Saturday, May 28, 2016

Playing in the WPX test

I recently redid my computer and none of my contest software was on the new machine so I decided to set things up.  I like WPX since it gives me some bandfills.  I use Writelog for contest software.  One of these days I'm going to have to give N1MM+ a whirl.  I like 40 CW so I decided to concentrate on 40M.

My set up is Writelog 11, DDUTIL which has a bunch of custom macos for controlling my station,

SDR-Bridge, CW skimmer and DXLab.  My hardware line up is a Flex 6500, a ALS-1300 which is automatically controlled by the 6500, a MFJ-998 antenna tuner, a MFJ RCS-4 antenna switch which I modified to automatically band follow the 6500 and choose the correct antenna.  The antennas are high performance optimized verticals for each band 160-20 and a horizontal W5GI at about 50ft.   

I didn't have Writelog installed, so I installed it and booted it and it virtually set itself up.  I think thiis SDR-Bridge's doing since SDR-Bridge uses Writelog as its favored contest client, but it was a convenience not have to go through the menus ticking off what I wanted.   I decided to use 2 panadapters on the same band.  This allows me to use 2 skimmers and sift through and display more data in terms of needed band fills.  

DXKeeper  from the DXLab suite is my logbook database.  I recently moved that database off my computer to cloud storage after my recent mishap with a dead motherboard on my previous shack computer.  All new contacts are now updated on some offsite server and if I have another disaster no problemo.  I'm using one drive which comes with win 10.  I think it's a great feature of the DXLab software.

SpotCollecter which is DXLabs spot client keeps me informed of needed bandfils.  

It has a color coded "need" reporting feature.  ATNO's in my scheme are bright red.  Bandfils are burnt orange.  Blue is unconfirmed and black is confirmed.  As you can see not too much red or orange in this data base for 40M

Here is a screen shot of 15M.   I don't spend much time on 15 so a lot of burnt orange bandfils needed.  It's a very good system for understanding ones needs at a glance.  Another gold star for Dave AA6YQ the author of DXLab.  

Spot collector has another feature that is very useful.  It can connect to the telnet of CW skimmer

This allows skimmer spots to be imported into SpotCollector and SpotCollector allows bandfils therefore to be imported directly into DXWrite the log book, and the whole point for me is to increase my bandfils as easily as possible.  

I can turn on and off the skimmer feed to SpotCollector from the front panel of SpotCollector if I want, which is handy.  

The bandmap is populated by skimmer over telnet.  This gives me a way to inset stations into Writelog to be worked and logged

The focus between pan A and Pan B is controlled from the keyboard by using the up-down arrows.  When focus is changed the TX also changes so I am ready to transmit on which ever pan is in focus.  

The focus also changes by clicking a skimmer also changing the TX and clicking a station will insert that station into the logger ready for workin'.  

I use a hardware winkey USB as my keyer, and I have a couple of FlexControl knobs connected, one for each pan for fine tuning.  I use 50hz filters and am continually amazed at how quiet the 6500 is in a contest environment.  The radio's presentation is very calming.  Quiet non-fatiguing audio, easy ergonomics, quick response, great versatility, razor sharp filters, band following hardware, a huge amount of easily discernible contest information, me like.

If I was interested in going for the gold I would set things up differently in more of a SO2R format with everything controlled from the keyboard, but for bandfil radio where my main goal is to give ops a point and give myself needed log entries, this setup works great.  It's been running non-stop for nearly 24hrs without a burp.  I was amazed at how many EU stations were running 45-50 wpm.  Most US guys were below 40.

73  W9OY