Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dxpeditions, W9DXCC and New Software

So tomorrow is W9DXCC.  This will be my first ever attendance.  I have signed up to go to the DX Basics class.  From the looks of it, should be interesting.  I am always looking for an edge with my contesting and dxing. 

I hear a lot of local call signs in the pile ups and they are getting through to the dx stations way before I do.  Could be equipment could be luck or (most likely) could be skill.  My CW Skimmer usage has certainly helped with the CW pileups and I am usually within 10 calls of talking to the DX when I sit down to work them.  I have been spending more time with the propagation charts of late and I know that I have been able to utilize my time better on the air because of it.  I have been working NH8S over the past few days.  As of right now I have 10 slots worked, mostly on CW.  I really have not spent a lot of time trying.  I have, however, spent a lot of time sitting in front of the radio listening.  I have been told that listening is the key.  So I will continue reading, and listening, and learning.

I just downloaded CMSK63.  I am planning on playing with it very soon.  I will be doing my first write up on it after I am comfortable with it.  I know it is still in beta but the first issue I see with it is use of the default sound card only.  On the Flex 5K I have VAC's that will need to be defined as the default sound card each time I use the program.  More on that at a later date.

I have also been working with SARTRACK.  I have been doing some testing of the AWGPE multi port capability with the author.  Folks, the maps in this program are awesome.  The author has done a fantastic job and is continuing to improve it.

Until next time,


Sunday, September 2, 2012

CW Skimmer, Airplane Cockpits and Ham Radio

Since I was rained out for my antenna work this weekend, I decided to do some DXing.  I am sitting here with CW Simmer running on the Flex 5000. I just finished working KH8/DL3DXX after about 3 hours of watching the pileup build and the propagation improve.  Funny thing is I only made about 6 calls to get in his log book once I started CW Skimmer. 

I have CW Skimmer tied to the second receiver (RX2) in the Flex 5000.  CW Skimmer from Afreet Software ( is a program designed for Software Defined Radios to decode cw signals across a wide bandwidth. In my case about 10 KHz of bandwidth.  The Flex sends its audio and IQ signals to the controlling computer on what is refered to as virual audio cables (VAC's).  These VAC's can be connected to any kind of digital demod software currently available.  A specific feature of the VAC is its ability to be routed as an in phase and quadrature (IQ) pair of signals.  CW skimmer takes advantage of these bradband IQ signals to allow for decode of a swath of signals instead of the narrow band signal that we are used to. 


OK I'll tell you.  With CW Skimmer and my second receiver, I can watch an entire CW DX pile up as it progresses.  I can see the DX station, and decode what he is sending while simultaneously watching the signals of the answering stations(and decode their responses).  By doing so, I can observe how the DX op is progressing through the pile up and plan my attack.  I like to watch the OP to see how far he tends to tune before answering the next station.  This gives me an idea of where to place my station in my waterfall so that evenually he tunes across me.  This method has proven to be HIGHLY effective.  I won't say that I always get the QSO within 6 calls but I don't send for hours and hours trying to work the guy.  It is akin to making a reservation rather than standing in line.  The wait is much less. 

I started off this morning just calling peiodically to see if he would answer.  I sent my call at least 3 dozen times and decided enough was enough..  I kicked off CW Skimmer and started monitoring.  irst thing I learned was propagation was not good enough to hear most of who he was answering.  I monitored until I could see both sides of the QSO and then stalked his responses.  Once I learned how he tended to tune, I put my signal a few signal widths above the last guy he called and sent.  After about the 5th time through, he sent "Q?".  I sent my call again and he responded with my full call and 599.  I sent my response and got "TU" back.  QSO complete!!!  He's in the log!!

So where did the title for this come from?  I have DXlabs running across 2 monitors, PowerSDR and DDutil running in a third and CW skimmer on top.  There are at least  a dozen programs and 500 buttons on the screen.  There are 3 waterfalls including CW Skimmer!  I think back to the old DX60 days and wonder how the heck did I used to make contacts.  It is a different world.

When you are a Little Gun, you can use all the help you can get!!

Until next time