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.

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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!

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!

73,

Jarrad

JT65 AND RUDE OPERATORS

To be honest, I’m struggling for words.  Obviously, every DXer is familiar with HAMs who decide to ‘break’ into a QSO from time to time, and at least 50% of the time, it is potentially excusable because you cannot be sure they can hear the station you’re communicating with.

HOWEVER, THERE IS NO EXCUSE (THAT I AM AWARE OF) FOR DOING SO ON JT65.

By virtue of the way JT65 works, transmissions are an ‘all or nothing’ affair.  Specifically, unless another station can hear your ‘EA7CHS XU7AGA R-16’ transmission, there is no possible way they could decide to transmit back at the same time on the same frequency as the station you’re trying to work!  To be clear,  if you call me on a different frequency, this is ok, although perhaps a waste of time, until I finish my existing QSO: JUST DON’T CALL ME ON THE FREQUENCY WE ARE USING FOR THE QSO!

Today within 30 minutes, the exact scenario above has happened to me multiple times.

This wastes everyone’s time.  I’ll explain why as apparently some people don’t get it:

  • Firstly, I have to re-transmit until I either get a ’73’, or see the other station has given up.  This takes ~6 minutes+
  • Secondly, I have to write the station an email, explain they are in the log, and apologize for the rude breaker
  • Thirdly, I get angry, and waste time writing blog posts like these (and waste my battery).

Let me me clear, if you break into a JT65 QSO I’m having, this is what will happen:

  • You will be ignored for as long as I remember your call sign.
  • If you keep doing it, I may spot your call on the DX Cluster asking why.
  • If you really really annoy me, I’m likely to delete any existing QSOs we’ve had.  I am not joking about this.

The two stations that did the above over and over again today are lucky I’m not naming and shaming them on my blog.  I have no intention of causing trouble within the community, but this kind of behavior really grinds my gears, especially as it normally occurs when I am working a station that is ‘RARE DX’ like the USA or UK.  

Not only do I want ‘rare dx’ in my log, but I am 100% certain that most of the stations I’m working have few if any Cambodian QSOs in their log.

Please be considerate operators, and let me finish a QSO with the station I’m talking to.  This is exactly what you would expect others to do if the QSO was with you.  If you don’t adhere to this simple and basic courtesy, all you will have accomplished is ensuring you never get a QSO with me in your log.  

I’m not the only one who feels this way – please have a look at some of the following links detailing ‘DX Code of Conduct’:

W6SJ’s OP ED Article

ON4WW’s ‘Lets Make DX Enjoyable…’

DX Code of Conduct Website

PLEASE READ MORE BELOW FOR SCREENSHOTS (without full calls) OF THIS BEHAVIOR.  THE SCREENSHOTS SHOW HOW WITHIN ONE QSO TWO STATIONS CAUSE INTENTIONAL INTERFERENCE MEANING THAT JUST RECEIVING A REPLY FROM M0GBK TOOK 6 MINUTES RATHER THAN 2.  I WAS NEVER ABLE TO CONFIRM (OTHER THAN VIA EMAIL) THAT M0GBK RECEIVED HIS SIGNAL REPORT FROM ME.

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XU7AGA & JT65

Hi Guys,

As many of you know, for some HAMs getting a QSO with XU7/Cambodia is quite a challenge; for others, its an every day thing. For this reason and others (mainly poor band conditions), I’ve started playing around with JT65.  I’m using the software JT65-HF, which I’ve found quite easy to use and there is a beautiful HOWTO / write up on its use by Dave Dunbar N0RQ at eHam, click on the link for more details in a new window.

However, I want to take the opportunity to cover a few of my operating preferences, with reasoning:

I don’t particularly enjoy using JT65 (Paint dries considerably faster in Cambodia, and it wastes my laptop battery more than other modes per QSO), so I’d like to make a few requests / points.  Basically, I want to make sure I help as many people have a QSO with Cambodia / XU7 as possible, so here goes:

  • If you’ve had a QSO with XU7AGA, please don’t expect me to reply to you first on JT65.
  • I will always pick DX ‘Proper’ (eg Brazil, USA) first on JT65, otherwise we might not get a QSO.
  • DO NOT CALL OVER A DX STATION I’M WORKING UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.

While it may seem a little unnecessary to explain this, almost 1/3 of my logged QSOs so far come from Japan.  Russia in general is a close second.  I love having QSOs with Japanese, Russian & Ukrainian HAMs, and will continue to do so as much as possible.  However, it is in everyone’s best interest that such QSOs take place via SSB and/or PSK.  Both of these modes are considerably faster, and allow us to exchange meaningful information, not just signal reports and call signs.    

Put Simply:

I’m not fond of JT65, but I’d love to help ‘DX’ DX stations get Cambodia in their log and mine, so I use it.  If you’re local and/or high powered (think Russia, Ukraine, Japan, Indonesia), please have a QSO with me on PSK or SSB. I spend almost 5 hours a day using PSK31 on the 15M Band (21070) if not more, so no one will miss out.

I understand that for some HAMs having a QSO on as many modes as possible is an important part of the hobby.  If that’s a particular interest of yours, please email me and I will make sure to let you know when I am operating on JT65, and that I make every effort to have a QSO with you regardless of your location.

The above goes for other modes as well.  If I’ve had a QSO with you on PSK31, but you’d really like a SSB contact, just let me know.  Unfortunately, an SSB contact between Cambodia and Australia on 80M for instance might be impossible, but I will do my best to work with everyone near and far alike 🙂

73s,

Jarrad Mitchell

XU7AGA & VK3HXT

The Auto Notch Filter – A Cure for ‘Tuning On Band’ Rage!

Recently I was listening on the 40m band when a station, DX0P, was calling CQ.  Being a DXpedition, many operators were keen to work the station, and there was a bit of a pile up. Unfortunately, there was just as much poor operation as there were people keen to work DX0P.

First an foremost, the old complaint reared its head – people tuning up their equipment on frequency.  I’d like to dedicate this post to pointing out a very useful feature that many transceivers with DSP now include as standard – The Auto Notch Filter (ANF).  While often marketed by manufacturers as a solution to heterodynes etc, the real benefit of using the ANF is that it will completely remove any carriers, including the carrier generated when people decide to commit the ever so rude act of tuning up on frequency.

So I’d like to offer a suggestion:

Rather than jump in and ‘police’ other operators for tuning on frequency, and be an even worse operator by repeatedly transmitting over the top of the dx station, simply turn on the Auto Notch Filter – the offending operators carrier will be gone from your audio, and you can go back to pretending the world is perfect.

Try it – it could just save you a few valiums! 🙂