Sunday, November 16, 2008

November Sweepstakes Ham Radio Contest

I'm just finished up another year of Sweepstakes. I don't really recall how many years I've been doing this, but after 10 years of marriage, my wife knows that there is one weekend a year that I am just not available - and she's a really good sport about it...

Once again I came up just shy of a clean sweep, with 68 of the 80 possible sections, 173 contacts, and a claimed score of 23528. I missed the usuals again - Newfoundland (NL), Quebec (QC), Manitoba (MB), and Alaska (AK). For some reason this year, it seemed tougher to some of the staples, like California for example. I didn't pick up Santa Barbara until the last 3 hours of the contest!

Last year I spent quite a bit more quality time in the contest. This year I did a lot of side projects like fixing a bug on a website, and cleaning out my inbox. I spent some time cruising eBay, as this contest again put me in the mood to upgrade my old faithful Kenwood TS-430S that I've owned for about 15 years. Those new computer-controlled satellite-capable rigs with DSP in the IF stages sure look tempting.

I think the thing that I really miss most from years past is having a choice between vertically and horizontally polarized antennas. I noted years ago at a previous house/antenna installation, that it didn't really matter what your antennas were, so long as you had a choice. Many times a station that was weak on the tri-bander, would suddenly pop up a couple of S-units just by switching to a vertical. Some day I need to figure out how to put up a dipole or beam at the new house without electrocuting myself.

The other item that I feel compelled to get worked out is a better recording/playback setup. I used pre-recorded WAV files with my callsign, and the static part of my exchange. This significantly reduced my operating fatigue, but I doubt my transmissions sounded very seamless (which is a pet peeve of my own).

My logging PC (Vista Ultimate) is finicky at best when setting the recording level of the microphone. That made it frustrating to configure, plus I wasn't using my normal (Heil) communications microphone to do the recordings. I made an educated guess at some equalization settings and applied it with the open-source Audacity project, but I really needed a second receiver recording my audio so that I can tweak the EQ.

Maybe next year...
73's de W0ZC

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