Archive for May, 2008


May 26, 2008

I operated as a single-operator, all-band, low-power (100W) entry in the CQ Magazine Worked All Prefixes (WPX) CW contest using the call sign ZS0HQ.

Propagation, although better this weekend than for the past month or so, was still scratchy. This is typical of our winter months, especially at the bottom end of the sunspot cycle. I’m not entirely sure why, but I suspect that it is the combination of less ionisation (because the sun has gone North) limiting the high bands, while thunderstorms around the equator limit trans-equatorial propagation on the low bands. This is more noticable to operators in the Southern hemisphere, because we have to cross the equator to work the major ham populations in North America, Europe and Japan! I’d be interested in your comments on this.

As a result, most of the contest was search and pounce for me. Probably good practise, since this really isn’t my strong suit. Scratch, scratch, scratch was the name of the game for most of the 34 hours. However at least this did give me an opportunity to use one of my strengths – sheer bloody mindedness, continuing to eke out the QSOs when any sensible mortal would have found something better to do with the weekend!

I used the W1VE live scoreboard ( for the first time. I think it’s an excellent innovation, although the WriteLog score updater (also by W1VE) had a couple of teething problems. It’s certainly motivating to see how close you are to other stations (and vice versa) when deciding whether to take a break!

Speaking of breaks, I really like the WPX contest’s rule that single ops can’t operate for more than 36 out of the 48 hours of the contest. It is such a luxury to be able to sleep during a contest without feeling guilty about it! In the end I worked 34 of the maximum 36 hours, stopping two hours before the end at midnight local time as I had to go to work the next day and, to be honest, there was no longer much to motivate me – I was pretty sure that I have thoroughly trounced the local competition (I heard ZS6C, ZS6CCW, ZS9Z, ZS6/DL2RMC and my friend Csaba ZS6/HA3LN who kindly came up to give some points), and in the WPX format I didn’t have much of a chance against the North African stations (EA8 etc) who are so much closer to Europe and within the beamwidth of the NA yagis. I had met my target score (1.5 M points) but with 904 QSOs and 2 hours left, I knew that I couldn’;t make the target of 1000 QSOs. So I went to bed instead.

My 3830 summary follows. You can see how I’m doing compared with other “contest score rumours” on the DX Watch contest scoreboard – just look for ZS0HQ.

Call: ZS0HQ
Operator(s): ZS6AA
Station: ZS6AA

Class: SOAB LP
QTH: Johannesburg
Operating Time (hrs): 34

Band QSOs
80: 1
40: 275
20: 360
15: 268
10: 0
Total: 904 Prefixes = 468 Total Score = 1,625,364

Antennas: Force 12 C-31XR tribander @18m (60 ft), Optibeam OB2-40 2-el 40m beam @ 20m (66 ft), 80m dipole.

ZS0HQ in CQWW WPX CW Contest 2008

May 22, 2008

I’ll be using the South African Radio League contest callsign ZS0HQ for the upcoming CQWW Worked All Prefixes (WPX) CW contest over the weekend of 24-25 May. I thought I would get with the spirit of the contest and use a rarer ZS0 prefix than my usual ZS6. QSL via the Bureau or Logbook of the World. My target for the contest is 1,000 QSOs and 1,500,000 points so please work me on as many bands as possible!

ZS6AA Gets Wired

May 20, 2008

I’ve had Internet access at home for severl years now, using iBurst from my wife’s PC. Up until now I’ve resisted the temptation to link it to the shack PC, though, out of fear that a virus, worm or other malware might affect my logging software during a contest. However I’ve finally given in, largely because I wanted to try the live contesting scoreboard at for the CQWW WPX CW contest next weekend.

So I’ve installed a LinkSys WRT54GL router. The setup was simple, other than the standard installation wizard I only had to set the MTU and the domain ( to get my iBurst
Internet connection working through the router. I’ve used wired Ethernet connections for my wife’s PC and the shack PC, since they are in the same room and I wanted maximum immunity from RFI. But the (secured) wireless access point will be useful with our work laptops.

So now I’m investigating what else I can do with a “wired” shack.

  • The Windows Internet time server picked up the connection automatically and synchronised my clock, which saves me having to dial the “speaking clock” before contests.
  • I enabled DX cluster spots on Logger32, which I use for casual logging (but not on WriteLog, which I use for contesting, as I enter the unassisted category). Last night while working a few Europeans on 40m it was quite interesting to see when I had been spotted, and by whom.
  • I’ve downloaded Ham Radio Deluxe with a view to investigating remote control of the station.
  • I would like to provide a live audio stream from one of my receivers so you can hear what it sounds like on my side of the pileup. However I’m not sure this will be possible with my current Internet connection speed and 700 MB per month cap; also my XYL might not be thrilled if I use up all the bandwidth! Still I’ll see what I can do.
  • A CW skimmer reverse beacon is a lower-bandwidth possibility, although it would require a broadband receiver.

Anyway I hope the endless possibilities will keep me amused for a while.

ZS6AA/4 QRP in the Drakensberg Mountains

May 2, 2008

This week I was fortunate to get away with my family to the Golden Gate Highlands national park in the scenic Drakensberg mountains. Our home for four nights was a log cabin perched on a mountainside at an altitude of 2,200m (7,200 ft) ASL. Of course I took my recently repaired Elecraft K1 four-band QRP rig, as well as a hurridly constructed prototype of a new portable/field wire antenna that I am working on.

The antenna was suspended from a 5m “roach pole” set up on the porch (deck) of the cabin, with the wires anchored with tent pegs on either side. The antenna was fairly low since I did not have space in the car for my 12m spider pole; but I figured that the spectacular drop-off to the east would make up for that, at least on the Asia path.

Drakensberg View with Antenna Wires

The view from the log cabin, with antenna wires in foreground

Since this was a family holiday not a DX-pedition, my operating time was limited to the odd moment when we weren’t doing anything else. My first QSO, made minutes after setting up the antenna, was with Al ZS1AAX, who was one of the examiners for my 12 w.p.m. Morse test in 2001. It is thanks to Al and Bud ZS1B (SK) that I am able to share in the skill and pleasure of CW operating.

Propagation wasn’t great, and I didn’t hear anything on 15m. However I was pleased to work some Japanese stations with about 3 Watts out on 30m. (The K1 struggles to give full output when running off 1.2 V NiMH cells, since the total battery voltage is only 9.6 V with 8 cells in the internal battery holder – you can get 5-6 Watts with a 12-13.8 V supply). I operated as ZS6AA/4 since the park is in the Free State, which has the prefix ZS4. Thanks to those who came back to my QRP CQ!