Displaying QSL Cards

QSL Card Picture Frame

QSL Card Picture Frame

We send and receive quite a few paper QSL cards. Some HAMs create some stunning QSL cards and we really enjoy looking at our cards from time to time. It’s nice to be able to display your favorite cards in your shack and to include those from rare DX Stations and memorable QSOs. The classic way to do this is to create a display of your favorite QSL cards on the wall of your shack and many HAMs do this. DX Engineering recently began providing a more contemporary way to display QSL cards – a QSL Display Kit which includes a Digital Picture Frame and a scanner optimized for this purpose.

QSL Card Scanner

QSL Card Scanner

The kit from DX Engineering includes a card scanner that is optimized for scanning QSL cards. It scans one card at a time and it will handle QSL cards in formats up to 4″x6″. This size will accommodate all but the occasional super-size QSL card. The scanner may be used standalone or with a PC. In the standalone configuration, it scans QSL cards directly to an SD Flash Memory Card which is then plugged directly into the Digital Frame that comes with the kit. The scanner does automatic cropping of the cards to eliminate black edges and is very fast – scanning a cards takes only a few seconds. I connected my scanner to a PC which allows me to keep a copy of my scanned cards there. The scanner handles single sheet cards only – those that come as “books” with multiple pages must be scanned in a standard sheet scanner (cards scanned this way display just fine when added to the frame’s SD card). I also find that the scanner’s automatic cropping will occasionally get a little aggressive and cut off a bit of the callsign on a card if the callsign is printed close to the edge of a cards. I personally do not find this to be much of an issue with the kit’s scanner.

Display Of A Favorite QSL

Display Of A Favorite QSL

The included 7″ diagonal picture frame is a basic one that is 16:9 formatted. It has a nice, crisp display and it has programmable on and off times and display transitions but does not handle randomizing the order in which the QSL images are displayed. I personally prefer a random ordering so I found a utility called RandomNames that can randomize the filenames of all files in a directory. I make a copy of all of my scanned images in a separate directory and run this utility from inside that directory to randomize all of the filenames which store my QSL cards. The files are then copied to the frame’s SD Flash Memory card and the result is that the frame displays the cards in random order.

All in all, I am happy with the QSL Display Kit from DX Engineering. It provides a quick way to scan and display my favorite QSL cards as I receive them. It is a nice addition to our shack.

– Fred (AB1OC)

2013 Thirteen Colonies Special Event – QSL!

2013 Thirteen Colonies Special Event - K2K NH QSL

2013 Thirteen Colonies Special Event – K2K NH QSL

Our updated QSL cards for this year’s Thirteen Colonies Special Event came back from the printer last week. This let us get about the business of responding to all of the QSL requests to the K2K New Hampshire Station. This project took the better part of two days to complete. We replied to approximately 450 direct QSL requests as well as 180 Buro QSL requests from previous years. The net was that I filled out about 630 cards in about two days. We expect that this batch of QSLs will represent about 2/3 of the QSL requests that we will receive for the 2013 Event.

New K2K New Hampshire QSL Card

New K2K New Hampshire QSL Card

Richie (W1STT), Anita (AB1QB) and I (AB1OC) redesigned the K2K New Hampshire QSL Card this year. The logo in the center of the card was used in various forms early in our history (ex. the Fugio Cent) to signify the unity among the Thirteen Original Colonies which formed the United States of America. It also appeared on the Flag of the 2nd New Hampshire Regiment which fought in the American Revolutionary War. The symbol in the upper left of the card is used on the current New Hampshire State flag and Seal.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2013 Thirteen Colonies Special Event. We certainly enjoyed doing it and we hope that everyone enjoys the new QSL cards.

– Fred (AB1OC)

2013 Thirteen Colonies Special Event Operating Award

2013 Thirteen Colonies Top Operator Award

2013 Thirteen Colonies Top Operator Award

I believe that operating awards serve several important purposes within the Amateur Radio community. First, they encourage operators to get on the air and operate. Each award is different in this respect – some encourage DX’ing (ex. ARRL DXCC awards) while others encourage specific types of contacts (ex. the RSGB IOTA awards) and others are designed to encourage operators to provide the best possible experience in on the air events. At a personal level, operating awards several two important functions – they give us a means to test the performance of our stations and our skills as operators and they provide us with motivation and encouragement to improve both. Occasionally, an operating award comes along that really means a lot and I am happy and proud to say that I’ve recently achieved one of these. I’ve been active in the Thirteen Colonies Special Event for three years now and I’ve been working to improve our station and my skills as a pileup operator throughout this period. The 2011 event was my first experience operating a special event station (K2K New Hampshire) and I made several hundred digital contacts that year. In 2012, we used the Thirteen Colonies Special Event to prove in our new shack and made over 1,000 contacts using a mix of digital modes and SSB phone. This year, I set out to achieve the Top Operator Award in the high-power, single op category using our recently completed station including our tower-based antenna system and high-power setup. As you can see from the photo above, this effort was successful and provided an award that I will always be very proud to display in our shack.

2013 Thirteen Colonies Top Operator Certificate

2013 Thirteen Colonies Top Operator Certificate

I was able to make 5,812 contacts over the 6 1/2 days of the 2013 Thirteen Colonies Special Event. These contacts were made across all of the non-WARC bands from 160m – 2m. You can see more of the details of the contacts that Anita (AB1QB) and I made this year here. I’d like to thank Ken Villone (KU2US) who runs the Thirteen Colonies Special Event and Richie Feola (W1STT) who is the New Hampshire coordinator for the event for providing us with the opportunity to be part of something very special.

New K2K New Hampshire QSL Card

New K2K New Hampshire QSL Card

Richie (W1STT), Anita (AB1QB) and I have been working on a new QSL card for the Thirteen Colonies K2K New Hampshire station. I think it has turned out quite nicely. The new cards are in the process of being printed and we’ll be sending out the new cards to those who have QSL’ed contacts with K2K this year as soon as we receive them.

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the 2013 Thirteen Colonies Special Event. I hope that we created some good memories for everyone. This is certainly the case for me.

– Fred (AB1OC)

AB1OC’s First VHF Contest – 2013 ARRL June VHF

AB1OC Operating  In The 2013 ARRL VHF Contest

AB1OC Operating In The 2013 ARRL VHF Contest

When we built our new station last year, I decided to include antennas and equipment for 6m, 2m, and 70cm weak signal work. I have not had much of a chance to operate on these bands yet beyond some 2m EME work and a few contacts on 6m and 70cm. When the 2013 ARRL VHF Contest rolled around this past weekend, I was anxious to participate and get some experience with weak signal work on these bands. I spent some time on 6m the week before the contest to get a feel for this band and to check out my equipment. There was a good 6m opening to my east during this time and I was able to work CU1EZ on Azores; EA8DBM, EA8/G8BCG, and EA8CK on the Canary Islands; and J69MV in Saint Lucia. The longest of these contacts was over 3,100 mi. I’ve read a good bit about propagation on 6m – 70m including how short some of the openings can be. I certainly experienced this during the 6m DX opening before the contests – it did not last for more than about an hour.

Logging And SO2R Control

Logging And SO2R Control

My goal in the ARRL VHF Contest was to work out a good operating configuration and to get some experience on the VHF/UHF bands and I did not plan to compete for a top score this time. To keep the software side simple, I decided to use my DX’ing logger, DXLab which is already configured to work with both our Icom IC-7800 (6m radio) and our Icom IC-9100 (2m and 70cm) radio. I also used our MicroHAM MK2R+ as an SO2R controller to share headphones and microphone between the two radios. This worked out OK as the QSO rates during this contest were not extremely high even when I was running.

Rotator Control

Rotator Control

I used two programs for controlling the rotator associated with the 6m SteppIR (6 elements), and the 2m (18 elements) and 70cm (21 elements) M2 Antenna Systems beams. The main program that I used here was Ham Radio Deluxe rotator. I chose it because it had the best grid square overlay map. This was very useful for getting the antennas pointed at specific grid squares to work stations on 2m and 70cm after an initial contact on 6m. I also had DXLab’s DXView available to lookup the specific coordinates for stations but I did not use it very much during the contest.

I operated most of the day on Saturday and for a few hours on Sunday as preparations for the upcoming ARRL Field Day exercise required me to be away from my shack during parts of the contest period. I had good results running on 6m and used this band and mode of operation to make most of my QSOs. I also was able to run for some short periods on 2m as well. I have amplifiers which make about 1 Kw available on both of these bands which greatly helped my ability to run effectively on 6 m and 2m. Most of my contacts on 70cm were a result of stations that I contacted on 6m or 2m suggesting a contact on that band as well. I have about 100w available on 70cm and this provided to be adequate for contacts on 70cm as I was able to get my antennas pointed accurately before moving up there to make a contact with a station that was just worked on 6m or 2m.

I really enjoyed this contest a lot. The pace was a little more relaxed that most of the other HF contest that I’ve participated in and using two radios in SO2R mode was a new operating experience for me which was technically challenging at first. The following is a summary of my contacts during the contest.

Band QSOs Grids Worked
6 m 120 15
2 m 46 14
70 cm 19 6
Totals 185 35

There was a brief opening on 6m to Florida, USA on Sunday morning and I was able to work several stations there from my shack in NH, USA – a distance of about 1,200 mi. I also made contacts to the midwest and to several of the US eastern central coastal states during the contest. All in all, the ARRL VHF Contest was a lot of fun and participating in it helped me to gain confidence in my setup on the VHF bands. The only change in my VHF/UHF setup that I plan to make for the next VHF Contest is to use the N1MM Logger to take advantages of its ability to more effectively automate control of my SO2R setup.

Between the contest and my previous EME work, I have worked a total of 42 grid squares on 2m and  I am hoping to be able to complete an ARRL VUCC Award on that band sometime in near future.

– Fred (AB1OC)

AB1OC Enters The 2013 CQ WPX CW Contest

AB1OC Operating In The 2013 CQ WPX CW Contest

AB1OC Operating In The 2013 CQ WPX CW Contest

I have been working to improve my CW skills for some time now as well as working towards a number of operating awards including the CQ WPX Award of Excellence. The CQ WPX Award of Excellence requires quite a range of confirmed contacts with CQ recognized prefixes including 600 using the CW mode. I was able to move both of these goals forward by operating in the 2013 CQ WPX CW Contest recently.

2013 CQ WPX CW N1MM Setup

N1MM Logger/FLdigi Setup For CW Mode

I again used the N1MM Logger along with FLdigi as a CW decoder in this contest. I am not yet proficient enough with CW to operate without a decoder but I did find that working a contest with the aid of a CW decoder like FLdigi helped me to improve my CW skills by practicing them. I found FLdigi to be a fairly effective CW decoder. I set up FLdigi as a Digital Interface Window in N1MM which allowed me to click on call signs and contest exchange information that it decoded to enter this information directly into the N1MM logging window. This saved time and reduced errors during contest operations.

MorseDec CW Decoder For iPhone

MorseDec CW Decoder For iPhone

I also used the MorseDec CW Decoder on my iPhone as a second decoder and the FLdigi/ MorseDec combination was effective in this contest. In some cases, one would successfully decode the received CW when the other did not.

Online Contest Score Website

Online Contest Score Website

Another tool that I used for the first time in this contest was the Online Contest Server website. This tool allows one to post and compare your score in real-time during the contest to those of other operators. It was very easy to enable this capability using the N1MM Logger – all I had to do was to create an account on the Online Contest Server website and enable N1MM to post my scores which it did every few minutes. Anita (AB1QB) learned about this interesting tool during her participation in Contest University at the 2013 Dayton Hamvention. I found that being able to see how I was doing relative to some of the other operators was good motivation to keep going during the contest. This also gave me an indication of how others with scores close to mine were balancing adding to their score via more QSOs vs. searching for additional prefixes (i.e. multipliers). It also shows each operator’s statistics by band which is helpful for comparison purposes.

2013 CQ WPX CW Band Conditions

Contest Band Conditions

Unfortunately, band conditions were less than ideal during this contest. A series of solar storms started on Friday evening just about the time the contest began and continued through the entire contest period. This made for some challenging operating conditions during most of the contest period.

Countries Worked In The 2013 CQ WPX CW Contest

Countries Worked In The 2013 CQ WPX CW Contest

In spite of my limited CW skills and the band conditions, I was pleased with the results that I was able to obtain working the contest. I probably worked about 60% of the available operating period during this contest. I mostly operated in Search and Pounce mode due to my limited ability to decode CW by ear. I did run briefly on 160m and 40m late at night to get some experience with running in CW mode. As you can see from the above, I was able to work 86 DXCC entities during the contest – not quite a DXCC but I was very happy with these results given my limited CW abilities.

AB1OC FInal Claimed Score In The 2013 CQ WPX CW Contest

AB1OC Final Claimed Score

I was also able to make a little over 500 QSOs and worked 344 prefixes during the contest. This brought my total prefixes worked towards the CQ WPX Award of Excellence in CW mode to 550 of the 600 required. While all of these prefixes will probably not be confirmed, I am now within striking distance of completing this aspect of the award and I should be able to snag the final number of prefixes required to reach 600 confirmed via non-contest operating.

The 2013 CQ WPX CW Contest was a lot of fun and it helped me to improve and build confidence in my CW skills. I would encourage our readers to try CW if you do not currently use this mode. It is challenging to learn CW but there is a great deal of DX available via this mode and I believe that some of the finest operators in the world use CW as their preferred mode.

– Fred (AB1OC)

AB1OC Completes 10,000th QSO From Home QTH

I passed a milestone in my career as a HAM a few days ago – I completed my 10,000th QSO from my home station! The call was with VP9FOC, Yuri the operator of a Special Event Station in Bermuda commemorating the 75th anniversary of the FirstClass Operators Club. My 10,000th QSO was using CW and I was QRP 5 watts. I very much hope to someday have the CW and other skills to be able to be part of the FirstClass Operators Club – that would be quite an honor indeed. It was certainly good luck to have this station be my 10,000th QSO. I decided to create the video tour above of the 10,000 QSO’s I’ve made from my home station. I hope you enjoy it.

– Fred (AB1OC)

QSOs From Our New Station

DXCCs Worked From Our New Station

DXCC Entities Worked From Our New Station (click to view a larger image)

It has been about 11 months since our new station went on the air. In total, we have worked 234 DXCC entities and made over 11,200 QSO from our new station since it went on the air in July of 2012!

A great many of the QSOs from our new station were made as part of various contests that we’ve taken part in including:

We’ve been using DXLab for logging and other station management functions and I learned recently that DXLab can use Google Earth to plot QSOs on a map of the world. For fun, I decided to make a video showing where we have made QSOs using our new station over the last 11 months.

As you can see, a great many of our QSOs have been made to the United States and Europe as part of the various contests that we’ve been in. Anita has worked a number of contacts to Japan and we’ve both worked a good bit of DX around the world as well.

QSOs By Band

QSOs From Our New Station By Band

We have had quite a bit of activity on all of the HF bands and we are looking forward to more fun on 6m, 2m and 70cm as time and conditions permit.

– Fred (AB1OC)

Bounce’in Off The Moon…

The Moon

The Moon

This past week has been very productive in terms of 2m Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) QSOs. I’ve continued to use the WSJT Software to make Digital EME QSOs on 2m during both the ascending and descending periods of the Moon. To date, I’ve completed 30 QSOs and worked 16 countries on the 2m band using the Moon as a reflector. The countries and stations I’ve worked include:

  • Australia (VK5APN)
  • Estonia (ES3RF)
  • England (G4SWX)
  • European Russia (R3BM and others)
  • Federal Republic of Germany (DM1CG and others)
  • Finland (OH7PI)
  • Italy (I2FAK)
  • Japan (JE1TNL)
  • Netherlands (PE1L)
  • New Zealand (ZL3TY)
  • Poland (SP4K)
  • Republic of South Korea (HL5QO)
  • Slovenia (S52LM)
  • Sweden (SM5DIC)
  • Ukraine (UT5UAS and others)
  • United States of America (KB8RQ and others)

As you can see from the links to the QRZ pages for some of these stations, many have built fairly sophisticated EME systems.

I2FAK 16x19 EME Array

I2FAK 16×19 EME Array

At this point, I have worked 4 of the 6 continents needed for a Worked All Continents Award via Digital 2m EME. I have set completing and confirming the needed contacts for this award as my next goal. EME contacts are great fun and the EME Ham community has been very helpful to me in getting started.

– Fred (AB1OC)

QSL!

QSL Cards Ready To Mail

QSL Cards Ready To Mail

QSL’ing has often been referred to as the “Final Courtesy of a QSO” and its certainly a lot of fun to send and receive QSL cards from friends and acquaintances that you’ve made on the air from around the world. QSL’ing is also an important part of qualifying for operating awards which help to hone an operator’s skills as well as encouraging test and enhancement of your station. To these ends, I am working towards a variety of operating awards including:

These awards require QSOs to be confirmed using a combination of Logbook of the World (LoTW), QSL Cards, and some via eQSL (AG).

I recently switched to the DXLab Suite of logging and DX’ing programs to facilitate the tracking, QSL’ing and application tasks associated with these and other awards. DXLab includes a very sophisticated set of features for DX’ing and award tracking. The combination of all of the new QSO’s made during the three contests I’ve participated in over the last few months plus the enhanced award tracking features in DXLab resulted in a large number of QSOs that needed to be confirmed. It would be wonderful if all Hams used the online QSL’ing services (LoTW and eQSL) to confirm QSOs but this is far from the case. As a result, I decided to create a batch of  QSL card mailings to try to confirm the needed QSOs.

QSL Label Via DXLab

QSL Label Via DXLab

DXLab has many nice features which can be used to print QSL card labels (or complete cards) and to address the outgoing and return envelopes associated with direct QSL requests. It also provides a tool called Pathfinder to aid in the discovery of QSL routes. These tools were very useful in creating  some 400+ direct QSL mailings this past weekend plus another 30+ cards that were sent via the ARRL Outbound QSL Bureau. DXLab also handles online QSL’ing via LoTW and eQSL as well as uploading to ClubLog. It would have been quite a chore indeed to generate all of these cards and mailings without DXLab!

I am very much looking forward to getting cards back from all over the world. It makes checking the mailbox fun!

– Fred (AB1OC)

AB1OC Enters Yet Another Contest – 2013 CQ WPX SSB

N1MM and Related Software

N1MM and Related Software

I am continuing to work the major HF contests to both improve my skills and to work towards a variety of operating awards. My latest effort here was to participate in the recent CQ WPX SSB contest. My schedule did not permit operation during the full contest period but the results were still pretty good. I again used the N1MM logger including its voice keyer features and this was a great aid during contest operations.

Countries Worked During CQ WPX SSB

Countries Worked During 2013 CQ WPX SSB

I was active on all bands 160m – 10m in this contest and was able to work 106 countries – again working a DXCC. The scoring system in CQ WPX SSB favors the lower bands (160m – 40m) so I tried to concentrate there when I could.

AB1OC Claimed Score

AB1OC Claimed Score

My best band overall was 15m where I was able to run during several of the active daytime periods. I am still considered a “rookie” by the rules of this contest, having been licensed for less than three years at this point. Based upon the claimed scores on the 3830scores site, It looks like I may be one of the top “rookies” in my category and will perhaps place in the top 15 in my category overall. The contest also contributed some new prefixes towards the CQ WPX awards that I am working on. Lots of fun as usual.

– Fred (AB1OC)