Monday, 31 March 2014

eQSL 300 Prefixes worked on JT65

The band conditions on 10 m here in the evenings have been excellent into Japan and Europe, allowing me to work many new prefixes, especially out of Japan which seems to have endless prefixes...

This managed to get me over 300 Prefixes on JT65 mode, so applied for the award. Here it is.




Saturday, 22 March 2014

SOTA reactivation Isaacs Ridge with EU DX

Saw an alert on Sotawatch for Mike, 2E0YYY doing an activation of G/SP-017, so on the spur of the moment decided to try s S2S contact from Isaacs Ridge, VK1/AC-041.

My last activation there was a disaster, S8 of noise all over 40 m and I broke my squid pole :(
However after finding out from Andrew, VK1NAM that 20 m was noise free there decided to give it another go.

As per last time walked in from the access road off Long Gully Road


After about a 15 minute walk reached the top track. Instead of going South towards the noisy towers went North to a spot Andrew operated from. Used the same sign for squid pole support


Ran one 20 m dipole leg to a thorny bush and the other leg to a pine tree. Didn't bother about a 40 m antenna, a check showed still S8 of noise all over the band...

Set up the radio at the base of the sign.


Got on 20 m and managed to work Mike, 2E0YYY on G/SP-017 for an S2S!

Then went on to work several of the usual crowd of EU chasers, G0RQL, G4UXH, G4OBK and G6TUH among them. Also VK1MBE, and some of the VK5 and VK6 guys. The VK5s were really strong, Paul VK5PAS was 59+. Ended working Rod VK2LAX/4 with a good signal.Worked no VK2s or VK3s, and my first solely on 20 m.

Sun was setting around 7 pm, so packed up while still some light left and headed down. Last shot of the station:


Sunset over the Brindabellas to the West.


Saturday, 15 March 2014

Change of radio logging software from Ham Radio Deluxe to LOG4OM

For many years I have used Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD) to control my radio and log contacts, which has served me well. When the program was sold to a commercial company I continued using the free version HRD v5.24, instead of the newer paid version 6, so knew it would eventually get out of date.

To log SOTA activation contacts, I first use a CSV file to upload the log into the sotadata website http://www.sotadata.org.uk/. I then download the activation log into a text file, for example a few lines from a recent log:

VK1DI/2,10/03/2014,00:13,VK2/SW-026,7MHz,SSB,VK1MDC/P,r578 s58 s2s VK1/AC-034
VK1DI/2,10/03/2014,00:14,VK2/SW-026,7MHz,SSB,VK3HRA,r51 s53

I then paste this text into the excellent web page of ON6ZQ at http://www.on6zq.be/w/index.php/SOTA.SOTA2ADIF#results

Then submit this to convert to adif format, eg the above log becomes

ADIF file
created by SOTA2ADIF (http://www.on6zq.be/w/index.php/SOTA/SOTA2ADIF) on 2014/03/15 05:26:29 UTC

<ProgramID:9>SOTA2ADIF
<ProgramVersion:8>20140315
<ADIF_VER:4>2.00
<EOH>
<Call:8>VK1MDC/P <QSO_DATE:8>20140310 <TIME_ON:4>0013 <Band:3>40M <Mode:3>SSB <STATION_CALLSIGN:7>VK1DI/2 <MY_SOTA_REF:10>VK2/SW-026 <COMMENT:34>VK2/SW-026 r578 s58 s2s VK1/AC-034 <EOR>
<Call:6>VK3HRA <QSO_DATE:8>20140310 <TIME_ON:4>0014 <Band:3>40M <Mode:3>SSB <STATION_CALLSIGN:7>VK1DI/2 <MY_SOTA_REF:10>VK2/SW-026 <COMMENT:18>VK2/SW-026 r51 s53 <EOR>


2 lines processed

I would then paste this adif code into a .adi adif file, then import into HRD to update my personal electronic radio log.
This worked fine, until the output was changed to ADIF v3.04 format...

ADIF 3.04 includes SOTA reference tags. Notice in the above <MY_SOTA_REF:10>VK2/SW-026

This would cause import errors importing into HRD 5.24...I could get around this by editing out the SOTA reference number, bit of a pain to do this every time though...

So given my logging software HRD is old and not being developed any more, had a look for a new radio logging program. After some research settled on LOG4OM, from http://www.pisto.it/wordpress/ham-radio-software-log4om/ 

This program is free and does support ADIF v3.04, what's more the developers are planning to add SOTA logging and award tracking in future releases!

I installed it, exported all my HRD contacts into an ADIF file, then imported them into LOG4OM.

Been playing about with it, quite good. Like HRD it allows updating eQSL and LOTW, also integrates with JTAlert and JT65 for direct logging. Also directly updates HRDlog and Clublog. Screen shot in action on my shack laptop. If you type the prefix of a call, it shows you all previous matches, what bands and modes you have worked this on, and if the contacts have been confirmed. Plus a world map showing where the prefix is. Cool!


There are QSO Management and QSL Management screens, eg below QSO Management and an entry. For SOTA use QTH to store the activators summit code, comments for my SOTA summit if in am also activating.


The Update button is handy, using HamQTH it will fill in name, address, QTH and Locator for you, if an entry found. HRD did allow updating too, however using QRZ.com data which requires a subscription, HamQTH data is free.

There are also bulk update utilities, so given a callsign can update all worked entries with the same data such as name, QTH etc. This lets me fill in many gaps... 

Look forward to seeing how the SOTA logging side of this works when released.











Monday, 10 March 2014

SOTA Activation Billapaloola State Forest

After activating Mt Tumorrama VK2/SW-027, I had planned to activate Tumorramah Hill, VK2/SW-029. Drove down to Cockatoo Road and continued along to Cotterills Rd, then turned right onto a side road heading for the mountain. This led me to a private property...Not knowing a way around it to the peak I abandoned this and drove to the last peak I had planned for the day,  Billapaloola State Forest, VK2/SW-034.

Drove back down Cockatoo Road and back to the Brindabella Road, continued on towards Tumut. Just before the junction of the other end of Cotterill Road drove down an unmarked dirt road on the left, this was Webbs Road.


Turned off Webbs Rd onto Stringybark Rd.


Drove along Stringybark Rd, watching the GPS, until I got to within 150 m of the summit. Parked the car nearby just off the road. Good views to the East of both Mt Tumorrama and Yankee Ned Hill, which I had just activated.


Unfortunately, the summit itself behind me was not so clear, lots of scrub both native and pines...


Beat my way up the hill then blundered about for a while close to the summit, trying to find an area suitable for a squid pole and 40 m dipole. I eventually found a small clearing surrounded by pines, and used a single small pine tree for squid pole support.


Looking the other direction, not a lot of room...


Operated at the base of the squid pole. Pleasantly surprised to find the nearby trees not blocking signals on 40 m much, quite strong. Started with an S2S with Kevin, VK3KAB on VK3/VC-011, then some of the usual chasers from VK1,VK2 and VK3. Another S2S with Marc VK3ASC on VK3/VE-135. Total of 16 contacts.

Packed up and headed home via the Brindabella Road, stopping at Bondo Picnic area on the way for a cuppa.

Track log of walk.






SOTA Activation Mount Tumorrama

After activating Yankee Ned Hill returned to the car and drove down Brindabella Road, turning off onto Cockatoo Road, which runs around the Western side of Mount Tumorrama.


Running off Cockatoo Road to the right and up the mountain is Tumorrama Trig Road


Followed this road up to a turnoff to the right, Lookout Tower Road


Then as I approached the lookout tower parked and walked up into the activation zone. There is a trig here near the tower, like others I have encountered beheaded :( Vanes nearby.


Close up of the trig name plate.


I could have used the trig for a squid pole support, however it was warm in the sun so found a close by sapling to use as a squid pole support, and get some shade for operating. A handy log for the radio and another log for a seat.


Ran the 40 m dipole legs out to a couple of nearby saplings. 


Got on 40 m, started with a S2S with Nick VK3ANL on VK3/VU-011. Worked through the usual chasers, plus another S2S with Mark VK1MDC on VK1/AC-040. Total of 17 contacts. Had lunch and packed up to go to the next summit.

View over the pine plantations on the way down.





SOTA Activation Yankee Ned Hill

For the Canberra Day Monday public holiday decided to activate some new SOTA summits. As I haven't activated any VK2/SW (South West Slopes) summits before looked up 4 nearby ones and set off.

To get to these summits requires crossing the Brindabellas to the West of Canberra, climbing from around 700 m in town to 1200 m at Bulls Head, then descending down to Brindabella valley at 600 m, then climbing again to the summits area at 1200 m, most of this on a narrow winding dirt road...So took me almost 2 hours to get to the first summit, Yankee Ned Hill. Seen here on the right of the road. The Brindabella road, which changes from dirt to sealed here runs through the gap on the left.


At the gap the road descends, on the right are 2 dirt roads that go around the summit.


I tried driving down the left one, reversed out again as it looked pretty rough... As only about a Km from the summit decided to save the car and walk instead.


The road took me around the summit but not up it. Cut through the bush using old logging trails. Lots of blackberries to look out for. This led me to a higher up road, which ran out, then just scrub bashed to the top. Lots of stumps and small pine trees. The rounded peak on the right is Mt Coree, VK1/AC-023.


Used one of the small pines to support the squid pole


Got some shade at the base of the pine for operating. The mountain close by in the background is Mt Tumorramah, my next peak.


Small pines make good support for dipole ends too! Looking South to the snowy mountains.


Got on 40 m. First contact a S2S with Al VK1RX/2 on VK2/ST-029. Band quite good, worked my way through the large pileup...Worked another S2S with Mark, VK1MDC on VK1/AC-034, and worked him again after the UTC day rollover. Packed up at 11:30 am and returned he same way to the car.

Track log of walk.