Akademisk Radioklubb

LA1K / LA1ARK / LA1UKA

Category: Contesting (page 1 of 2)

Telefonitest 2017 QTH NUTS

Telefonitesten (Norwegian: the Telephony Test) is a Norwegian-only Ham Radio competition occurring every fall. ARK has a tradition of participating in this event, and we find it to be a very good introduction to contesting for new hams.

This year, we decided to try to participate in the contest at a different location than Samfundet in order to avoid being hindered by e.g. sound checks. Thanks to intense lobbying from LA3WUA, we were able to borrow the venues belonging to the local student satellite group, NUTS (NTNU Test Satellite) , at the NTNU campus at Gløshaugen.

NUTS seen from the outside.

NUTS has convenient direct access to the roof of the Department of Electronic Systems at NTNU, including a lift from the ground floor and straight into their venues on the fifth floor. We got the go-ahead after lunch on Friday, started packing at 17.30 NT and had our dipoles and rigs (including a rig and PA borrowed from LA1BFA) ready on the roof by 22:30 NT. Since it gets dark around 16.00 in the afternoon at this time of the year, we could not get any good pictures of the assembly and teardown.

Spiderbeam 15 m aluminium mast used as anchor point for 40 m and 80 m dipoles.

LB5DH, LB6RH and LA6XTA replacing a broken balun at the 40 m dipole.

NUTS 2 m / 70 cm ground station.

Low hanging 80 m dipole for Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS).

In addition to running the contest at a different location, we had a couple of operators down at Samfundet listening to the 40m and 80m bands using our IC-9100 rig and the Flex 6500 rig, and reporting new calls to the main operators at Gløshaugen. The Samfundet shack and the NUTS shack are fortunately less than 500 m apart (CQ WW rules).

LB5QG and LA6XTA working the receive stations during the third period.

LB5DH and LB5QG listening to QST-LA in the break between the second and third periods.

The operators at Gløshaugen could then focus on calling CQ, and conveniently pounce calls on the other bands that were searched for and spotted by the operators down at the listening stations. This was achieved by creating a privately hosted DX cluster.  ARK’s IRC channel was also diligently used in the coordination effort.

LA1BFA working 80 m in the first period.

LB6RH working 40 m in the first period.

LB5DH working 80 m in period three.

In the end, we got a total of 132 QSOs. While this might not seem like such a high number, the number of participants in this contest is limited (45 unique calls in our log). Success in the contest depends on whether all the participants of the contest can be run at all periods, and on all bands, or whether we are limited by the propagation conditions. Being able to get that single contact becomes important, as the margins are very small. It is imperative to both call CQ and search and pounce at the same time. Being unable to run the last period on Saturday due to sound checks at Samfundet has, for example, normally led us to hit the bottom charts of this contest.

Distribution of QSOs in the two bands run in this contest. The 40m conditions were rather low during the first two periods. Period 1 was on Saturday 13.00-15.00 UTC, while period 2 and 3 were on Sunday 07.00-09.00 UTC and 13.00-15.00 UTC, respectively.

Typically, single operators will switch between the 40m and 80m band after the first hour of the period. We never remember the order of the two. After looking at the plots above, we still don’t know the order of the two :-).

These plots also reveal some interesting facts about the propagation conditions during the contest. The main mode of propagation for 40m and 80m in Norway is NVIS (Near vertical incidence skywave). We chose to employ low-hanging dipoles at the NUTS site to get a high take-off angle. To reach the northern-most parts of Norway, F-layer propagation with lower take-off angle would be desirable, but since the population density is much higher in southern Norway, this was not our main focus.

NVIS propagation is highly impacted by the latitude and the number of sunspots. Since our latitude is high, and the number of sunspots currently is low, the maximum NVIS frequency is likely below 7 MHz during the most of the day. Luckily, as seen in the plots above, we got a small opening at the end of period two that lasted to about the middle of period three.

Beyond this, our theory is that the maximum usable frequency was too low for good 40 m conditions during the main bulk of the contest. From a operator’s perspective, the 40 m conditions during period three were quite interesting. The period started with great conditions on 40 m and lots of contacts. After an hour, the Norwegian calls became faint as the noise floor increased, and by the end of the period, we were suddenly able to hear only European stations. The increase in noise floor and European stations indicate that the D-layer started disappearing, and longer propagation paths via the F-layer started to become possible.

In addition to the plots above, we also looked up address information of the contacts from the Norwegian ham database, found the corresponding coordinates using geopy and plotted these on maps using cartopy. Maps for each period are shown below.

Thanks a lot to NUTS for loaning us their QTH! It was a pure pleasure being able to avoid the interference problems at Samfundet, and enjoy the view and atmosphere of their convenient and airy rooms from the top of Gløshaugen. Thanks to all the operators, thanks to LA1BFA for lending us his PA, rig and hours of his time both during rigging and running the contest, and thanks to the other participants of the contest. We are looking forward to the results.

More photos can be viewed at bilder.la1k.no/telefonitest2017/. This also includes some photos from the initial phase of an attempt at overhauling our 160m dipole, and the photographer going wild with the nice autumn weather.

Quick analysis of the LM100UKA logs using Python and Pandas

UKA-17 is over, and LM100UKA is no more. As a part of the series, “LA3WUA and LA9SSA discover that Python is actually quite nice” ([1], [2]),  we used this opportunity to experiment with some plotting of the contacts from the logs generated by our logging program, N1MM, using Python, Pandas and pyplot.

Pandas is a data analysis library which can make it more convenient to do data wrangling in Python. It is built on top of numpy, with all the efficiency and ease of manipulation which that entails. In addition, it has convenient data structures, capabilities for metadata, easy slicing, merging and grouping, and a whole clusterfuck of various operations that can be applied efficiently to rows or columns.

N1MM saves its logs as sqlite files by default, which constitute complete, file-based SQL databases. Pandas has convenient facilities for reading various input data, including SQL queries, and we’ll start from there.

Given an N1MM log file, e.g. qsos.s3db, an SQL connection can be established to this file using

import sqlite3

sql_connection = sqlite3.connect('qsos.s3db')

If this SQLite file contains ham radio logs generated by N1MM, it will contain a table called DXLOG. All of its information can then be read into a Pandas dataframe using

import pandas as pd

qso_data = pd.read_sql_query("SELECT * FROM DXLOG", sql_connection)

qso_data will now contain all the QSO information in a large data matrix, with each row containing a contact, and each column corresponding to a field in the SQL database table. We can, for example, extract all unique operators in the log using qso_data["Operator"].unique(), or qso_data.operator.unique(), or even numpy.unique(qso_data["Operator"]). We could extract all calls and timestamps run by LA1BFA using qso_data[qso_data.Operator == "LA1BFA"].[['Call',
'TS']]
, or all contacts run against LA-callsigns using qso_data[qso_data.CountryPrefix == 'LA'].

Using basic functionality, we were able to generate a few plots from this data.

The number of QSOs distributed across the days since we started using the callsign. The general level of activity is more or less equal before and after the start of UKA, with the most activity occurring during CQWWRTTY and a burst of activity at the very beginning.

The number of QSOs as a function of hour during the day (UTC). This distribution follows more or less what is expected from the distribution of people at ARK, with a post-work/post-study day frenzy at around 16.00 NT and after 18.00 NT (UTC time had an offset of -2 hours from Norwegian time during UKA).

The same plot as above, but split on the used band. “Day” and “night” bands (14.0 MHz and 7.0 MHz, respectively) can clearly be seen, along with spurious use of e.g. 10.0 MHz during the afternoon.

The distribution of QSOs among the various operators.

The distribution of operators during the building period and UKA itself. A variety of operators participated during the building period, while the start of UKA itself posed some difficulties in both avoiding  interference and being able to get into Samfundet due to stricter access regimes. Mainly LB5QG and  LB1HH kept going during this last phase.

The distribution of operators during the hours of the day. LB5QG has done a considerable effort in producing QSOs at all hours of the day.

World map with filled countries corresponding to the countries we have run. This also involved reading of a HTML table from the ITU website into a Pandas dataframe in order to convert from callsign prefix to country, made easy by pandas.read_html(..) :-). Here, we could also technically have used the ClubLog API to look up country information from the callsigns, but would probably put a bit of a strain on the servers if we were to do that for all calls in the log. Instead, we hacked together a solution using the official ITU allocation tables.

The script used in generating the above plots can be found at github. This is made to analyze all .s3db-files in a folder, and differs a bit from the code snipped shown in the beginning of this post.

Only our most recent, still-in-use logs are in .s3db-format, however, as we strive to convert to ADIF format or similar during the archival process. We’ll also look into what we can extract from the larger bulk of older logs.

LM100UKA is over

The UKA festival is finally over, and we are back to normal here at the club. It has been a great time running LM100UKA for the 100 year anniversary, and in the two last months we have run a total of 1602 contacts! These are mostly on 20M and 40M. This includes the CQWW RTTY competition, but most contacts are otherwise regular QSOs.

This has been some wild weeks! The festival happens every two years, and it first involves the restoration and refurbishment of one of the locales at the Student Society, as well as building of all the necessary props. The theater group prepares the revue and some small plays, while other groups plan out big events and concerts. The chefs at the restaurant in the Student Society even prepare a specialized menu. We have mostly been able to run radio during local daytime since the Student Society usually has been closed off for us in the evening.

Once the festival starts, everything happens. There are shows, concerts, events, and parties running for 3 weeks straight, not to forget one of the most important parts of the festival: The student revue! Of course, this did not stop us from using the radio every now and then. We did however need to limit our output power when things were going on in other parts of the house.

We will be sending out QSL cards to everyone in about a month’s time. Logbook of the World upload is pending activation of the callsign, we will update this blogpost once the logs have been uploaded.

CQ WW RTTY

Samfundet is currently closed down in preparation for UKA. In between the sound checks, rehearsals and other activities that occur in this hectic period, we managed to sneak in some contacts as LM100UKA in the CQ WW RTTY contest. We decided to run as Multi-Two to get the most out of the few timeslots when we could operate.

Henrik LB5DH working 20 m on Saturday.

One of the challenges we face when operating in contests from Samfundet is Electro Magnetic Interference (EMI) to the other groups at Samfundet. Particularly when operating legal limit on the low bands, audio and lighting equipment tend to get unwanted interference. Normally we try to locate the weak spots and seal them with ferrites and filters, but during UKA there is a lot of new equipment so it is hard to get to all the problems in time. The solution is often to cooperate with the groups that are responsible for audio and visuals and coordinate so that we do not transmit high power levels on the low bands while they are working.

Conditions on 20 m was also good on Sunday.

The contest was also our first good test of the Flex 6500 for RTTY. Thanks to the panadapter, finding an open frequency to work was a breeze. It also allowed us to quickly diagnose that we had set the wrong tone spacing (oops). We had a bit of trouble setting up SmartSDR to talk to MMTTY through N1MM+, but in the end we got it working through the help from some good resources online. What was not so great was setting RIT/XIT using mouse and keyboard. Hopefully our Maestro will arrive soon to address this problem.

QSOs per hour. Orange: 15 m, Red: 20 m and Blue: 40 m.

The QSO-rate was largely influenced by when we had a chance to operate in between different sound checks. As the graph shows, this was mostly during the afternoon on Sunday. Conditions were ok, but only one band was significantly open at a given time, typically either 20 m or 40 m.

Score and multipliers per band

We got 657 QSOs and 107 mults over the weekend. A good result considering the operating conditions, both on the air and at Samfundet. Thanks to LB5QG, LB1MH, LB5DH, LB7JG and LA3WUA for their operating efforts.

Field day 2017

Last weekend ARK participated in IARU Region 1 Field Day. In Norway, this contest is more known as National Field Day and is coordinated by the Norwegian Radio Relay League (NRRL). ARK usually treats this as a full three-day social event where we travel to a cabin far away from Trondheim, and treat our members to a nice balance of antenna assembly, food, social exposure and a many new contacts on the radio. This year, we traveled to Fjellvær Gjestegård on Fjellværøya, Hitra.

Continue reading

Older posts