Why not use LoTW?

Posted: May 8, 2017 in Uncategorized

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Today’s Blog entry comes from Victor 4X6GP who asks, Why don’t more DX operations use LoTW?

Victor writes: I am reading my favorite DX bulletin and I come across a note that an operator who shall be call-less here
will be operating from a semi-rare location on a certain date.

“QSL direct to K____, USA with an SASE and DX 2 USD, no LoTW. He will have a log search on Club Log.”

My question is, “why no LoTW?” If he will be uploading to Club Log he can certainly upload to LoTW too.
If he wants to finance his operation with donations that he expects to receive with the QSLs, then why
not use the OQRS option to donate a small sum in return for a LoTW upload?

He is not the only one. Time and again I see hams announcing their operations and adding “QSL via the home call” or
via a manager in the US, Italy, Russia, Japan, or somewhere else.

These methods approximately double the cost of each QSL for me, since it costs me almost $2 US to send an envelope
halfway around the world. Then I have to obtain US dollars or Euros, put them in the envelope and hope that they
safely get out of my country and arrive at their destination. Much of the time they don’t!

My postal service is very slow and somewhat unreliable. It is not so great in many other countries, either.

As a DXer, I live and die by confirmations that are accepted for DXCC. Other than paper cards, which I
must send to the US or have checked by the ONE ham in my entire country who is authorized to do that, LoTW
is the only way to confirm a QSO.

Why do so many DX operations not use LoTW?

What do you think?

While I was attending the International DX Convention in Visalia, California last week. I sat and chatted with many DXers from all over the world. I asked them: What do you want in a Dxpedition?

By far, most DXers told me that they wanted a team of competent and able operators, who could handle big pileups with skill and finesse. They also want operators and leaders who know and understand propagation and make proper band selections by time of day. They want the Dxpedition to do everything possible to enable the DXers to work them. They told me that some DXpeditions seem to “go to bed too early” and miss important band openings to certain areas of the globe.

Many DXers told me that they like a log checking feature. Almost everyone said that a daily upload to Clublog was sufficient and they didn’t need real time logging.

DXers said that they like to see pictures from the operation and they want to know and understand the challenges at the other end of the pileup.

DXers told me that they are very interested in 160 meters and that proper emphasis should be made to have a good antenna, powerful amp and experienced top band operators.

DXers told me that Social Media was of little importance to them. “just have a good website” was said to me.” Show me how propagation will be in my area”. Have an easy method to obtain the QSL card.

DXers told me that they feel that the best DXpeditions use regional Pilot Relay stations. These people are in tune with the Dxpedition and aware of the propagation and they can best guide the Dxpedition to meet the demand for contacts.

Several DXers told me that if a Dxpedition makes bold statements such as they are also going to Kerguelen or activating a second camp on the other side of the Volcano, then they should really keep their promises. DXers tend to make donations based on promises and they feel wronged when they are not achieved.

DXers told me that they really enjoy it when the Dxpedition Team meets their audience at places such as IDXC and the Dayton Hamvention. They like the rapport that they develop with the teams and their members.

DXers told me that they like the concept of “pure DX”. They don’t want to work a remote station being operated from somewhere else. They want to experience the contact purely through radio.

 

What do you think?

 

At the 2017 IDXC in Visalia, the subject of out of turn calling and bad pileup behavior was discussed among DXers and DXpedition Leaders. Here is an article written by Steve-N6SJ:

When a DXer stands by and listens while the DX operator is completing his QSO with another caller, he will get himself in the log sooner.

The very fastest pileup would be one where no one else calls while the DX is completing his current QSO.  But this is unheard of on the bands today.

These days the normal behavior is for many other DXers to keep calling while the DX operator struggles to complete the current QSO.  Every additional caller simply adds to the QRM and frequently leads to the DX station needing to ask for multiple repeats to clarify a partial call.

Each extra exchange for “fills” or a call correction could have instead been a new QSO with yet another DXer.  But unfortunately that joy is delayed while the DX loses time trying to log a solid QSO through all the QRM.

Any DXer should be able to grasp this simple concept:

Each time you call out of turn, you are delaying your own QSO.

Are you calling out of turn?  Well first, can you actually hear the DX station?  If not, you will only cause QRM by calling.  I have heard many DXers calling at the same time the DX is transmitting.  They obviously are not hearing the DX and will never be in the log.

Do you hear the DX send a report to another call sign that is not yours?  If so, sending your own call will only make it harder for the DX to complete his QSO.  Each additional transmission required to finish the contact keeps you from getting into the log.

Yes, there are times when you may hear the DX send a partial call very similar to your own, followed by a “?” or “again?”, eg., N6S? on cw, or “The N6S, again?” on SSB.  In this case it is likely the DX heard you and needs to confirm your call.  By all means try again.  But when the partial call is nothing like your own, stand by.  Calling in that case is just wishful thinking, and will simply delay your own QSO.

When E30FB was fading fast on 30M CW back a couple of years, I heard the DX operator Dima RA9USU reply with “N6S?” several times.  I kept calling, but also heard fifteen or twenty other stations who kept calling at the same time.  Only one was another N6 prefix, but his suffix was M or K, nothing like S.  The rest of the callers were K7’s, N7’s K6’s, WA6’s, etc.  Dima hung in there through 9 or 10 exchanges before he got my call right and completed our QSO.  After me he worked two more stations and the band closed.  If those other callers had stood by and let me finish my own QSO sooner, Dima could have worked another 6 or 8 of them before the band closed.  They all shot themselves in the foot, and never got in the log.  E30FB was QRT the next day.

If you’re a smart DXer, you’ll stand by while the DX finishes his current QSO.  The very next QSO might be your own!

What do you think?

 

 

 

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The Visalia Marriot Hotel and Convention Center.

I’ve just returned from attending the International DX Convention, held at the Visalia Marriott Hotel and Convention Center. This was a great event, very well attended by many DXers from all over the Globe.

Event organizers, John-K6MM, Kevin-K6TD and Rich-KE1B and their many volunteers did a masterful job of organizing this event. I also attended the top-band dinner organized by Steve-WB6RSE and I really enjoyed it as well.

My favorite part of the International DX Convention was seeing many old friends again and meeting new DXers/DXpeditioners that I have admired from afar. One of those was Ken Opskar-LA7GIA who was awarded the Dr. William Howard Myers-W6OL Award for excellence as a CW Operator award by the Northern California DX Club.

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Ken-LA7GIA with the NCDXC’s William Howard Myers-W6OL Award for excellence as a CW Operator on a DXpedition.

DXpedition Announcements and Rumors:

Everyone looks forward to the DXpeditions that are announced at IDXC and the many rumors of DXpeditions in the pipelines. While there were no official announcements, there are many DXpeditions under development and multiple teams are forming. Multiple groups have applied for permits to Baker/Howland and Johnston Atolls and they are awaiting permission. Given last years sabotage of P5DX and one DXpeditioner’s propensity to jump in front of other announced/planned DXpeditions, I feel that DXpeditioners are being more guarded about revealing their plans for future DXpeditions. I know of several but I promised not to divulge their plans.

Probably the most surprising news is that the 3Y0Z-Bouvet 2018 team is now looking at chartering a larger ship, complete with a hanger for two helicopters. They are about to travel to South America next week to close the deal on their new ship.

New Products: There were many new products that appeared at IDXC for the first time this year. Probably the most anticipated products were Elecraft’s new KPA1500 solid state amplifier and Flex Radio Systems new Power Genius XL solid state amplifier.

Some of the other new products on display were KF7P’s new “tower crane”, ICOM’s new IC-7851, Connect System’s CS108G SDR transceiver, Expert Electronics new MB1 SDR transceiver, SteppIR Antennas new 6-40 meter Yagi, and lastly, a generic kit-form solid state amplifier. Sadly, ICOM’s new IC-7610 was not yet available for the convention.

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The new Elecraft KPA1500 running 1500 watts all day long.

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The Expert Electronics MB1 SDR transceiver

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The ICOM IC-7851 transceiver

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The Flex Radio Power Genius XL solid state amplifier.

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Connect Systems CS108G SDR transceiver

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KF7P Metal Works “tower crane”.

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SteppIR Antennas new 6-40 meter Urban Beam Yagi on a US Towers tower trailer.

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The new RF Kits RF-2K+ kit form solid state amp.

You can find out more about the new Elecraft KPA1500 here: http://www.elecraft.com/KPA1500/KPA1500.htm

You can find out more about the new Expert MB1 here: https://www.nsiradio.com/MB1-HF-6m-and-2m-SDR-transceiver-100W-with-ATU-p78949475

You can find out more about the new ICOM IC-7851 here: http://www.icomamerica.com/en/products/amateur/hf/7851/default.aspx

You can find out more about the new Flex Radio Power Genius XL here: http://www.flexradio.com/amateur-products/powergenius-xl/

You can learn more about the new Connect Systems CS108G here: http://www.connectsystems.com/products/top/radios%20CS108G.htm

You can learn more about the KF7P Metal Werks Tower Crane here: http://www.kf7p.com/KF7P/Products.html

You can learn more about SteppIR’s new Urban Beam here: http://www.steppir.com/UrbanBeam

You can see the new RF Kit RF-2K+ kit solid state amp here: http://rf-kit.de/en/2k_Kit.php

 

Other sights at Visalia IDXC 2017

Dave-WD5COV and I enjoy a moment with Oms-PY5EG. Glenn-W0GJ and Bob-K4UEE

give a passionate talk on DXpedition funding. Mike-K6MKF and Frank-N6OI sell raffle tickets.

Chris-KF7P sells his products. The Expert MB1 in action.

Bob W6OPO operates as John K6YP looks on.

Eric WA6HHQ of Elecraft answers questions about the new KPA1500.

John-K6MM, Kevin-K6TD and Rich-KE1B at the Saturday night banquet. There was also dancing and singing.

Chip-K7JA does a masterful job as MC. Bob-K4UEE and myself with the raffle certificate from Flex Radio.

The Bouvet DXpedition Team held a raffle for a Flex Radio 6500 and I was thrilled to have the winning ticket!

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Bob-KK6EK gave a passionate talk about the VK0EK DXpedition and his thoughts on “systems theory” and how it ought to be a part of future DXpeditions.

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Rusty-W6OAT asks the DX Forum panel a question. Most of the questions concerned deleted entities, LoTW and other ARRL issues.

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Craig-K9CT, Bob-K4UEE and Paul-W0AIH enjoy the Top Band dinner.

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Rob-N7QT and Gene-K5GS enjoy a moment.

Erling-LA6VM and I enjoy a glass of “Bouvet” Champagne. Bob-GU4YOX gave a comedic talk on “the Funny Side of Radio”.

In closing, the 2017 International DX Convention was an outstanding event. This event gets bigger and more important each year. It is the fulcrum for DXpedition Leaders and avid DXers to meet and to discuss their wants, needs and challenges in one fantastic event. It is also the ideal venue where many vendors and manufacturers choose to showcase their new products each year.

Here is looking forward to IDXC 2018!

What do you think?

 

Seb1

From the International DX Convention, Visalia California:

The Intrepid-DX Group is pleased to announce the recipient of the annual “Intrepid Spirit Award”. We are pleased to have received so many worthy nominations to consider.

This year’s award goes to a notable Dxer and Dxpeditioner that we have come to respect and admire greatly, Mr. Sebastien “Seb” Poulenard-F5UFX.

This award is to recognize Sebastien’s outstanding efforts to activate Juan de Nova Island as FT4JA and Tromelin Island as FT4TA. Sebastien and his teams are largely responsible for fulfilling the need for these rare and difficult entities. We recognize Sebastien’s unselfish acts to activate these challenging and much needed entities on behalf of a grateful Global DX Community.

We acknowledge Sebastien’s pursuit of operating excellence in assembling the best operators available for these important activations. It is for these reasons that we honored him with our Intrepid Spirit Award, presented at the International DX Convention, Visalia, California on April 20th, 2017.

This “Intrepid-Spirit Award” is made in memory of our fallen friend and member, James McLaughlin, T6AF who was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan in April, 2011.

The award is intended to recognize and honor those individuals or teams that boldly activate rare entities where their own personal safety is secondary to their pursuit of providing contacts to the DX Community. While we do not encourage Dxers to go into harm’s way, we recognize that circumstances sometimes require that and we recognize those Intrepid Dxers with the Intrepid Spirit Award.

Thank you,

Paul S. Ewing

Vice President & Founder

The Intrepid-DX Group

 

 

My favorite Blog posts…

Posted: April 17, 2017 in Uncategorized

This week, I will be taking some time away from my Blog as I will be attending the International DX Convention in Visalia California. At IDXC 2017, the Intrepid-DX Group will announce this years recipient of the Intrepid Spirit Award. After the event, I will write about this annual DX gathering.

In the mean time, here is a list with links of my favorite Blog entries that I have made over the past several years:

Interview with Nigel Jolly: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/interview-with-nigel-jolly/

Tour of the RV Braveheart: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/tour-the-rv-braveheart/

The biggest threat to future DXpeditions is: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/the-biggest-threat-to-future-dxpeditions-is/

Dxpedition Unsung Heroes: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/dxpedition-unsung-heroes/

Interview with Baldur Drobnica-DJ6SI: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2014/11/27/interview-with-baldur-drobnica-dj6si/

So you want to go on a Dxpedition: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2015/05/07/so-you-want-to-go-on-a-dxpedition-2/

Interview with OH2BH – Martti Laine: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2014/12/09/interview-with-oh2bh-martti-laine/

Interview with the Italian Dxpedition Team: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/interview-with-the-italian-dxpedition-team/

Intrepid-DX Group 2014 friendship tour of Iran: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/intrepid-dx-group-2014-friendship-tour-of-iran/

Planting “seeds” in North Korea and Iran: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/planting-seeds-in-north-korea-and-iran/

Interview with James Brooks-9V1YC: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/interview-with-james-brooks-9v1yc/

A conversation with Monk Apollo-SV2ASP: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/a-conversation-with-monk-apollo-sv2aspa/

 

What do you think?

 

 

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The assortment of communications gear used in addition to HF.

I am often asked how Dxpedition teams communicate with their Pilot stations and upload their logs to Clublog from the far flung and remote locations that we visit.  In this Blog entry, I will describe the data and voice technology available to enable a Dxpedition to communicate with the outside world in addition to the HF radio gear.

When operating from a Fly in/Hotel venue, communications are usually pretty straightforward. We can use a local SIM card in our cell phone for voice communications for the outside world. Most hotels have some form of Internet/Wi-Fi that is available for Skype calls and uploads of logs to Clublog.

Although, as we found in Iraq and Eritrea, the Internet speeds were insufficient to handle daily log uploads and we had to use other means to upload our logs. In Asmara Eritrea, a BGAN was used to upload logs as the hotel internet was too slow to achieve an effective data rate.

Operating on a remote island is much different than a fly in/hotel situation. Voice communications are generally done via an Iridium satellite telephone. Iridium operates a satellite constellation of 95 active satellites used for worldwide voice and data communications. These satellites are in low polar orbits at 485 miles above the earth. Iridium is optimized for voice calls and they work pretty well. Data handling is limited to short text messages. Larger messages and files can be transmitted via BGAN (see below)

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Our Iridium Extreme 9575 satellite phone.

The Intrepid DX Group uses two Iridium phones for extra redundancy.

In addition to Iridium phones for voice calls, we employ a DeLorme In Reach SE for simple text/data communications with our Pilot stations, friends and family. The DeLorme In Reach also uses the Iridium network and has global coverage. The In Reach SE also has a built in GPS and can send coordinates at regular intervals using the beacon function. Our In Reach SE was attached to the antenna structure of the RV Braveheart and provided hourly beacons and map positions of our travels to South Sandwich and South Georgia Islands. Using the DeLorme IPad application, the In Reach SE was my primary means of communications with our VP8 Chief Pilot-Tony EA5RM.

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Our DeLorme InReach SE provided real time text and GPS beaconing.

We also use a Skyroam global Wi-Fi hotspot for our travels to exotic foreign countries that have cellular networks. The Skyroam takes the headaches out of finding and negotiating Wi-Fi networks. In can allow up to five devices to connect as a Wi-Fi hotspot using the local cellular network.

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Our Skyroam global hot spot.

For managing robust data communications such as file transfers, log uploads and email, a pair of Hughes BGAN terminals are deployed for +1 redundancy. BGAN stands for Broadband Global Area Network. This network consists of three Inmarsat satellites in a geo stationary orbit over the earth. This is line of sight technology and is optimized for moving data. Data speeds of half a megabit per second are possible under ideal circumstances. From South Sandwich and South Georgia Islands, we were only able to make limited contact with the satellite based over Tunisia as it travelled in a figure eight pattern throughout the day. We found that we could only make access at the same precise time each day.

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This map shows the coverage “foot print” of the Inmarsat satellite network.

While voice calls are possible over Inmarsat, the quality is poor as compared to Iridium. It’s important for the Dxpedition organizer to understand the limitations for BGAN/Inmarsat as it moves data whereas Iridium is optimized for voice and does a poor job with Data as Iridium’s data rates are about 1/10th that of Inmarsat.

BGAN terminals work in locations where there is no wireless service. They work on land or sea. An external antenna can be coupled to the terminal to use on a ship or to receive signals outside while the terminal is used indoors.

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We use two Hughes BGAN terminals for redundancy.

BGAN service is very expensive with rates of $4 to $7 per Megabyte transferred. The data usage for our VP8STI/VP8SGI Dxpedition was over $1,500 to update our logs once a day to Clublog. BGAN terminals cost from $2,000 to $12,000 or more.

So, to effectively move voice and data, the Dxpedition Leader must acquire Iridium and Inmarsat knowledge and equipment to meet the ever-increasing expectations placed upon the Dxpedition team for daily log uploads and effective communications with Pilots and others.

What do you think?