Friday, September 28, 2012

Visiting Slot Zuylen

Three bands and moderate activity

With a gap in my schedule I headed over to one of the castles in the new reference list of COTA-PA: Slot Zuylen - a castle located in the small village of Oud Zuilen, bordering on the city of Utrecht.

Slot Zuylen - PA-00114
The first donjon on this location was built in the 13th century. The current castle was built in 1510. It was a "Ridderhofstad" meaning that ownership of the castle would give entrance into knighthood / nobility for the owner. More info on this castle (in Dutch) can be found here.

Slot Zuylen (Source: wikipedia)
I started on 20m working more than 50 OMs in one hour. When 20m started to slow down I went up to 15m as I saw some interesting spots on the cluster. Checking these frequencies I found that most of the DX was too weak to pick up with my modest /P setup. I did try 15m for a while and worked 6 stations in about 15 minutes. Before breaking up I went to check out 10m and worked only 2 Russian stations before I had to pack up and move on.

Operating position with view of the castle

Normally I would also use 40m, as there usually is quite a bit of traffic on there and it allows chasers that live closer by a chance to add a reference to their list. However, this time there was a lot of wind and I was operating in between trees. That combination is not very inviting. For the higher bands I can push out the mast but for 40m I use extensions, so I have to set up the sweeping 14m long fiberglass pole without getting stuck in the tree branches.

In total I worked 60 stations in 90 minutes radio time. DX came in from the east (UA9) and the west (K/VE). The maximum QRB was set to 6100km by an OM from New Jersey.
Alexander RV9UCN came by on two bands.

Thanks for stopping by.

Lars - PH0NO/P

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Interesting tool for quick logging

How to digitize your paper log with as little effort as possible?

If you like portable operations as I do, you will find yourself more than once typing in info from a paper log you made during that particular trip you could not take a laptop (or the battery died, or..).

If you are like me you do want to get the info logged accurately in your digital logbook but you also really hate this job. 

Complaining about it the other day to the WCA coordinator Andrew RN1CW he pointed me to an interesting piece of software: FLE - Fast Log Entry.

This simple little program lets you create a complete ADIF from a text file with the minimum amount of data you can imagine. DF3CB who wrote this application must have been a logging fan like me. He considered what data actually changes between the lines of your paper log. Only these changes are information relevant for the logging software.

For example, a piece of your paper log might look like:
13:12 PH0NO 57 59
13:13 NO0PH 59 59
13:20 HP0ON 59 56
13:22 ON0HP 56 58

If you want to enter this directly in HRD Logbook (the program I use), it takes you quite a few keystrokes / mouse clicks to get the job done. Even if you tell the program not to update the time stamp automatically (a feature that is very nice when logging live, but not so much when logging offline), it still takes an effort logging 150 calls.

This nifty little program lets you type the following in a simple text file (e.g. Notepad):
DATE 13/09/2012 (you define this once)
BAND 14 (you define this once, unless you changed bands somewhere of course)
13:12 PH0NO 57  (you only add reports <> 59)
3 NO0PH (you only add time info that has changed: in this case the minutes)
20 HP0ON @56 (again only the <>59 is added, the @ specifies this as a report received)
2 ON0HP 56 @58

At the end you have a text file containing less than the info on your paper log (incomplete timestamps, not all reports) and the program creates a complete ADIF file from it. In stead of clicking/typing more you click/type less than you wrote.

Not rocket science by any means but I found that it saved me quite a bit of time entering my last paper log.

Thanks to Andrew for the tip.

Lars / PH0NO

Thursday, September 6, 2012

French nature park FFF-049 and castle in dept. 37

Activating Langeais on four bands

On a short holiday trip to the Loire region I ended up near the town of Langeais. This town is situated within the nature park Loire Anjou Touraine. This town also features a nice medieval castle. I could not find the castle on the DFCF (national French castle program) list nor on the WCA list. Checking with the DFCF coordinator F6FNA I learned the castle had not been activated before. Jean Pierre gave me a new reference number as did Andrew RN1CW for the WCA program.

Castle of Langeais (F-05272 and DFCF 37-095)

Thursday afternoon / early evening turned out to be the time slot I could spend some time on the radio. I went over to Langeais and found a nice spot along the Loire river, less than 500m from the castle. This is an important distance as I was planning to activate the castle both under the WCA rules as well as under the DFCF rules. The latter states that one needs to be within 500m from the castle.
View from the operating spot towards the castle of Langeais

The conditions were rather peculiar. QSB was strong and there was not a lot of activity on the bands. There were some stations from the east that came in rather strong though, from Japan and all the way from Indonesia.

I started out on 15m, went down to 17m, 20m and 40m, to end on 20m again. I logged 154 calls, 105 of them on 20m. 40m was quieter than I expected it to be with only 25 calls logged. This might have been due to strong QRM/QRN that went up to S7.

Operating spot @ Langeais

DX came in from 4Z, EA8, W1, JA, UA9 and YB. YB1HK set the max QRB to 11900km - a new record during a WFF/WCA activation for me.
Alexander UR7ET came by on three different bands, Alexander RV9UCN on two.

Thanks all for stopping by.

Lars, F/PH0NO/P