Reversal Fractal Antenna: Lexington, April 1, 2018.  Nine months ago I purchased my first 3D printer. Recently I received a new, much improved printer (model PRUSA...

Steve's Eclectic Radio Blog: Shack in the Box: A 2m/70cm FM transceiver

Steve's Eclectic Radio Blog: Shack in the Box: A 2m/70cm FM transceiver: This is a project that I started last year and, after a few weeks, lost interest in it until recently. During my usual web snooping for...