The DXer’s ethos, and why you shouldn’t fear the ‘big guns’

Its nice to have personal goals like getting to HR one day, or whatever, but its certainly not something I’d be comfortable talking about unless its in the context of encouraging others in their own pursuit.

Eg, I think it can be encouraging to others to talk about how you managed to work DXCC in a year with 100 watts and a vertical, but its certainly not encouraging to talk about how you worked a given DXPedition on all bands and all modes.

And if you’re the type of person who talks about working every DXPedition on every band and mode, and then whine when you miss one… well.. the rest of us start wondering what else you’re missing in your life.

Encourage others; re-assure them that DXing is possible no matter what their budget is, and pursue the challenges you enjoy for your own satisfaction.  That’s how I personally enjoy DX.

One thing I will say though is I find this whole notion that ‘big guns’ are stealing from ‘little guns’ is really toxic.  Anyone who has been around the block long enough should realize by now that the order of importance is this:

1) Perseverance
2) Condx
3) Station

Ham radio is such a wonderful hobby in that you can get a lot of individual satisfaction without it detracting from someone else’s enjoyment.  Lets not feed the trolls by spreading the notion that ‘big guns’ somehow prevent ‘little pistols’ from working new ones.  That attitude is likely to do more damage to the hobby and especially the individual – after all, it is little more than an excuse, and one that might easily lead a newbie to think that DXing requires no effort on their behalf.

Yes, there are idiots who dupe endlessly on the same band, with seemingly huge signals.  Experienced that as XU7AGA, but at the end of the day, they are few and far between, and I can promise you there are plenty of DXPedition ops who have trouble hearing certain calls, especially if they’re already in the log.

If you want to blame something for not being in the log, blame condx.  That way, you’re still likely to enjoy the company of your fellow hams, and they yours.


Bhutan (A5A), ‘big guns’ and why missing a DXPedition is just fine by me.

I’m pretty sure I’ve got next to no chance of getting Bhutan (A5A) in the log this time round.  Now hopefully for the sake of irony I will be proven wrong, but the facts are as follows:

1) I work full time, and its the start of spring here.  The bands are often closed by the time I get home, leaving only the weekends.  That rules out the ‘bum in seat’ approach aka persistence which is so often all that it takes.

2) ConDX doesn’t seem to be there.  Today (saturday) I had the chance to indulge in my favorite hobby.  WAE SSB was on, and I could hear and work quite a few stations easily.  However, none of those stations were in the region surrounding Bhutan.  Jumping over to JT65, I found I could hear and work quite a few stations on 17M (which A5A has used a lot), but my station wasn’t getting heard around that region once more.  Lastly, I haven’t so much as heard a single beep out of A5A.

3) There is still work to be done on my station.  I have an Icom IC-7300 with a great scope, and an Ameritron AL-572 amplifier capable of well over our legal limit in VK, so it just loafs.  However, because of my current living arrangements I haven’t been able to invest in a tower until recently.  As such, using only basic antennas my reception is often noisy (no nulls), and I can’t push the power in the direction I’d like.

So it seems really likely I’ll miss Bhutan this time.  However, if you stop and think about it, its not the end of the world.

Imagine for a second we could all work DX whenever it showed up.  Here’s what would happen:

A) DXing would be about as exciting as a skype phone call.
B) We wouldn’t be motivated to improve our skills and stations; most importantly we wouldn’t learn and grow.
C) There would be less DXPeditions.

Now point C might seem a bit strange, but think about it in economic terms – supply and demand.  If everyone had every DXPedition in their log, there wouldn’t be any demand for further DXPeditions.  Of course, as new people enter the hobby places will need to be activated sporadically, but not anywhere nearly as frequently.

Just think about how many DXPeditions have aims these days – eg, ‘we’re concentrating on low bands’, ‘we’re CW only’, or even ‘we want to give ATNOs to NA’.  If propagation wasn’t a factor, everyone from every continent would work every band and mode on every DXPedition.

And that’s where the real rub comes in.  Imagine DXing where everyone reaches HR in ~10 years, and there are nowhere near as many DXPeditions – doesn’t sound like a very long lived hobby does it; sounds like a FAD to me.

On the other hand, we currently enjoy a hobby where one can always look to the future and say ‘I need Mongolia on CW’, or at worst ‘I’ve yet to work P5 on digital’.  There is always a bright future to hope for; always something to look forward to and dream of.

And that’s why I’m not going to get too upset when I miss Bhutan this time round… But hey, in the mean time, I’m going to improve my station in any way I can, so that condx willing, I’m one of the deserving when I get the next shot.

The golden days of DXing are ahead of us!  Always be a believer!  And don’t let ANYONE convince you that a ‘big gun’ stole your ATNO! For they are just men, not the gods of condx!


Today came with a nice surprise – I was successful in a ballot for the 2×2 call sign VK3BL!

The paperwork is on the way to ACMA, and within a week or two I will be on the air with my lovely new short 2×2 call sign!

As our regulator only allocates the VK prefix, a 2×2 call is the shortest a VK amateur can hope for.  Unfortunately in VK3, they are all allocated, so there can be quite a wait to get one.

I’m very happy – whilst the suffix ‘BL’ does not mean much to me as such, it is nice and easy to say – Victor Kilo Three Bravo Lima!

Just passed my advanced exam!

Today is an exciting day day for me!  After getting off my bottom and finally sitting the ‘full call’ advanced exam, I passed with 84%.  For those out there who are looking to sit this exam, the Amateur Radio Victoria practice exams are really good.  They can be found here:  ARV Advanced Practice Exams

Although I didn’t really formally study as such (I sat the practice exams and did about 2 hours of revision / cramming), I have spent the last year or so reading pretty much continuously about radio as I am pretty much addicted!

I got a few silly questions wrong, mainly resistor color codes!  I can’t believe I stuffed that up, but to be honest even the assessor thought it was unexpected that it would be on the advanced exam.  The fact is, I’m a little intellectually lazy, and just refer to the color chart or my fluke DMM when working with resistors!

There were a few ‘give away’ questions, like what length a specific band dipole would be, so it is good to make sure you know that stuff off by heart before you sit the exam.  The truth is though, any keen amateur who plays with antennas a bit should find those kinds of questions to be bonus marks!

The ‘hard’ questions on my exam tended to be about linear amplifiers.  When they are needed, what the different classes are etc.  As I am really interested in linears, I found this a breeze!

So there we go, I’ve applied for my full call, and hopefully will have the call sign VK3AGA shortly.  It will be nice having a call that matches my Cambodian one, XU7AGA!



Solving Stereo / Home Theater Radio Frequency Interference caused by Ham Radio

Having suffered DX withdrawal, I decided it was time to put up a new antenna.  The antenna in question was a Icom AH-4 Tuned Dipole of about 36M length in total, about 9M high at the apex.  Whilst I realize it is far from optimal in many ways, I was interested to see how it would perform on the higher bands, and thought it might significantly improve my local contacts on 40M & 80M.

It seems to have delivered on 80M, my local Winlink Winmor speeds on 80M have gone from 100 Bytes / Minute to a huge 1100 Bytes / minute, and I’m once again hearing the local farmer’s nets!

However, there is much testing to do, and the story today is about the problem the new antenna caused!  I like to play on JT65 at night, when there isn’t much going on, and I’ve setup my radio so I can do so remotely via my laptop.  Whilst relaxing in bed playing JT65 on 20M, I decided it would be a good idea to listen to some music, but my new antenna thought otherwise!

My home stereo system is pretty basic but nice.  It consists of an Audio Engine DAC (usb sound card), and a Miniwatt N3 3.5 Watt Tetrode Amp.  A good friend of mine, Peter VK3OJ, had recently given me some old (but working) 12AU7 tubes, and I was keen to see how they sound compared to some of the newer models.  However, the moment I transmitted on 20M, the left speaker would buzz, and the computer dropped the soundcard!

At first, I decided to tackle the buzzing speaker.  I added some chinese (ebay sourced) snap on ferrite cores one by one and transmitted, until the buzz died down.  It took 12 snap on cores to achieve a decent result, however this didn’t stop the computer from dropping the soundcard.

I then put 4 snap on cores on the USB lead, but that didn’t help.  I added another 4, and hey presto! I could now listen to music and DX!

The moral of the story is that the age old solution to RFI of snap on cores works, even with cheap ebay sourced chinese cores!

If you’re like me and enjoy listening to music while using digital modes, or have a neighbour who has issues with RFI on his sound system, you couldn’t do better than buying a bunch of snap on cores on ebay.  Many Chinese sellers will sell them in bulk (shop about, put ’10’ in your search etc), and I was certainly glad to have these ones in the shack!