ARRL DX SSB 2018 – Extended Soapbox

With the not so great weather we had around my QTH, I figured to turn on the radio and participate in the ARRL DX side band contest this weekend. It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve did any sort of SSB contesting from my own station. It’s a combination of the solar cycle, RFI from solar panels in my area and being spoiled by operation at contest station K1TTT.

This happened just a couple houses away. The trees on my street have seen better days. They are not mostly hollow and were constantly shedding limbs. Thankfully the town cut the tree that was directly in-front of my house. They left the stump but after this weekend, I’m grateful. However, I was worried about my roof mounted beam (CL-33) surviving the weekend.

Getting Back On The Air

I was surprised to turn on the radio and hear signals… Everywhere. It sort of felt like 2011 again. My ears piqued and I was scrambling to set up my logging software and headset. I recorded my macros and away I went.

Since I wasn’t really planning on putting in a serious effort (Which I have yet to do from my home), I turned on the cluster and did mostly S&P (Search and Pounce). I was sticking with 20 meters with the hopes of entering as single band until I looked at the rules. Since I was using the cluster/telnet, It puts me into the “Unlimited” category that doesn’t have single bands. I ended up entering as “Single Operator All Band, Unlimited, Low Power” (SOAB(U)-LP). I went with low power because I no longer have high power gear at the QTH.

My Goal Was 100 QSOs

One should always set a goal. I decided to be easy and make just 100 QSOs. I figured with the way 20 meters was sounding, I should be able to get that in a couple hours. Nope! I had to fight a bit because I was running low power. I started noticing a lot of spots on 15m so I went over a played.

It took a few hours but I met my goal. Turned off the radio and did stuff around the house. I though I was done but Sunday morning came along and knew there was more people out there.

Don’t be an appliance operator

I was starting to get frustrated during the contest. I recall being easily able to work Italy and Germany. I was struggling. The mix of QRM from everyone trying to squeeze into a tight band, local RFI and poor conditions wasn’t doing well with me. That was until a colleague made a side comment about features of my K3 that I wasn’t using.

I narrowed the filter to use my 1.8Khz filter, shifted the filter, turned the AGC from fast to slow, enabled the noise blanker and turned on the noise reduction at times. My biggest aid was the RF Gain knob.  All of those combined made operating in my environment much easier. I paid good money for this equipment and I am certain you did as well. Take advantage of what you have. In my case, I forgot about it.

Overall thoughts

I ended up making 155 contacts. I was hoping to make 50k points but life took me away from the radio.

There are some “ATNO”  (All Time New One) contacts in the log. Z60K (Kosovo) sticks out. I thought PZ5K (Suriname) would be another but I worked PZ5RA back in 2015. Hopefully I get some new band slots.

I had fun. It proved that I could do contesting from home. I have to work harder but it’s still possible.

Thanks for reading!

Yes I am still here. Updates and other stuff!

It’s been over a year since my last post.  Amateur radio activity at station NT1K has slowed down quite a bit. There has been RFI issues at my QTH and heading into a solar null doesn’t help. Sold/Selling off my high power equipment and gave up on trying to convert my station to SO2R.

I’ve recently moved to a new host.  My old host increased their price by at least 40%. They were hesitant about changing my account and since I use very little space/bandwidth, it wasn’t worth the increase. I decided to get full use out of the VPS that I purchased for a different project. It was a huge learning experience but I’m saving hundreds a year by doing it myself. During the move I restructured the site to drop the /blog. I didn’t realize that it would cause issues with search engine results. I have since fixed that… Hopefully.

I am not out of the hobby. Portable operations is picking up, I am working on some projects, I have started a local VE team. There are some articles coming down the pipe so please stay tuned.

Thanks for reading,


Ham Radio Deluxe – A tale of the worst case scenario

Back in 2010, I was getting back into amateur radio. I wanted to do more with hobby other than hanging out on the local repeaters. I wanted to communicate with the world. Until then I never made a true “DX” contact. I’ve upgraded my license and soon as I made my first DX contact, I was hooked. It was easier than I thought, I was working the world on a simple doublet antenna.

The DX contacts started rolling in. I was having fun until I got my first QSL card. “Oh no! What now?” I thought. Did I make contact with the person? Their callsign sounds familiar. From then on I knew I had to log my contacts. There must be some kind of software that will help me out. Of course I found many types of software but this one piece of software was glaring out from the rest. It was Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD).

At the time HRD was being developed by Simon Brown. He did a very excellent Job with the software and had it easily hooked up to my FT-857D and was logging contacts with it in no time. I then notice Digital Master 780 (DM780) and it opened my eyes up to the world of digital communications. I purchased a soundcard interface and was tearing up PSK, RTTY, FELD HELL and all sorts of other modes. I was now more on digital than compared to SSB with thanks to HRD.

Fast forward a few years and I noticed that Simon’s attention started drifting elsewhere. He is now working on SDR-Radio. Ham Radio Deluxe wasn’t getting as many upgrades as before. I honestly thought HRD was going to be a lost and forgotten project. Word through the grapevine was that a group of hams got together and would purchase the software from Simon and continue where Simon left off.

I was looking forward to see what the new version 6 would have to offer. I’ve had some issues with the software randomly shutting down. Since I wasn’t paying for it, I didn’t mind. I was hoping the new crew would fix the issues and the software would improve.

Sometime later version 6 came out.  I was excited until I went to the new website and saw the $100 price tag for a lifetime license of that revision. Thankfully they released a trial version and I gave it a go. I’ve noticed some changes but nothing that really stuck out that was wanting me to pay for it.  The other thing that turned me off is that after the first year, if you wanted to continue with support or receive updates, it would cost an additional $50 annually. Just not sure if it’s worth it.

Let me just state that this has nothing to do with being a “cheap” ham. I don’t mind shelling out the money knowing that I am getting a quality product that lasts. This has more to do with having a free product that does almost the exact same thing compared to the paid version of the same product. At this point I decided it wasn’t worth the money and I’ve decided to switch to DXlabs suite. I would periodically check back to see if there were any major improvements that would make me want to purchase HRD. However there wasn’t. Awards tracking seem to improve but since my trial expired, I couldn’t confirm it.

For the record, I LOVED HRD. Their DM780 program is what got me into PSK and since I’ve switched to DXlabs, I haven’t been able to comfortably do digital modes using Winwarbler. It’s not the same. I couldn’t get myself used to it. I wanted to use HRD. I would constantly read the reviews over at eham and I would pay attention to their press releases over at to see if there was something that would attract my wallet. There were rumors of adding JT modes to DM780 so that really got me looking into it.

As I’ve looked into reviews and postings on forums, I’ve noticed that support from HRD is questionable. Sometimes they give excellent service, sometimes they give horrible service. I always take reviews from hams with a grain of salt. I understand that some people don’t bother to read the manual, some are lazy and some are flat out incompetent. There are some people who take the term “The Customer Is Always Right” out of context and demand way too much. With a piece of software that has to support so many different pieces of hardware, it will be impossible to please everyone.

Recently there was a review on from N2SUB about HRD, He gave it 1/5  and offered in great detail about his issues and he even gave them a tip on how to make it better. It wasn’t one of those cranky “this sucks” type of review because the reviewer couldn’t instantly get it to work and is too good to read the manual or search for similar issue. It was a legit review.

In the background a much bigger story was unfolding. N2SUB reached out to HRD support to figure out what was going on and how to fix it. According to the support ticket, HRD  instructed him to download the latest version. Soon as the user installed the new version and started it, it quickly shut down. When he asked HRD support about it, they responded that his support was expired and they requested that he doesn’t renew support because of the review on eham. HRD then referenced section 8 of their EULA that states “We reserve the right to refuse service and disable a customer’s key at any time for any reason”.  They also stated in order to have access to the software, he would need to remove the negative review from eham.

What HRD just did was extortion, N2SUB (Jim) paid for the software and now he can’t use it at all until he removes his review from In some countries this is flat out illegal. Just recently, US president Obama signed the “Customer Review Fairness Act” into law which basically forbids what HRD just did.

Jim posted his experience on the forums. So far it was just hearsay until he posted his support ticket for all to see. Over on, @textfiles (Jason Scott) who is a well known internet archivist, questioned HRD about the support ticket. HRD replied that the ticket is “copywrited” and shouldn’t be posted and will be looking into alleged libel issue.

It appears HRD is doubling down in attempts to remove and/or coverup what happened. According to Jim, Rich Rhul (W4PC) called him on the phone and left him a voice mail where Rick threatened to sue him and will have Fred (Owner of remove the thread. A short time later, the thread on was removed.

However it was too late. Since then news of what happened were posted on and the amateur radio subreddit over on As a moderator of the subreddit, this where I started following the story. At first I thought this was an isolated incident and that maybe the support staffer was having a bad day.

A bit later Fred (Owner of posted his own version of what happened and his explanation for deleting the thread is that is was full of “misinformation”.  He then added “QRZ would also like users to note that HRD is not a QRZ advertiser and other than for free technical exchange we have no business relationship.” In Fred’s version, he forgot to address the part about the extortion. This got the people on /r/amateurradio to really start looking at the actions of HRD and the relationship between and HRD.

Full out Streisand Effect.

In attempts to cover up HRD’s wrong doings, It caused more people to pay attention to what’s going on. It got people looking and many interesting things came up. There is indeed a business relationship between HRD and There have been many times where Rick (co-owner) of HRD mentioned that him and Fred are “Business partners” and that HRD gave $$$ over the years for advertising. It’s also clear that staff delete threads and banned some of the users who were critical.

There is also a history of horrible abuse of customers by the HRD staff. HRD has license check server. When the software starts, it will check your callsign against their database. At the time, it would return one of three replies. You had valid, deleted and blacklisted. All of this was plain text on an un-encrypted server. The “blacklisted” return is what got the people over at amateur radio subreddit interested. User /u/fohdeesha started polling the server against negative reviews posted on and noticed that at least 50% of the negative review came back as “blacklisted”.

Since then many people stepped forward and shared their experiences with HRD. It’s apparent that this is no longer an isolated incident. People are being “blacklisted” because of poor reviews. They were even banned from the software because they were on a Yahoo group.

There was one thing in common… Rick. It’s apparent that he is the main source of all the negative issues. He is a co-owner, lead programmer and handling support. Most of the negative experiences users shared were in result of dealing with Rick. It appears he is a bully and very vindictive. Even support volunteers were stepping aside because of his actions.

Some time goes by and there is finally a response from the HRD staff. Rick replied on the thread on and on the following

We we have an official statement soon, but we do not condone anyone that blacklisted any ham for a bad review

As of today, Randy, Mike and I went though the license server and removed all blacklisted hams. That’s not good business or good policy.

More to come.

It was rather odd considering there is overwhelming evidence that he was the person that was blacklisting hams for bad reviews. From the looks of it, they were getting ready to blame someone else.

A short time later, another co-owner (Mike, WA9PIE) of HRD chimed in with a more official apology.

I want to make a statement of apology on behalf of HRD Software.

We regret that we have been unable to maintain our high standards of quality in our service to one of our customers. I have reached out to this customer to correct this regrettable situation. I am looking forward to speaking with him.

We apologize for what has happened here. I have stepped in and personally taken corrective actions to ensure that this mistake does not get made again.

It is not the policy or practice of HRD Software, LLC to retaliate, in any way, when negative reviews are made about our company, its products, or our employees. If this has happened in the past, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. We will strive to avoid, even the suspicion of, such things in the future.

Best wishes in your continuing enjoyment of our hobby.


It seemed to be a heartfelt apology and I personally thought it would end there. However some of the wording of the last couple paragraphs didn’t sit right. “It is not policy” and “If this has happened in the past” stuck out. Well it was policy because it was being done and it did happen. There is no question of IF.

Then Rick chimed in with


No one is going to be sued. I made a serious mistake and error of judgement in this and many cases and I am truly sorry.

Jim, I apologize publicly to you. I do have diabetes and sometimes this affects my judgement and it did in that voicemail I truly regret it. I’m talking to my Doctor about changing my medications so I wont have any more low sugars.

Randy, Mike and I are discussing my future with HRD.

It appears both Rick and Mike were treating this whole situation as an isolated incident. It was clearly not. Rick also blamed his poor treatment of Jim as a reaction to his low blood sugar at the time of the phone call. Their reactions angered me. Their attempts at an apology made it even worse. It also appears the Mike isn’t not really privy to what is really going on over at HRD. He does mention that he doesn’t participate in the day-to-day operations over at HRD and that he claims he had no idea of what was going on. Personally I believe for that to be false because there has been years of abuse and even other HRD staffers (volunteer) knew what was going on. However Mike is insisted that he did not know.

Why Should I Care?

I care about what is going on because I really do like the software and there is a chance that it will go away. I actually want to purchase it at some point. I’ve also been treated horribly by other amateur radio software developers. I was told by the support of a popular software that they weren’t going to support my homebrew hardware and that I should purchase the real thing instead of looking into my issues. That’s what I get for trying to shake the “appliance operator” that gets attached to newer hams.

Digging A Deeper Hole

One of the co-owners of HRD stuck around in the ongoing thread on in attempts to take blame and recover from the damage that was done. Even though he had good intentions, he made things much worse. This started getting the attention of some news markets. A major international IT related news publication, The Register (el reg)  released an article about the whole HRD situation. They reached out to HRD for comment and HRD released a press statement that was basically deflecting what was going on and trying to define what they meant by “blacklisting”. HRD also claimed that it was “outside support staff” and not the co-owner that was responsible. That lead to a much bigger response to where The Register had to release another story about Ham Radio Deluxe a couple days later. HRD also deleted their twitter account which to me was an attempt to cover up some of the public tweets from HRD staff.

Since then there have been articles on Slashdot, Techdirt and many others about what has been going on. It even got attention from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). These aren’t some blogging websites like mine, these are some respected international publications and digital rights group. It’s not looking good for HRD and I honestly don’t want to see them go away. I wouldn’t want people to be out of work and I didn’t want to see this software tossed aside. But the actions from HRD are not helping.

About a week later, HRD annouced that co-owner Rick stepped aside and is now retired. HRD also claims they will be editing their EULA to renew their commitment to their customers. This is a step in the right direction. Some were sad to see Rick go but I feel it had to be done in order for HRD to move forward. I’ve publicly spoken with Mike and it appears he really cares about the company and HRD users. Even though I don’t agree with everything he said, it appears he is sincere and wants to improve.

HRD now faces an uphill battle. They no longer have their lead programmer, there are known bugs within the software and they are now swimming in a sea of negative press. I really hope that the staff from HRD learn from this and I hope other amateur radio developers learn from this as well. It goes to show that even one bad experience could lead to major trouble. Even though the term “The customer is always right” is often taken out of context, you should at least take the high road and respect those who prove to be difficult.

The future and their actions will set a precedence on what type of company they will be. I really do hope HRD recovers and even prosper from what happened. There are thousands of satisfied customers, hopefully there will be thousands more. Only time will tell.

Thanks for reading.
– Jeff (NT1K)

This article is of my opinion. I’ve came to this opinion based on what I’ve read throughout the past couple weeks. I try to be un-bias as much as possible. Since I do not work or have never worked for HRD, I am uncertain of what exactly happened. Just sharing what has been said elsewhere. I could be wrong. Please view the evidence for yourself.





My first attempt at NPOTA

The ARRL is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service by doing a year long event called “National Parks On The Air” or NPOTA.
It’s where operators go to National Parks and “activate” them by making contacts from the NPS site/unit. Chasers that make contact with the activators will get points which encourages more operation.

From my point of view it looks like the ARRL got the NPOTA idea by combing SOTA (Summits On The Air) with POTA (Parks On The Air). SOTA is very popular with portable operators but POTA is not as known. The POTA website hasn’t been updated in a long time but locally there is a group that are trying their best to keep POTA alive and well. Hopefully with NPOTA, it will get more people in POTA and hopefully it will improve.

I wanted to give NPOTA a try because there are a couple places locally that I can activate. It also seems that NPOTA is quite active on social media with their Facebook Group. I figured a dual SOTA/NPOTA would be perfect. Be able to do what I know and give NPOTA a try at the same time.

Short Notice Activation


Like usual, I decided the day of that I am going to do a dual activation. The weather forecast for the next week included cold, rain and snow. I figured this was my only shot but there was strong winds. I thought I could fight it and decided to activate Bare Mountain (SOTA W1/CR-014) in Hadley/Amherst Massachusetts as it’s close by and is on the National Scenic Trail (TR06).

Due to my past SOTA activations, I knew it’s best to spread the word so that I’m certain that my activation will count. I posted SOTAwatch, ARRL’s NPOTA upcoming activations page and numerous facebook groups. I am set!

Fighting The Wind


As I started my hike, the wind started to get worse and worse. There would be moments of calm followed by this huge gust of wind. I was worried that I wouldn’t even get my antenna up but it wasn’t stopping me. The hike wasn’t bad at all really. I was proud because I didn’t have to stop to catch my breath at all. Not sure if it was because I’m hiking more or that I am used to doing these hikes on snow and ice covered trails.

Setting up against the wind did prove to be a pain. The end insulators on my homebrew G5RV acted as a kite and cause some funny moments of me trying to secure the wire ends. Even the twin lead took to the wind.

Finally On The Air


The true reason why I did the activation was that I just purchased a new battery from Bioennopower through . I wanted to test it out.

I found a nice quiet frequency on the upper portion of 20m and sent out a self spot on the SOTA cluster. Some operators get grumpy when someone self spots but this isn’t the CQWW contest. It’s some guy running low power and is portable on top a windy mountain.

After a few CQ’s some of the SOTA regulars come onto frequency and made contact. It was great to hear them because it confirms that I can at least get into the west coast since they were out of Washington state and Oregon. However I wanted those NPOTA pileups I hear so much about.

Thankfully someone from the SOTA group spotted me on the AR cluster. You can tell because it’s like someone opened up the flood gates. Calls were pouring in which put a huge smile on my face. I love pileups.

Murphy’s Law

Since I was very excited because of the pileup, something had to go wrong. After 6 or so contacts, the pileup was silenced. I was hearing nothing. Due to the wind I had earbuds in my ears which blocked out the sound of my antenna falling. I scrambled to get everything back up and running. I picked up the antenna, added more straps/cord and got back on the air. During my first contact back on the air, the antenna mast collapsed. Once again I am scrambling to put it back up and making sure to tighten each telescoping section as best I can.  I didn’t even have a chance to make it back to the radio when a big steady gust of wind came and pulled the BNC connector off the ladder line.

At this point I had enough contacts for a SOTA activation. I decided it was best to packup and leave. I didn’t even last 15 minutes on the air and I didn’t even make it to 0:00z or even to the other bands. It was getting dark and didn’t want to deal with it.

NPOTA Nut Jobs

Since I had to cut it short, I wasn’t able to get on 40m that I stated I was going to be on. In the SOTA world, it’s common for an activation to be cut short for weather reasons. However it doesn’t fly with some of the NPOTA chasers.

I attempted to post on the NPOTA facebook group that I had to go QRT due to the wind. However it didn’t stop people messaging me on Facebook and E-Mailing me. They were chastising me because I wasn’t on the air long enough and were upset because they were waiting for me on 40m and didn’t make enough contacts on 20m.

There was also a lot of poor operating during my short time on the air. There were at least 3 operators who didn’t seem to listen. I am not even sure if they heard me because they kept calling and calling even though I was in mid Q with someone else. I was also hearing other operators yelling at them to “Shut Up”.

I was very upset by the comments and poor operating at first until I realized that a good portion of these chasers probably never did a true portable setup before. A lot of the NPOTA activators are doing these activations from the comfort of their own vehicles and RV’s. They have the comfort to stay on for hours at time. I think the SOTA crowd is more understandable because they know what it’s like to be portable on top of a mountain. SOTA ops tend to make as many contacts as possible and get moving. However there is no excuse

Thoughts about NPOTA

I love the idea behind NPOTA. I hope it encourages more portable operating with POTA and SOTA after the event is over. But with what I see on the NPOTA Facebook group and my own personal experiences, there needs to be improvement.

Honestly I don’t think I will be publicly advertising that I am doing NPOTA activations in the future. The attitudes of some of the operators was just outright rude. Both on and off the air. You can’t “Turn the big knob” in this situation.

These are just my opinions, I very well could be wrong.

Thanks for reading,




Recording Contest QSOs

You will see on my past couple of posts that I am starting to record my contesting. I’ve received a few questions about how so I figured it deserves a blog post.

I’ve been interested in recording contacts since I found GW4BLE’s online recording archive. If you ever worked him in a contest, you can go to his website, search his logs, and be able to listen to the exchange. I was amazed by this because I was always interested in how I sounded. I wanted to do the same.

The obvious choice was to contact GW4BLE and ask him how. I wanted the exact same thing. However his response was that someone else wrote the software and that I would have to contact that person. I tried with no response so I wanted to find another way. I was disappointed because it appears they do not want to share. I will have to find another way.

Some web searching later I came across a plugin for N1MM+ called QSOrder written by Vasiliy Gokoyev (K3IT). The software/plugin does exactly what I want… Almost. It’s able to record contacts and make individual files or it can record the entire contest or both. Since it appears to be my only option, it will do.

QSOrder Setup

How the software works is that it listens to a soundcard and creates a buffer. When you hit the log button on N1MM+, it will trigger the software to make a recording X amount of seconds before and X amount of seconds after the contact. It can create individual files for each contact or it can record the entire contest or both.

In order for the software to work properly, you need to make sure you have installed the LAME Encoder. This allows files to be output in a compressed .mp3 format. Each 45s recording ends up being around 170kb

Another thing you would need to do is modify an .ini file in N1MM+ to enable UDP Streaming. This is how QSOrder knows when to set the buffer and obtains the QSO details to create the file name from.

You would also need to setup your audio and this varies depending on your setup. If you have some kind of sound card interface that has it’s own sound card built in (like the Signalink), you can use that. If not, you will have to find a way to get the audio from the radio to the computer’s mic or preferably the line input.

Software installation is straight forward if you follow the directions listed on the QSOrder website. I would suggest you install it in a subfolder right off the main drive (C:/qsorder for example).

I would also suggest for the first couple times to run the software from a command line instead of trying to click on the executable. The reason why I say this is because if you have multiple sound cards, there is a good chance that QSOrder will default to the wrong card. You would have to tell the software to use a different card.

If you have experiance with DOS or other CLI clients then you should have no issue getting this up and running

QSOrder Review

As a person who is used to using a GUI (Graphical User Interface. i.e. Windows), the setup and install was a bit tricky. Even more so when I had to tell the software to use a different input device/sound card. However it wasn’t really that bad to get up and running.

Software works exactly like it should. It records contacts and makes .mp3 files for each contact. I would suggest that you make a test contact well before the contest to make sure both N1MM and the recorder is working. I would then listen to the mp3 file to make sure the levels sound good. I made a mistake on my first recorded contest and everything was loud.

Can it run with the big dogs?

Yes it could. There were a couple times where I had 100+ hr rates and the software held up nicely. I would love to try it out at a multi/multi contest station where I could get bigger rates to really test it out. But for my station, it works out great.

Now that I have all these mp3’s, what should I do?

I wanted to have the exact same thing as GW4BLE. However OSOrder doesn’t create a searchable DB that can be displayed on website for others to search. I also see that GW4BLE records the entire contest on one mp3 file and the software/website/db links to the section of recording that you want to listen to. QSOrder outputs each contact on it’s own .mp3 file.

However the filename allows you to easily make a directory listing of your contacts. I was able to print a directory listing and some cut and pasting later, I was able to share them here on my blog. Even though I now have my contacts online for all to listen, it’s not searchable like GW4BLE’s site or wintest.

Can This Be Automated?

I still wasn’t completely satisfied. I would like for an All-in-one software that will record the contest, upload the files to a website, create a db and make it searchable from a website. But for the price I shouldn’t complain at all. I decided to contact Vasiliy and see what can be done about it. I e-mailed him in November and he did agree that it could improve. At first I didn’t think nothing would become of it but a couple months later I got an e-mail saying that he created a searchable index with the use of the cloud storage service “dropbox”.

All I have to do is create a dropbox account (free 2gb storage), link my account through his website, upload my files to a subfolder that was created and embed an iframe into my website or QRZ page.

Check it out for yourself. Who knows, you might have contacted me. If not type in “K1KI” to see both a phone and CW contact.

You can embed this into your website or even your profile. It makes for an exciting page.

I was able to beta test this feature and even though I am not a fan of using a third party service like dropbox, it’s much easier to upload, search and manage. Vasiliy was very responsive and I am glad he devoted time to making it happen.

Contest Rules And Reg

Even though I love to share my recordings, I found out that uploading your contacts directly after a contest could cause some trouble. Other operators could use your recordings to scrub their logs for more points. In CQWW contests rule number 9 states

9. Correction of logged call signs and exchanges after the contest, by use of any database, recordings, email or other methods, is not allowed.

I would suggest to wait until after the log submission deadline to post any records publicly.

I hope to record more contests for all to enjoy. I hope that you do as well. It’s great to see how one sounds on the other side of the signal.

Thanks for reading,
Jeffrey Bail (NT1K)

Portable Operations – What I Carry

I guess I should post up something that isn’t about contesting. I am often asked about my portable setup so I figured just to post it up here to show all.

This setup works for me but it might not work for you. I attempt to pack as small and minimal as possible when it comes to portable. I know some who pack everything including the kitchen sink so opinions will vary.

Here is my portable setup


That’s basically it. Here is a break down of the above picture

Elecraft KX3 – This is the most important part. When I was getting into portable operations, I wanted a radio that wouldn’t waste energy. The KX3 was just released and it met everything that was on my list. It can use AA batteries, the antenna match option works wonderfully, it has multiple modes and nice sized screen. I will admit it was expensive but I felt if I use it 50 times, it would be worth the cost. If the KX3 is not an option than an Yaesu FT-817 will do or those CW QRP kits like KD1JV’s MTR/Sprint radios.

G5RV Jr Antenna – Some people question as to why I went with a G5RV jr antenna and the answer is simple as that I had one laying around so why not use it. When stored properly, it doesn’t really take up much room. I had great luck with it so I kept using it.  However the one I had wasn’t suited for portable use. It was breaking apart and used solid core wire for the 450ohm “ladder” line.


I ended up making a smaller one. I made custom end insulators that act as winders. I also used polystealth wire and a BNC port. The new antenna is much smaller and is somewhat easier to deploy.

Here is the radio with the G5RV jr working some DX while portable in Vermont.

EARCHI end fed antenna – This is my other antenna that I use if I want to be very quick or the local environment prevents me from using the G5RV. It’s just 31 feet (around 15m) of wire that is hooked up to a 9:1 UnUn. Even though I much prefer the G5RV, the end fed works okay.


Here is the Endfed on the beach in South Carolina. Salt water works wonders. Setup was less than 5 mintues and it didn’t take up much room in the car.

Jackite Telescoping Kite Pole (Mast) – For a long time I would tie rope to rocks and throw them over tree branches. In some locations there were no trees which made it much more difficult. Even though a portable mast is bulky for me, I think it’s necessary. I ended up going with Jackite’s 31′ Fiberglass pole because it was 31′.  It is designed for windsocks/kites but hams use it for antenna supports. It made portable communications much easier.


Should have added something for scale. My only complain is the caps can easily come off which sucks when you’re in the middle of the woods when it happens. Little bit of electrical tape does the trip.

Logbook – I use two logbooks during operations. One is just a regular notebook that can fit in my bag and the other is the voice recorder on my phone. That way I can make youtube videos and also go back if I messed up my paper log. The notebook is just full of scribbles. Soon as I get home I enter them into the proper logging software or website.

Foam Pad – I carry a foam pad that gardeners would kneel on. It provides some cushion and ground isolation. It’s a must have and fits nicely in my bag

Misc Antenna Items – I usually carry a roll of RG-58 with BNC ends, tent stakes, small spool of nylon high vis mason rope and bungee/tie down cords. I avoid using any type of nail or screw. I do not want to disturb the environment. I say the stretch/bungee cords is what I use the most to secure the mast to trees and/or benches.

Dedicated Bookbag – When I was at costco I saw some bookbags on sale for $15USD and couldn’t resist. I dedicated it to portable operations since I usually don’t plan my operations.  When I get home after each portable operation, I make sure to organize my backpack and have it ready for the next time. I leave almost everything in the bag so I can almost grab and go since I decide to go out usually at the last second.

Future Plans

I’ve been trying to learn CW for a long time now. I am getting better but once I am confident that I can do CW without any kind of assistance, I will go out with a smaller rig and different antenna. I want a smaller light weight pack. I would also like to find ways to go without a mast but there are times where the area is unknown.

Thanks for reading,

ARRL 10m Contest 2015 – Soapbox


Contest season for me is still going strong. This past weekend was the ARRL 10M contest. I was looking forward to it because our local amateur radio club participates as a group effort and I would like to add to the effort. Last year I managed 345 contacts which I ended up with 103,452 points. I guess my goal is to break that.

I decided to enter as a single operator, low power without using assistance of the cluster/skimmer. I knew band conditions weren’t going to be so great. It wasn’t going to be packed with juicy multipliers everywhere and felt that I wasn’t going to be having high rates.

This year I put more focus in CW contesting. Without the cluster/skimmer I knew that Morse code will be much harder. No problem, I need less assistance anyways.

Starting Off Slow

0z came and I was off to the races. However around here 0z is 7pm and the band is pretty much closed to skywave contacts. There were a handful of local ops running and I managed to make contact with them. It was nice to make contact with locals. Plus it’s nice to see who around here is playing. through out the contest I would keep tabs on them and see who they were contacting.

I went to  bed making only a dozen or so contacts.

The Contest Continues On

I woke up Saturday thinking it would be like Christmas morning as a kid. Got my coffee and hopped on the air expecting wall to wall contesting like years past. Well the solar cycle slapped me in the face this year. There wasn’t much on. However I hear DX stations so I will work them!

South America was really strong. I was hoping to make some contacts with countries I need like Boliva and the Falkland Islands.

I ended up not making many contacts on Saturday as the day was nice and I had other on my mind. Propagation predictions said I should be around 2pm local time for the peak but I just wasn’t feeling it. I’ve notice some locals putting a good effort though.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

After the run I had on Saturday, I wasn’t expecting Sunday to be much better. Sure enough I got on the air and it confirmed my feelings. I don’t think I made any European contacts. I concentrated my efforts on making contacts to west on CW. I needed a bunch of states for the ARRL triple play award so my efforts were on the US and SA.

The K3’s filters are amazing!


Here is an SDR shot of the CW section of 10 meters on Sunday. Compared to last year, this screen is empty. If you look to the right side of the image you will see a very strong CW signal. I thought it was going to wipe out the other two or three signals nearby. When I tuned into those signals, I could barely notice the strong station. It was there and I can hear it but it didn’t really affect the signal I was trying to listen to. This was very nice considering I don’t have a CW filter installed. I was using the 1.8Khz filter.

On SSB the filters got a workout as well. There were multiple loud Brazilian stations almost on top of each other. This is where the 1.8Khz filter really came in handy. I was able to hear each station even though some of the other stations were in the passband. Maybe it’s the kool-aid talking. Not sure.

Claimed Results

Once the band died down to local traffic, I called it quits


Made a 132 contacts. With the multipliers, I ended up with 26,000 points. Nowhere near the 103,000 I made last year doing mostly SSB. You will see that almost half my contacts were CW.

It was fun but you can see the solar cycle taking it’s toll. I better start working on better antennas for 40, 80 and the 160m bands. A good kick in the butt to make 5 band DXCC as I already have 10, 15 and 20 locked down.

Thanks for reading,
Jeff – NT1K

ARRL 10M Contest 2015 – Recordings

Did I work you in the 2015 ARRL 10M contest? Then it’s most likely I have recording of our contact. Look below to see your call.


Contest took place December 11th, 12th and 13th 2015

Callsign Mode Date Time Band Link
AA1JD CW 20151212 011309Z 28MHz Listen
AA1JD USB 20151212 003302Z 28MHz Listen
AA5B USB 20151212 161430Z 28MHz Listen
AB1WT USB 20151212 191356Z 28MHz Listen
AB1XW USB 20151212 160056Z 28MHz Listen
AC4CA CW 20151212 182526Z 28MHz Listen
AC5K CW 20151212 162623Z 28MHz Listen
AE5GT CW 20151212 163628Z 28MHz Listen
CE3CT CW 20151213 185354Z 28MHz Listen
CO6LC USB 20151212 155756Z 28MHz Listen
CR2X USB 20151212 180739Z 28MHz Listen
CT1DVV USB 20151212 161015Z 28MHz Listen
CW5W CW 20151213 185545Z 28MHz Listen
DK8ZZ CW 20151212 153338Z 28MHz Listen
DL1IAO CW 20151212 153238Z 28MHz Listen
EA4TX CW 20151212 154009Z 28MHz Listen
F5IN CW 20151212 154234Z 28MHz Listen
F6HKA CW 20151212 140454Z 28MHz Listen
HA3DX CW 20151212 141204Z 28MHz Listen
HG7T CW 20151212 140900Z 28MHz Listen
HH2-N5JR CW 20151212 184311Z 28MHz Listen
HH2-N5JR USB 20151212 133127Z 28MHz Listen
HI3CC USB 20151212 134027Z 28MHz Listen
HI3TEJ USB 20151212 133859Z 28MHz Listen
HI8JSG USB 20151212 132755Z 28MHz Listen
HI8K USB 20151212 135659Z 28MHz Listen
HK1MW CW 20151213 183729Z 28MHz Listen
HK1T USB 20151212 155252Z 28MHz Listen
HT7C CW 20151213 183438Z 28MHz Listen
IQ2D CW 20151212 154334Z 28MHz Listen
IT9YVO CW 20151212 153518Z 28MHz Listen
J68HF USB 20151212 191517Z 28MHz Listen
K0FX CW 20151212 163148Z 28MHz Listen
K0NM CW 20151212 163247Z 28MHz Listen
K0SN CW 20151212 182411Z 28MHz Listen
K0UK CW 20151212 162749Z 28MHz Listen
K0WA CW 20151212 163528Z 28MHz Listen
K1CPJ USB 20151212 010748Z 28MHz Listen
K1KI CW 20151212 001648Z 28MHz Listen
K1KI USB 20151212 011112Z 28MHz Listen
K1NYK USB 20151212 191658Z 28MHz Listen
K1SND CW 20151212 004744Z 28MHz Listen
K2GAV USB 20151213 193538Z 28MHz Listen
K5NA CW 20151212 163344Z 28MHz Listen
K5TR USB 20151212 160943Z 28MHz Listen
K6XT CW 20151212 182331Z 28MHz Listen
K7BG CW 20151212 183025Z 28MHz Listen
K7GS CW 20151213 184818Z 28MHz Listen
K7JR USB 20151213 192849Z 28MHz Listen
K7RAT CW 20151212 182652Z 28MHz Listen
K7YK USB 20151213 192521Z 28MHz Listen
K8IA CW 20151212 183126Z 28MHz Listen
K8TE CW 20151213 191929Z 28MHz Listen
KA1ZD USB 20151212 002717Z 28MHz Listen
KB5KYJ USB 20151212 160534Z 28MHz Listen
KC1CQ USB 20151212 010556Z 28MHz Listen
KC1XX CW 20151212 004522Z 28MHz Listen
KC1XX USB 20151212 010119Z 28MHz Listen
KE7X CW 20151213 183635Z 28MHz Listen
KP2XX USB 20151212 132411Z 28MHz Listen
KY7M USB 20151212 185247Z 28MHz Listen
LR1E CW 20151212 184039Z 28MHz Listen
LU1FKR USB 20151213 214643Z 28MHz Listen
LU5FC USB 20151213 212952Z 28MHz Listen
N0KV CW 20151212 163919Z 28MHz Listen
N1IXF USB 20151212 132832Z 28MHz Listen
N1KWF CW 20151212 011426Z 28MHz Listen
N1TQP USB 20151212 161521Z 28MHz Listen
N2KW CW 20151212 005711Z 28MHz Listen
N5FO CW 20151212 162925Z 28MHz Listen
N6SS CW 20151213 183338Z 28MHz Listen
N7AU USB 20151212 185130Z 28MHz Listen
N7IR CW 20151212 183050Z 28MHz Listen
N7ZZ CW 20151212 163725Z 28MHz Listen
NC0B USB 20151212 162153Z 28MHz Listen
NP2P CW 20151212 135950Z 28MHz Listen
NR5M USB 20151212 161254Z 28MHz Listen
NU1O CW 20151212 005605Z 28MHz Listen
NU1O USB 20151212 010211Z 28MHz Listen
NV1Q USB 20151213 210839Z 28MHz Listen
P40S CW 20151212 184518Z 28MHz Listen
P40S USB 20151212 155459Z 28MHz Listen
PA3EVY CW 20151212 153906Z 28MHz Listen
PA3GCV CW 20151212 153044Z 28MHz Listen
PJ2T CW 20151212 184438Z 28MHz Listen
PJ2T USB 20151212 191023Z 28MHz Listen
PJ4DX USB 20151212 185740Z 28MHz Listen
PP5JD USB 20151212 181613Z 28MHz Listen
PP5JR CW 20151212 184649Z 28MHz Listen
PP5JR USB 20151213 194800Z 28MHz Listen
PR4C CW 20151213 191137Z 28MHz Listen
PT3T CW 20151213 184154Z 28MHz Listen
PT3T USB 20151213 214218Z 28MHz Listen
PU5CSF USB 20151213 194927Z 28MHz Listen
PX1M CW 20151213 190851Z 28MHz Listen
PX2B USB 20151212 190023Z 28MHz Listen
PY1NX CW 20151212 183224Z 28MHz Listen
PY2WWA USB 20151212 134252Z 28MHz Listen
PY2ZXU CW 20151213 190004Z 28MHz Listen
PY4YY CW 20151213 213916Z 28MHz Listen
PY5FO USB 20151212 193037Z 28MHz Listen
TG9ANF USB 20151212 193457Z 28MHz Listen
TG9IIN USB 20151212 193535Z 28MHz Listen
TM7D USB 20151212 154556Z 28MHz Listen
V31MA USB 20151212 192721Z 28MHz Listen
VE6AO USB 20151213 192813Z 28MHz Listen
VE6WQ CW 20151213 184241Z 28MHz Listen
W0ETT USB 20151212 161903Z 28MHz Listen
W0IZ CW 20151213 184906Z 28MHz Listen
W0ZA CW 20151213 184441Z 28MHz Listen
W1AST USB 20151212 134851Z 28MHz Listen
W1EME USB 20151213 211103Z 28MHz Listen
W1RM CW 20151212 011630Z 28MHz Listen
W1TJL USB 20151212 002113Z 28MHz Listen
W1WEF CW 20151212 004211Z 28MHz Listen
W1XX USB 20151213 212300Z 28MHz Listen
W2RD USB 20151213 194555Z 28MHz Listen
W2UP CW 20151212 162722Z 28MHz Listen
W7RN CW 20151213 184405Z 28MHz Listen
WA0N USB 20151212 162431Z 28MHz Listen
WA1UZX USB 20151212 160439Z 28MHz Listen
WA7NB USB 20151213 210650Z 28MHz Listen
WA8UEG USB 20151212 003531Z 28MHz Listen
WD1S CW 20151212 005403Z 28MHz Listen
WJ9B CW 20151213 185456Z 28MHz Listen
WM1B USB 20151212 131648Z 28MHz Listen
WP4PGY USB 20151212 133657Z 28MHz Listen
WR8O USB 20151212 162326Z 28MHz Listen
XE1RF USB 20151212 192915Z 28MHz Listen
YO2LEA CW 20151212 140715Z 28MHz Listen
ZF1A USB 20151212 155116Z 28MHz Listen
ZV5D USB 20151212 193105Z 28MHz Listen

CQWW CW Contest 2015 – Soapbox


This weekend was what some consider to be the biggest CW contest of the year. It appears the last time I attempted this contest (or at least submitted a log) was in 2011 and I made 19,266 points. I guess that’s my goal but I know I can easily beat that so I bumped it to 250k. Since I did over 1 million in SSB, I should at least do 250k… right?

CW Contesting without knowing much CW

Yep, I still have a lot of trouble decoding CW with my head. But that is not going to stop me from trying. I think contesting is beneficial when it come to learning even though I don’t think CQWW should be the place to do it. But I did it anyway.
I entered as “assisted” meaning that I will be using the skimmer/cluster/network or whatever you want to call it to help make contact with other ops.

What I am doing is depending on other people and/or software that will decode those calling CQ and letting me (the network) know exactly where they are. That’s perfect for me because if I have an idea of what the callsign will be, It’s much easier to make the contact.

Skimmer Vs. Spotter

I used two different networks to show me who and where the other operators are. One such network is the spotting network. Think of it as an online chatroom where other operators tell you where other operators are on the bands as they make contact.  Most likely their logging software is setup to send out a message whenever contact is made automatically. Other people using similar software will take that information and display it on a chart where the operator could click on the spot and the logbook would partially fill out and the radio could even tune to it. The software might even color code the spots to let you know if that operator is a multiplier that you need to make contact with. It’s been in use for a long time now and many contesters take advantage of it to increase rates since you are no longer have to search for a signal.

The other network I used is what is known as the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) or “Skimmer”. Its similar to the spotting network except it’s fully automated. It’s not depending on human input. There are hundreds of Software Defined Radio (SDR) rigs throughout the world listening to the bands. A popular piece of software known as “CW Skimmer” will listen to the bandwidth of the SDR and decode any CW signal being sent using a sophisticated algorithm based on Bayesian statistics. If the skimmer picks up anyone sending “CQ” or “Test” or other keywords, it will note the callsign, frequency, sending speed, and even signal strength and send it along to RBN or it’s own network which will end up on your screen if it’s supported and enabled.

I use RBN to usually test to see how far my CW signal can be heard. It’s great for testing out the various CW kits I’ve built. It tells me the Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) and it’s another confirmation that I am indeed on frequency.

In contesting both RBN and the Spotting network can help. However it will most likely put you into a different category. There is some controversy over using the networks and some consider it flat out cheating since you are being fed information that could give you an advantage compared to the operator that is not using the network and having to manually search for their contacts. However it’s becoming more accepted.

There is one big problem with using the either network. You can never trust it… ever. With the spotting cluster, you are depending on other people. Those people might not have copied the callsign correctly or there are some evil doers out there that will send out false contacts in hopes to mess you up. The RBN is even less trusting. I don’t think software decoding will ever be perfected to match the experienced human ear. Even though it’s extremely impressive when you look more into it, there is still a lot of bad spots coming from RBN. Even though I wouldn’t trust both, it’s a very useful tool if you want high scores and rates.

I have to look into making the Spotting Network/RBN work better for me. With RBN I just connected to their telnet network and was FLOODED with information. It was so much that it was causing my computer to bog down which affected my CW keyer. It was causing delays and even locking the TX. I ended up having to disconnect and go back to a spotting cluster. There are ways to filter out RBN results to just include decodes from your area/region/zone

If it wasn’t for these networks, I wouldn’t be looking forward to CW contesting. I hope I do enough CW to where I can do some contests without having to use the networks.

Now on to the contest

I’m entering as SOAB(A)LP which means Single Operator, All Bands, Assisted and using Low Power. When it comes to digital and CW contests, I just don’t trust my amplifier so I run low power.

The contest starts at 7pm local on Friday night. However there is a VE exam the same night and I would prefer to be there instead of being on the air. After the exam, I went on 40m and 80m, made a handful of contacts and went to bed.

When I woke up on Saturday and got on the air, EU was booming in on 15m so I spent most of my time on there. My Yagi is tuned for SSB so CW contesting is a no-no since my tuner is not inline with the beam. I could have hooked it up but it’s something I didn’t want to do. That basically cancels out the CW portion of 10m and most of the CW portion of 20 using the beam. I did 20m and 40m off my vertical and kept the G5RV on 80m.

Not really feeling this contest so I didn’t put much effort into rates.

Sunday wasn’t any better. I couldn’t hear much on 10m so I stuck to 15m with the occasional trip to 20m. Towards the end of the contest I was excited to make contact with Alaska and Hawaii since I need LoTW confrimations for Worked All States Triple Play Award. Those contacts and some JA contacts made me very happy.

My CW decoding improved greatly towards the end of the contest. Even though I was still using the cluster, I was able to confirm the calls much faster. Caught a lot of busted calls much easier.

Claimed Results 


I ended up making 255 contacts with 143 band countries and 44 band zones which gives me a total of 134,079 points. I spent about 7 hours on the air. I didn’t reach my 250k but I shattered my 2011 score and I had a good time. Hopefully I get some new countries confirmed and I hope AK and HI confirm as well.

I just love how much faster CW contesting is compared to SSB. At least it felt that way for me. I am sure it would become better and faster after I really learn CW.

Thanks for reading,
Jeff (NT1K)

ARRL Sweepstakes 2015 SSB – Soap Box


Contest season is still going strong for me. I decided to play in Sweepstakes SSB this weekend because  my local club is putting in a group effort and wanted to add to the collective.

Getting Ready

After the horrors of getting a late start during WAE RTTY, I wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again. Checked the antennas, made sure the software was up to date and pre-recorded my messages into the digital voice keyer (DVK). I also made sure N1MM software was in working order.

My goals for the contest were to get a clean sweep. Never participated in sweeps until this year and I at least want to work all the ARRL sections. I also set a goal of 50,000 or more to help out my club effort.

And we’re off!

Since I wanted a clean sweep, I decided to use assistance from the cluster/network to find those needed callsigns. I started off running search and pounce looking for needed stations. Once I contacted all the needed stations, I just kept tuning around waiting to hear a CQ.

I’ve always heard about the long exchange which is what kept me from participating but doing SS on CW has somewhat prepared me for this. However I didn’t know exactly how people were going to say it. After a dozen or so contacts I got into a groove and started calling CQ.

Born to run

I rarely call CQ because with my station, It’s difficult to maintain a frequency. I am always being pushed out by the big guns. I’ve only ran during the New England QSO party because I’m the wanted station and it’s not really a big contest so real estate is much more available.

Since this contest is for North American operators (US/Canada), I  was able to hold a frequency and call CQ. I have a blast when operators line up to make contact with me. Western Massachusetts (WMA) isn’t considered rare since there are a few contesting stations on the air in the area but It was still fun. Some operators were excited they got WMA and were thanking me for a late multiplier.

Thanks to the almighty DVK

I am not a fan of talking to computers on the phone, why should I be a fan of talking to them on the radio? Some people are down right nasty when it comes to people using a Digital Voice Keyer and I can see their points but the DVK is what saves me and makes it more enjoyable. I used it call CQ and used it to help with every other exchange. Even with the help my voice is almost non exisitant after. I couldn’t imaging doing everything with the DVK. I guess I have respect for those ops with over 1000 contacts that are not using a DVK.


I didn’t spend much time on the air on Saturday. I saved my efforts for Sunday morning and afternoon. Honestly I didn’t think I was going to get a clean sweep due to 40/80 being somewhat closed during the day.  At around noon I needed 8 sections so I was bent on getting them. I had to fight in a pileups for AK and HI but the last three needed sections were WV, RI and GTA. I would not be able to reach them skywave so I hopped on 40 before it became popular and thankfully WV and RI responded to my calls. I was hearing GTA on others bands but it was just too close and my signal was going over them.  I stayed on 40 and sat around for any VE station. Finally around 3pm local I heard someone very loud say GTA. And thankfully they were calling CQ. He responded on my first attempt and jumped for joy


It’s very nice to see all the ARRL sections blue. Never happened before and was quite happy to do all 83 sections.

Trying Something New

I’ve always wanted to record my contests but never wanted to take the extra steps. Steve Cole (GW4BLE) from Wales records his contests and makes his contacts searchable. It’s enjoyable to see how you sound on the other side of the pond. I wanted have the exact same thing but I found people weren’t really forthcoming about the details.

There is a 3rd party application for N1MM+ called “qsorder” which will records the contest and will make seperate MP3’s for each contact. It listens to the UDP stream from N1MM and triggers the buffer to record 22 seconds before and after I hit the button to log the contact.

I wanted to find a way to display them like how GW4BLE does it or even the same as the wtQsoPlayer used in Wintest. I ended up making a directory listing, converted to CSV spreadsheet and modified it to link to the files. It’s 5min of work but after the deadline, I will make it available for others to search in the near future.

Claimed Scores


After making a clean sweep, I shifted my focus onto making as many contacts as possible. I wanted to pass 50k and did so right before I had to leave for other obligations.  I ended up with 307 contacts which yielded 50,962 points. I was happy about my results. After looking other claimed results, I guess I did ok.

Lessons learned

I have to look into ways to improve my rates. After looking at the claimed scores form the top of my class in my area, there is no way I would be able to compete unless I moved to a higher location and put up some more aluminum. Either I need to spend more time on the air (have yet to do a contest entirely) or learn how the spin the dial faster, make faster contacts or something.

Thanks for reading,
Jeff (NT1K)