Saturday, October 31, 2009

CQ-WW-SSB 2009 Contest

I had lots of fun with this contest. It did not start well for me though. First, I had intended to give a trial run to the N1MM contesting logging software a week before that at teh NY QSO Party, but I was too tired aftera train ride and  a long day in Old Forge NY to operate my station let alone with new software. So when thsi contest came, I had not even prepared its logging file. So it took me a few minutes to do that and then things seemed to work out OK but I noticed some problems, with the software, including it not staying connected to my radio and thus not logging the frequencies correctly and a few more minor glitches. So I decided to revert to my trusted regular logging software, Ham Radio Deluxe and again it took me a few more minutes to set a new log up but then I was up and hopefully running. That first evening was disappointing, conditions were awful and I soon called it quits for the night, as I saw not reason to stay awake just for a few QSOs that I might be able to make. Things remained slow early in the next morning but started getting better as suddenly the 15 meters band opened, while the 20 meters was so crowded it was difficult to make calls there, unless you had am amplifier. I'm operating at low power, 100 watts maximum, single operator, non-assisted. So I made quite a lot of contacts on 15m. Things quieted down in the evening, again I saw no reason to stay awake overnight. I had 117 QSOs so far, not bad, kind of opening the possibility to beat my own 181 QSOs record. On Sunday, things got really busy on 20m and almost as busy on 15m. I got busy and in the afternoon I had beaten my own recors and now was forging ahead, setting a 200 goal, reaching it, setting a 225 goal and reaching it too. I finally set my sights on 250 QSOs and reached that goal with 15 minutes to spare in the contest. I decided to quit there, claimnig a score of 89206 points. Some calls are multipliers and the math is too cumbersome for me to figure it out, that's why I have a computer!

I ran into troubles with the Cabrillo formatted log I am to use to report my activity. Saving my ADIF file from Ham Radio Deluxe, and using adif2cabr to get the Cabrillo file, I lost a colums of data. Using the HRD ADOF file and importing it into N1MM, then exporting a Cabrillo file from N1MM, I got a file where the frequencies were not right, there were some mistakes in the file mainly in Canadian calls (15) but I had the missing column. So I Took the Cabrillo file I got from adif2cabr, imported it as text file to Excel, imported teh N1MM cabrillo file into a different sheet in Excel, copied the missing column from the N1MM cabrillo file and pasted it into the adif2cabr file in Excel. Saved that Excel file as a text file, used Note Tab Lite to check it, reformatted it a bit, just added some tabs for clarity (although the file would have read correctly, but I like my columns well aligned and send the file in. It was accepted quite easily by the robot.

Why did I write all this? Simply, so I'll remember next time, if I bump into similar problems and if someone else needs that information, I got it here.

Do I expect to win? Heck no! Some of the big gun stations amass millions of points. But I already have accomplished my goal, my score is yet higher than ever before, I've also found some ways to improve on my operation. I started controlling my transmission via computer, instead of the foot switch. Takes a lot less coordination and my dog can sleep at my feet without being distrubed. I also used VOX, voice activated transmission, but I have to be careful as whatever I say may be trransmitted, including what I say to my dogs oand/or wife...

I ran into enough problems with N1MM to scrub it and revert to HRD. N1MM is supposed to be a very good contesting software. I'll give it another trial at a more minor contest and see if I can use it efficiently. I know that some of the problems I had were due to user error. The 400+ pages manual doesn't help much, too much information when you need quick answers but I've found a few shorter versions that may just put me on the right track. I already found some answers to problems I had so it may be worth another look. Also, if I get it to log right, then the Cabriullo file export will be a breeze, something I really like, especially since now, I tend to ahve a log that is getting longer and more problematic to edit, even if just for formatting.