Tuesday, 26 February 2019

The 2019 Novice Rig Roundup (NRR)


One of the most enjoyable operating events of the year is fast approaching -- the Novice Rig Roundup or 'NRR'. Technically, it is a contest, but I have the feeling that most participants think of it as just a lot of fun and a nice opportunity to hear and work some of the great old 'classics' of the past -- rigs that were used when they were teenage Novices or rigs that they could only drool about owning, back in those formative years when they each discovered the magic of radio.


Once again the bands will be alive with the sounds of Heath AT-1s, DX-20s, DX-35s, DX-40s and DX-60s, Johnson Adventurers, Eico 720s, Drake 2NTs, Knight T-50s and T-60s, Ameco AC-1s and of course, an endless variety of lovingly-constructed homebrew delights and ... a full 9 days to celebrate the 'good old radio days' of their teen years, as many of us remember them.

The dates to remember are 0000 UTC March 2 to 2359 UTC March 10 and this multi-day opportunity is, for me, what makes the NRR so enjoyable. With a nice diversion from the usual 'contest frenzy' associated with standard weekend operating events, the NRR can be enjoyed throughout the week, whenever you choose to participate. If last year's operating patterns continue, you should find activity at any time of the day ... and even more as sunset arrives.

With the fast-approaching solar minimum, we will be hard-pressed to relive the glory days of worldwide 15m propagation, as even last year's event proved to be tough on this band. With a little luck and, hopefully, a well-timed solar flare, we may get lucky! If you operate during the daylight hours, please get on 15m and give it a shot ... and be sure to announce your activity on the NRR's sked and chat page here, so that others will know where to find you, especially if you are rock bound in true Novice fashion. With our present spotty conditions, we need all the help we can get and the sked page proved a very valuable asset during last year's affair.

Although technically not required, if you plan to participate it's best to obtain your own NRR number, which is an easy 30-second process.

Additionally, there is an online logger where participants can post their daily log. The nifty logger also keeps track and figures out your score as it goes and no 'after contest' log needs to be submitted. If you plan on submitting a log, the logger is a requirement. The logger will also require you to set up a 'log-in' and once again, a simple 30-second process will take care of that from here. If you used the logger last year, you will have to set it up again for this year as the old system has been changed.




Stations may run either crystal-control or VFO or can switch between either method ... the online logger will keep track and score things appropriately.


All of the rules and information can be found on the NRR's excellent website. As well, the soapbox comments and station pictures from last year's NRR may provide the inspiration that you need to spark-up your own activity in this year's event ... from what I can tell, this year will be bigger and busier than ever!


There is also a dedicated NRR Yahoo Group, often the source of much valuable discussion but there is a now HUGE group of great NRR chat and activity now on Facebook's NRR Group here. I avoided Facebook for many years and have now discovered that it is an excellent forum for real time chat and information exchange ... one can still choose to maintain a very low profile and avoid unwanted interaction if set up correctly.

In 2017 I ran my homebrew Longfeller in the (now eliminated) QRP category, and had a ton of fun. You can read about it here. Last year, I refurbished a nice Drake 2NT that had been gathering dust in the basement for over 25 years and ran it during the 2018 NRR. You can read about my activity and some of the rigs encountered during last year's fun here.

If you have access to the web while operating, be sure to bookmark and check into the NRR's realtime chat page. Many ops that are crystal controlled will announce their operating frequencies, making it easier for you to find them ... sometimes way up or down from the normal NRR watering holes of ~  3550 - 3650 kHz7100 -7125 kHz, 21.100 - 21.150 MHz and 28.114, 28.120 MHz ... and don't forget to check the colorburst crystal frequency of 3579!

'CQ'ers should always remember to tune up and down the watering hole for replies from other NRR stations that may be crystal controlled and not able to answer you on your own frequency!! This is extremely important and a real reminder of what was common practice back in the Novice days.


courtesy: Harry - VE7AIJ
Harry's homebrew 6AQ5 crystal oscillator (Feb '55 Popular Electronics) and Hallicrafters S-53, pictured above, allowed him to work the world back in the amazing radio days of Cycle 19. Let's relive some of that excitement in the closing days of Cycle 24 ... in the NRR!


You still have time to get that old clunker on the air but if that's not possible, you can join the fun with your modern rig as well ... all are welcome to jump in and have a great week of radio-fun. I think you will be surprised, just as I was last year, how good some of these old classics can sound ... and you'll hear some great bug-fists as well.

As indicated on the NRR website, this is "more of an EVENT than just a typical contest ... once again taking our OLD ham radios off the shelf and putting them to use again! "

See you in the 2019 NRR!

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Hunting For NDBs In CLE241

ZWW - 215 courtesy: VE3GOP
This coming weekend will see another monthly CLE challenge. This time the hunting grounds will be 190.0 - 239.9 kHz as well as any NDBs with carriers on 'half-way' frequencies ‘nnn.5 kHz’, from 190.5 - 999.5 kHz)

For those unfamiliar with this monthly activity, a 'CLE' is a 'Co-ordinated Listening Event', as NDB DXers around the world focus their listening time on one small slice of the NDB spectrum.

Never tried the CLE? If you've ever been wondering what can be heard 'below' the broadcast band, this weekend would be a great time to give a listen and enter your first CLE!

A nice challenge in this one is to hear 'ZWW' on 215 kHz located near Winnipeg, Manitoba. It's a 25-watter and is well-heard throughout North America. Listen for its CW identifier on 215.388 kHz (repeated every 10 seconds), with your receiver in the CW mode .

MF propagation this week has been good and signals in this frequency range should be propagating well if things stay undisturbed for the weekend.

When tuning for NDBs, put your receiver in the CW mode and listen for the NDB's CW identifier, repeated every few seconds. Listen for U.S. NDB identifiers approximately 1 kHz higher or lower than the published transmitted frequency since these beacons are modulated with a 1020 Hz tone approximately.

For example, 'AA' near Fargo, ND, transmits on 365 kHz and its upper sideband CW identifier is tuned at 366.025 kHz while its lower sideband CW ident can be tuned at 363.946 kHz. Its USB tone is actually 1025 Hz while its LSB tone is 1054 Hz.

Often, one sideband will be much stronger than the other so if you don't hear the first one, try listening on the other sideband.

Canadian NDBs normally have an USB tone only, usually very close to 400 Hz. They also have a long dash (keydown) following the CW identifier.

All NDBs heard in North America will be listed in the RNA database (updated daily) while those heard in Europe may be found in the REU database. Beacons heard outside of these regions will be found in the RWW database.

From CLE organizer Brian Keyte, G3SIA, come details via the The NDB List Group:

Hello all,

Our 241st Co-ordinated Listening Event is next weekend. 

Do join in if you can.   First-time CLE logs will also be very welcome.

   Days:   Fri. 22 Feb. - Mon. 25 Feb.,  Midday-Midday, your local time
   Frequencies:    NDBs from 190 - 239.9 kHz
   PLUS:   Normal NDBs with carriers on 'half-way' frequencies ‘nnn.5 kHz’
                                  (from 190.5 - 999.5 kHz)

Both halves are for everyone to try.

Away from Europe many of the frequencies below 240 kHz are busy with
NDBs.  In Europe there are very few, but some DX ones might be heard
from North America and maybe from a few other places.

The normal NDBs which have carriers on the 'half-way' frequencies
e.g. 267.5 OPW,  333.5 VOG,  370.5 LB, 390.5 ITR, 433.5 HEN (not DGPS)
are scattered across Europe but there are very few of them elsewhere.
'Hot spots' are ENG and ITA.

These half-frequencies usually give comfortable QRM-free listening
and probably some good catches as a result.

America has only one or two (e.g. 381.5 SJX in MI) but East and West
coasters might hear some DX ones.

We last used these 'rules' for CLE225 in November 2017.
Please look out for the Final Details about two days before the CLE.

  73
  Brian
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Brian Keyte G3SIA                     ndbcle'at'gmail.com
Location:  Surrey, SE England                      CLE Coordinator)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

These listening events serve several purposes. They:
  • determine, worldwide, which beacons are actually in service and on-the-air so the online database can be kept up-to-date
  • determine, worldwide, which beacons are out-of-service or have gone silent since the last CLE covering this range
  • will indicate the state of propagation conditions at the various participant locations
  • will give you an indication of how well your LF/MF receiving system is working
  • give participants a fun yet challenging activity to keep their listening skills honed

The NDB List Group is a great place to learn more about the 'Art of NDB DXing' or to meet other listeners in your region. There is a lot of good information available there and new members are always very welcome. As well, you can follow the results of other CLE participants from night to night as propagation is always an active topic of discussion.

You need not be an NDB List member to participate in the CLEs and all reports, no matter how small, are of much value to the organizers. 

Remember - 'First-time' logs are always VERY welcome!

Reports may be sent to the NDB List Group or e-mailed to CLE co-ordinator, Brian Keyte (G3SIA), whose address appears above. If you are a member of the group, all final results will also be e-mailed and posted there.

Please ... give the CLE a try ... then let us know what NDB's can be heard from your location! Your report can then be added to the worldwide database to help keep it up-to-date.

Have fun and good hunting!

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Mr. Carlson's Lab - A YouTube Treasure

This blogspot was originally published in June 2015.

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I recently watched two superb YouTube videos. The first described exactly how to determine the 'shielded' side of a fixed capacitor and the importance of knowing this information.

As you have probably noticed, most modern fixed capacitors no longer indicate the 'grounded' end or the lead going to the internal shielding. At one time, the capacitor's polarity was commonly marked with a band on one end but this is no longer the case ... even though one side is indeed still the shielded side. Depending on exactly what part of the circuit your fixed capacitor is being used in, connecting it in the reverse direction (shield going to signal side), can introduce hum, RF pickup, instability and generally result in poorer capacitor / circuit performance ... and all it takes to determine which lead is which is an oscilloscope!


The second video I viewed shows the process used to resurrect a Yaesu FT-1000MP in truly terrible condition. In a very professional step-by-step process the video shows the logical and systematic approach at making the radio better than new.


Both videos are done by a truly gifted engineer, Paul Carlson, VE7ZWZ, and are exceptionally well done ... the quality one would expect to have to pay for rather than freely view on YouTube.

If you visit Paul's YouTube channel, you'll find a host of other radio and audio-related videos and I guarantee that you will learn something of value ... and probably hang around to watch several more. They are really well done.