Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fi-Ni Report's End of Year Top Ten List

End of the year means it's time to look back and look forward. My crystal ball is a little murky, but here is Cousin QRM's Top Ten Contest and DX Events for 2009. This is a very scientific culmination of what popped into my head. Agree? Disagree? Enjoy.

1. Sunspots
Or rather the lack of them. The predictions by the 'experts' throughout that year that cycle 24 would start "any time now" had the hollow ring of the politician's cry that the economic recovery was "imminent". Finally, we did see some sun spots toward the end of the year. But so far Cycle 24 has been about as robust as the economic recovery.

2. CQWW Contest Committee Gets Some Cohonies
After years of not-so-quietly-whispered rumors about rampant cheating by some competitors, the contesting world was SHOCKED to see several disqualifications handed down by the CQWW Contest Committee. On a roll, the contest committee then implemented some rule changes, among them the requirement for competitors to allow on-site visits to stations during the contest. No more looking at your neighbor's paper for the answers. Now if the ARRL would follow suit.

3. New contest clubs
2009 saw it's usual bemoaning of the death of amateur radio. But the sport of radio contesting continues to attract more and more participants, except from the world of nets. The most encouraging sign of the growth in contesting is the establishment of at least two new regional contest clubs. The Arizona Outlaws and the Louisiana Contest Club opened up shop this year, bringing new blood and camaraderie to the contesting scene. Growth is a sign of health.

4. DXpeditions
It seems no matter where we are in the sunspot cycle, there are always intrepid adventurers ready to go to some rock in an ocean and provide The Deserving with a new one, or two. For 2009 we tip our hat to the folks who brought us K5D, K4M, TX3A, and VK9GMW. They brought us top drawer entertainment, not to mention a couple of new counters.

5. 7O1YGF Accreditation
This one belongs among the Eternal Enigmas of DXing. We had long ago tossed this card in with our Romeo collection for the DXDCCC award. Suddenly, eight years after the fact, this one counts. Like manna from Newington, the news had many of us jumping for joy. Given recent world developments, this may likely be the last operation from 7O for some time, unless you count occupation forces.

6. Xtreme Contesting
The CQWW Contesting Committee makes our year end list again. Showing foresight and courage, they created a new just-about-anything-goes category to encourage advancement of the technology that is going to take radiosporting into the 21st century. While we've yet to see what will be made of this new opportunity, we applaud the effort to make it available. Ultimately, Machco Cueso and Leche Dinero will be recognized as the champions they are.

7. Blogs
This entry might seem a bit self-serving, but as the year came to an end, Cousin QRM had an epiphany. I get more of my day-to-day amateur radio news, information and entertainment from blogs than anywhere else. KA3DRR, K3NG, and G4ILO are must-reads on a regular basis, for their blog rolls if nothing else. is THE source for actual contesting news. Sad to say that the traditional dead-tree news sources have shrunk in importance. They are still enjoyable for the articles, but there is little 'news' in them by the time they arrive on the doorstep. This is true throughout the publishing industry, but our small niche is perhaps more vulnerable than the mass-market magazines. Hopefully, they can still turn a profit and keep publishing.

8. CQ-Contest
Like a pair of favorite worn-out jeans, the CQ-Contest reflector continues to provide comfort and utility. Comfort in knowing that regardless of whatever else may happen in the world, we can count on the annual arguments about cut numbers, Sweepstakes checks, and packet cheating. Somewhere among all the chaff, is an occasional nugget of useful information that (usually) makes all the other worthwhile. Not to mention that it provides inspiration for at least half the entries on this blog.

9. LoTW
The ARRL's Logbook of the World has matured into a useful tool for the DX'er. It still has it's many flaws, but it's still the best show in town. We still miss getting those pieces of cardboard with funny looking stamps on them, but the cost and time savings make LoTW a winner in my book. When first announced, I wondered how LoTW would affect the "business" model of DXpeditons depending on QSL donations for support. It appears that DXpeditoners have adapted to the new realities and it does not appear that LoTW is severely hampering their operations. Now, if we could only get ARRL and CQ and all the other awards to play nice and share with one another.

10. Did I say Ten?
Well, I can only think of nine.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Contest Community College 2010

The Big Guns over at Contest University have announced the opening of registration for the 2010 session of Contest University, to again be held in conjunction with (but not affiliated with) the Dayton Hamvention.

Most of us LIDS never make it to Dayton and if we did, we'd be too intimidated to enroll in something as prestigious sounding as Contest University. So if you're like us, but still think education is the path to Big Gunnery, don't forget the LIDS own Contest Community College. It's a correspondence course, so you can save your money, and we grade on a curve (if your check clears, you pass).

Below are some of the topics for the 2010 session of the LIDS Contest Community College. Compare our curriculum to the Contest University one and see if ours doesn't meet more of your needs. Registration is open now.

CCC 2010 Topics:
Radio Contesting Relaxed Ethics - Bigger scores, less work, mo' fun
Logging - Accuracy = How to Up Your Rate
Ergonomics and Station Efficiency - How to make room for your keyboard and your beer
Very Basic Antenna Applications - The PL-259 goes where?
Where to put your antennas -NOT where your XYL suggested
VHF Contesting - Yes, Virginia, there's something besides repeaters up there
DX Clusters and Contesting - how to hide your IP address from K1TTT
RTTY Contesting - F-keying your way to victory (some material may duplicate CW Contesting)
Mobile Contesting - As if cell phones weren't distracting enough
CQWW and ARRL DX Contests - Four events you'll never win
Advanced Antenna Applications - Fitting a Big Bertha into a suburban backyard
Sprint Contesting - a whole weekend of insanity compressed into a few hours
Advanced Sprint Contesting - caffeine is you friend
QSO Parties - just because it's a "party" it doesn't mean you break out the hors d'oeuvres
DXpedition Contesting - DX you'll never work from places you'll never be able to afford to go to
Propagation - No, we STILL ain't got no sunspots
WPX Contest - M/S means what now?
CW Skimmer - I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that .
Big Gun Station Economics - Ponzi schemes for beginners

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Considerate Operator's Net

The Lost Island DX Society is proud to announce a new on-air activity. The LIDS are sponsoring the Considerate Operator's Net, an event to celebrate the public service, friendship and utility of the plethora of nets, formal and informal, that operate throughout the amateur radio bands.

The burden of calling, controlling, and guarding the frequency of a net falls upon the shoulders of a handful of dedicated net control stations. The Considerate Operator's Net's goal is to train new net control operators as well as celebrate participation in nets.

Participants in the Considerate Operator's Net are encouraged to train as net control operators by finding a frequency and calling their own net. The suggested procedure is to call "CQ Considerate Operator's Net Test". This is somewhat unwieldy, so it is expected that many participants will shorten this to "CQ CON Test".

Participants not actively training as net control stations are encouraged to check into the nets being called by the net controllers. It is recommended that net control stations give check-in stations a signal report and indicate their approximate location by announcing their CQ zone number. Likewise, check-in stations should also give the net control station a signal report and their CQ zone number. The net control station may then dismiss the check-in station from his/her net and allow them to proceed to check into other nets while the net control station continues to take additional check-in stations to his/her net.

Net control stations and net participants are encouraged to maintain a log of all nets checked into and net check-ins that occur during the activity period. Certificates will be awarded based on the number of total net check-ins and nets checked-into. There is no differentiation between checking into a net or being a net controller and taking check-ins. Both activities count equally. Net logs will be collected and the activity reported at a later date.

Final details and timing of the Considerate Operator's Net activity have not been determined at this time, but preliminary planning indicates the last weekend in October might be a good date for the activity. If it proves popular, we might expand the Considerate Operator's Net test to other weekends.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tis' the Season

.... to wonder just what kind of word is tis'?

Given the current state of the economy, most of us aren't looking for a new Alpha under the Christmas tree or for Santa to leave a load of Rohn 55 in the driveway this year. But don't despair, you can find some inexpensive goodies at the official LIDS store to stuff your stocking with. And for less cheesy stocking stuffers, the LIDS recommend checking out the books and other items from our friends at Dashtoons as well.

We now return to our usual programming.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Disclaimers and Disavowals

Recently W4KAZ felt compelled to issue a disclaimer on his blog disavowing any and all connection to the Fi-Ni Report. Apparently the rumor, accusations and innuendo attributing the Fi-Ni Report to him became too much to bear. We understand. One man can only withstand so much slander.

The Lost Island DX Society and the Fi-Ni Report are happy to affirm the innocence of W4KAZ and clear him of all blame. W4KAZ is acquainted with lots of LIDS, but aren't we all?

While we are at it, we'll take the opportunity to clear up some other rumors regarding the LIDS and the Fi-Ni Report:

1. The Lost Island DX Society is not a powerful, super secret society of Big Guns who REALLY run things in the DX and contesting world much like the Masons and the Knights Templar run the rest of the world. While membership in the LIDS is strictly controlled (you just have to ask to join, that's all) that hardly makes it exclusive. Most members of LIDS keep quiet about it out of shame and good sense, KA3DRR excepted. We are reminded of Groucho Marx's comment that he'd never join a club that would have him as a member. Most hams feel the same way about the LIDS.

That being said, the LIDS' occasional foray into the nation's capital to lobby the powers that be or their periodic DX conventions in Las Vegas might be seen as gatherings of power and influence. We'll do nothing to dissuade that impression as it helps us write off our liquor tab and gambling losses as legitimate business expenses.

If curiosity about the membership of the Lost Island DX Society ever gets the best of you, next time you hear a Big Gun station on the air, just ask him/her "Are you one of them LIDS?" Their answer should remove any doubts.

2. The LIDS and the Fi-Ni Report disavow any connection, influence, or cooperation with the following:
a. The sunspot cycle (we leave that to the Palos Verdes Sundancers)
b. QST, CQ magazine and Wayne Green
c. The M/S rule change for CQ WPX
d. The Kennedy assassination
e. The approval of 7O1YGF for DXCC credit
As stated in our profile, the Fi-Ni Report aspires to the journalistic standards set by The Weekly World News. For those unfamiliar with this paragon of supermarket tabloid journalism, it is printed on the finest birdcage liner and fish wrapping paper available. It has been an invaluable resource for housetraining puppies since its inception. We have limited the Fi-Ni Report to electronic form in an effort to prevent the useless slaughter of trees to give physical form to the useless slaughter of "news" that we create.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

LIDS Sweepstakes

Sunday night brought down the curtain on another year of November madness. No, not Black Friday, that's still to come - Sweepstakes. This year's phone Sweepstakes was certainly a fun ride and it looks like many records will be broken.

All, however, was not easy going. The Lost Island DX Society's resident phone expert, Rusty Key, suffered a severe burn to his tongue Saturday morning while having his morning coffee. As a result, Rusty's speech was severely impaired. Of course, he had not previously prepared the wav files for his voice keyer, so Rusty was forced to spend the weekend calling ,"Theee Coooo Thweeeeppp Thaaaks, Theee Coooo Thweeeppp Thaaaks." That made getting a run going very difficult, which forced Rusty to spend most of the contest in search-and-pounce mode.

But even that was an exercise in frustration. Many (most?) ops had trouble translating exchanges like "Numma Freee Freee Thiickks Bwaah-wo" which resulted in lots of requests for repeats. It appears that some Sweepstakes operators have a cruel streak in them as some of the repeated requests for repeats were accompanied by audible snickers.

This obviously made for a difficult contest. That frustration was the likely source of Rusty's mistake on Sunday when, while trying to swing the beam between NWT and VI for the multipliers, he went past the rotor stops and destroyed the rotor. Rusty's beam is now orientated perfectly for working HC8 next weekend, but probably no where else.

But all was not lost. Even with a broken rotor, Rusty managed to work all the sections for the treasured Clean Sweep. Overjoyed at his achievement, Rusty couldn't suppress himself from keying up the LIDS repeater and announcing, "Tweepp, Tweepp, I gahed a keen tweepp!" Congratulations, Rusty.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Minutes of the October LIDS Meeting

The regular monthly meeting of the Lost Island DX Society was held in the back room of the usual watering hold, The Plugit Inn, on October 30, 2009. The meeting was called to order at 6:32 PM by newly elected President Randy.

President Randy welcomed all members and guests and commended some of them for getting in the spirit of things and wearing their Halloween costumes to the meeting, even if it was a day early. As the confused members looked around the room, President Randy realized from the uncomfortable silence that no one actually had worn a Halloween costume to the meeting. Couture has never been a strong suit of the LIDS.

The first order of business was to get drink orders in for all present. Rusty Key ordered his usual Guinness on tap, knowing full well the Plugit Inn does not carry Guinness on tap, and was once again met with a hail of spitballs and detritus. A semblance of order returned to the meeting afterwards.

President Randy announced that after giving careful consideration to the matter and discussing it with the Executive Bored of LIDS, beginning in January, the monthly LIDS meeting will begin at 7:00PM rather than the usual 6:30PM start time.

Several members immediately jumped up to express their dissatisfaction with the new start time. Among the arguments made against changing the start time were:
- If it ain't broke, why fix it?
- A later start time will discourage folks from coming to the meeting, reducing Society participation
- Some folks won't get the word and will show up at 6:30, not find anybody around and leave
- The 6:30 start time is traditional and you shouldn't mess with tradition
- Changing the start time means that we can't compare future meetings to past ones, so all the old meeting minutes will be useless

After listening to the complainers grouse for about ten minutes, a group of supporters for the meeting change chimed in and began to defend the idea of moving the meeting time. The pro-time change arguments included:
- A later start time will allow folks who work later to be able to make it to the meeting on time, which might increase meeting attendance
- Since Happy Hour at the Plugit Inn starts at 7:00, all the 807's will be Happy Hour priced instead of having to pay full price for the first one
- Half of the crowd shows up late anyhow, so a 7:00PM start time might mean everybody will be on time and there won't be so many interruptions from the late arrivals
- A later start time will likely attract new members who could never make the old start time

One old timer claimed that the meetings used to start at 7:00PM years ago, but got changed sometime back in the late sixties. Or maybe it was the seventies. Either way, he blamed the change on the AR-double L (sic).

Several of the cooler heads in the room opined that ultimately the meeting start time would make no difference in how many people showed up to a LIDS meeting, but if the price of beer kept going up, no matter what time the meeting started, fewer would show up. There was muted general agreement on the latter.

One armchair lawyer expressed the opinion that just because the meeting officially starts at 7:00PM that does not prevent individual LIDS from gathering at 6:30PM and enjoying a cold 807 before the official start of the meeting at 7:00PM. A second armchair lawyer objected to the interpretation of the first armchair lawyer, claiming that a pre-meeting gathering of LIDS was in fact a de-facto meeting, if enough LIDS showed up, and hence there was potential that society business could be conducted at this de-facto meeting outside the view of the general membership, thus any pre-meeting gathering was expressly prohibited.

Another armchair lawyer chimed in that he thought that was excessively harsh and, surely, we could trust our fellow LIDS to gather outside of an official meeting and not create mischief. Several mumblers about the room commented about "certain" members lacking moral fiber and the need for rules that could be strictly enforced. When confronted about whom the "certain" members might be, the mumblers said they didn't know of any personally, but had heard rumors of their existence.

Rusty Key spoke up and suggested that the meetings be moved to Wednesdays.

At this point in the discussion, the general membership was about half way through the second round of 807s and logic and pronunciation were being compromised. President Randy managed to get the crowd's attention by whispering that there had just been a cluster spot for a P5 station on 20m. Once he had the crowd's attention, he stated that he and the Executive Bored had already made the decision to change the meeting start time and that was that. He hoped all the loyal membership would continue to come to the meetings, but understood if some found the new start time did not fit their schedules.

C.W. Guy (French pronunciation ) announced that all loyal and steadfast LIDS should arrive anytime they wanted before 7:00PM and keep their butts in the chair until the meeting ended. There was general agreement on his point, but some question on the practicality of it, as by now the third round of 807s had arrived and the lease on the first two was expiring for many.

Having settled, more or less, the issue of meeting starting time, the Society moved on to other business. By this point in the evening, the fourth round of 807s had arrived, so details are pretty vague. There was something about some contests. Maybe some DX. I dunno.

Respectfully Submitted
Cousin QRM

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shack Security for Big Guns

Last weekend, Mach Cuesew went to his Secret RF Lair to continue preparations for dominating the Xtreme Contesting category in the upcoming CQWW CW contest. Upon arriving, Macho noticed things in the shack looked disturbed. He immediately called his fellow Xtreme contester, Leche Dinero to inquire if he had been by the Secret RF Lair. Leche denied coming anywhere near the Secret RF Lair, as he had been busy in the ring practicing his Flying Leap off of the top rope move all week.

Macho said no equipment had been stolen or damaged, but it appears a spate of spurious cluster spots had been made from his computer over the last week. Even more confusing, it appears that some of the spots were actually legitimate, leading credence to either the blind-squirrel theory or the 1000-monkeys-in-a-room-with-a-1000-typewriters theory. Since the Secret RF Lair has only two keyboards, we favor the former theory. Either way, the security of the Secret RF Lair had been breached. Considering that the security consisted of a rusty latch with padlock that closed but didn't lock, this was not a tremendous surprise.

Macho Cuesew decided it was time to implement serious security to protect the shack of the future Xtreme Contesting Champion. Macho called up Dr. DX's Lab of Mad Sciencery for help. The good doctor was not in, but his able assistant Algor was happy to help out. Algor brought over Dr. DX's highest tech electronic lock and installed it on the door leading to the Secret RF Lair. The new lock is voice activated. There is a microphone mounted beside the door that looks a lot like the head of a D-104. To gain access, you step up to the microphone and shout "59-59-59" quickly. However, it's not that simple. The electronics are tuned to recognize only true Big Gun operators (like Macho and Leche) so the access code will really sound more like "FiNiFiNiFiNi". If you've never run a pileup in a big DX contest, you'll never be able to duplicate the sound. After installing the new lock, Algor pointed out that the lock operates off of wind power from the person yelling into the microphone, thus making the new lock very green friendly. This, of course, ignores the carbon dioxide exhaled and halitosis of the speaker.

With the Secret RF Lair newly secured, Macho Cuesew is continuing preparations for his first official championship in Xtreme Contesting. Dr. DX's FiNi Lock will be available to other Big Guns after the first of the year. In addition to securing a Big Gun shack from vandals and thieves, the FiNi Lock is also useful from keeping pesky CQWW Inspectors out during contests.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another Kind of Code Talker

I don't think this is the same as the Navajo code talkers.

Contest Season 2009 Mid-point

How's your contest season going?

This is the saddle of fall activity; CQWW SSB and CW SS are behind us, SSB SS and CQWW CW are just ahead. Then there is the holiday flurry of ARRL 160m, ARRL 10m and the Stew Perry before we collapse into the end of the year. Oh yeah, we gotta stay awake or wake up long enough for Straight Key Night. (No, it's not a CONTEST, but as an operating activity, it serves to keep us humble to once a year pull out the J-38 and make an unmitigated abomination of Mr. Morse's code by trying to send something other than 5NN)

Our CQ SSB effort wasn't too awfully different from Dash's. But Cousin QRM usually finds Gummi Bears when he shakes the rig rather than pretzels. It's funny how for months we've bemoaned the lack of sunspots and poor conditions only to find 15m hopping during the world's biggest DX contest. Years ago someone once told me that a dead band was composed of thousands of operators listening for the band to open. Or maybe we just got lucky. Macho Cuesew and Leche Dinero are still trying to steal enough network bandwidth to get their worldwide network of remote receivers to work properly. Maybe by the CW contest.

Sweepstakes is always a blast, even if the cw event serves to re-enforce our humbleness even more than SKN. Cousin QRM keeps trying for that elusive sweep, and Lord knows he needs the broom to clear off the cracker crumbs from the shack table. Rusty Key pointed out that if all the LIDS lived close enough, we could enter the club category and whup all them other big contest clubs, east and west. But our wide flung membership only fits within the 'circle' that is Mother Earth. (So far, none of the astronaut-hams have expressed an interest in being one of the LIDS, but we welcome inquires.)

So this last 'free' weekend of the year will be devoted to repairing antennas and raking leaves around Dr. DX's Lab of Mad Sciencery. Get the voice keyer files recorded and polish the D-104. Polish the beam with Dr. DX's Antenna Wax, and chill the Beveridges. The rest of the year, and contest season, are coming fast.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Homebrew kW for the Big Guns

DIY, or homebrew is one of the most active and popular areas of the amateur radio hobby, particularly among the QRP crowd.. They have been designing, building and sharing circuits for the flea power fanatics for a very long time. In fact, approximately half of the all the Altoids sold in the US have the candies thrown away just for the tins to house a Powermite or other QRP rig.

Well it's time the Big Gun QRO crowd join the fun. The next edition of QRM!, the official journal of the Lost Island DX Society (LIDS) will feature an article on a homebrew kW amplifier. But this amp doesn't depend on a big fire bottle 3-500 to make it's heat, or even a ceramic 4CX800. This is a solid state kW.

There are several solid state kW amps on the market, but they all use fancy high power transistors, which carry comparable price tags. The price of a replacement set of finals for some of these amps is worth as much as your car. Well, that is, it's worth as much as MY car. YMMV, but the ole' Gremlin still gets around pretty good.

This exciting new high power amp design uses a power device that is dirt cheap and readily available - the 2N2222, the cockroach of solid state devices. The lowly 2N2222 is the unappreciated ugly step-sister with the hairlip of the transistor family.

By itself, the 2N2222 is only capable of generating 1W of power, but put 1,000 of them in a cascode/cascade design and you've got a full gallon of RF ready to pump into the ether. But a 1,000 transistors sounds awfully expensive, doesn't it? 2N2222's are dirt cheap. 1,000 of them will run you $435 from Digi-Key. That's less than fifty-cents a watt - a bargain compared to hollow-state technology.

There is another advantage of running a massive number of solid-state devices compared to tubes or high-powered transistors - redundancy. I like to call it putting all your eggs in one basket conundrum. With a big tube amp, you might have one, two, three, or even four tubes to generate that kW. If you pop a tube, you lose, at best case a quarter of your output power. Worst case, you're back to fighting it out with the QRP, excuse me, low power crowd running a 100W. Then you've got the big expense of buying replacement tubes. Ouch! See the comment above about the price of power devices and cars.

With this new homebrew kW design you have 1,000 transistors. So what if you lose 10, 20, even 50 of them? That drops you from a kW to 950W. That's less than 0.25 dB loss. And the replacement cost is less than a week's worth of Starbuck's.

Tube amps require high voltage power supplies, typically 2kV or more. You've got to be careful around that kind of voltage, lest you end up flying across the room from an errant screwdriver. It might be fun the first time or two, but after a while the twitches become annoying.

With 2N2222's you can build this amp to run off of 12V, a nice safe voltage. And the beefy 800A power supply can be used for spot welding in a pinch as well. Dual use technology - yet another advantage to this design.

It's tough to sandwich 1,000 transistors into an Altoids tin, even if you use surface mount. But we've found a source for a special breadbox size Altoids tin that's just perfect to hold a kilo of 2N2222's. (See photo at the top of the page)

The next issue of QRM! will be available as soon as the printer finishes the that batch of contest certificates for the World Wide LIDS QSO Party. If you're not a LIDS member, but would like a copy of the new issue of QRM! with the new amp design in it – just ask one of the local LIDS to borrow their copy!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Crossing the Streams, uh, Threads

In the wake of the CQWW phone weekend, the contest reflector is awash in the usual post-game chatter. There are however, two particular threads that are worrisome.

The first is a discussion thread about the, umm, extremes some ops go to in order to maintain a full 48-hours of butt-in-chair (BIC) time. Nature calls us all, but we don't all get up to answer, apparently.

The other is a discussion thread about self-spotting.

My fear is that these threads will inevitably merge.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Big Event - Round One

With zero hour fast approaching, all the LIDS are making last minute preparations for CQWW - The Phone Edition.

Cousin QRM is pouting that he didn't get selected by the CQWW contest committee for a station inspection.

Macho Cuesew and Leche Dinero are squirreled away in their secret lairs trying to desperately steal enough network bandwidth to operate their worldwide network of remote receivers.

Rusty Key is practicing his vocal exercises to keep his voice in shape for an entire weekend of screaming into his trusty D-104.

The LIDS will all sit out the first minute of the contest in memory of C6APR.

It's almost time, fellows. Join the LIDS and fire up the filaments, point the beam somewhere, strap in and enjoy the show. You're all Fi-Ni!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tragedy Strikes C6APR CQWW Team

The Fi-Ni Report attempts to find the humor in our shared obsession we call radio-sport. Today, there is no humor, only sorrow as we mourn the tragic deaths of four of our Big Gun brethren. Yesterday W2GJ, K3IXD, W3PP, and K4QO were killed when their plane crashed on takeoff from the Summerville, SC airport. The four were headed to Bermuda to operate as C6APR for the CQWW phone contest this weekend.

Whether we knew them personally or just from the contacts on the air, the contesting and DXing communities have suffered a loss. We mourn for the families and friends and share their grief. At 0000Z Saturday the bands will explode with activity as usual, but there will be a hole in the bands where C6APR should be. We pray that they are now where the bands are always open, even the long path, and all the signals really are 59.

You can read a recent article about the C6APR operation here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

CQWW Team Competition

The Lost Island DX Society is putting together a pair of teams for the Team Competition of CQWW.

In light of the recent rule changes, we will assemble two teams - team one will the Yellow Cards, team two will be the Red Cards.

Sign up today for your choice of team! Just leave a comment below.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

UP5LID DXpedition Report

The first DXpedition by LIDS for LIDS, working all LIDS is now history. The Lost Island DX Society sponsored not one, but two DXpeditions back in August. What? You didn't know? Two groups of LIDS headed out to activate special calls; one to Kazakhstan to operate UP5LID and one to Sri Lanka to operate 4Q2LID.

The UP5LID group arrived at the airport bright and early for departure, loaded down with gear, only to meet their first obstacle. The airlines had no reservations for us. Turns out the package deal we got from Madoff-Ponzi Travel really was too good to be true. With the expedition threatened to end before it began, the group pooled their traveler's checks and maxed out their credit cards and kited a few checks to book new flights. As our travel arrangements were last minute, the routing was not the most direct. Somehow we managed to fly through Atlanta and Newark. Twice. And that was just on the flight out.

After a torturous 72 hours of air travel, over half spent in various airports bars to pass the time, we managed to arrive in beautiful Kazakhstan. Our computer/logging guru, Rusty Key, managed to be in country a full ten minutes before offending our hosts by observing that the Kazakh people were nothing like Borat. Rusty is a phone only operator and not the sharpest tack in the crew, but he does know his way around logging software, so we tolerate him. Rusty claims to be a distant relative of Francis Scott Key, author of the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem and one of the most unsingable songs of all time. Rusty fancies himself a songwriter as well and we have to suffer his country ballads such as "Mommas don't let you babies grow up to be QRPers" and "Rhinestone Contesters".

Having spent all of our money buying new airplane tickets, we didn't have much money left for accommodations, since those arrangements were also made by Madoff-Ponzi Travel. Fortunately we found a very helpful cab driver named Nockmore who directed us to a very affordable bed and breakfast run by his sister and her husband. Only there were no beds, just mats on the floor, and no breakfast either. But, hey, we were here for DXing, not sleeping. Or eating.

We starting setting up our station in Nockmore's sister's garden. Since all our money had gone to buy new plane tickets, we didn't have money left to afford the extra baggage charges to bring the beams and amplifiers. But we did bring along some wire to make dipoles from. Unfortunately, we managed to leave behind the coax, too. Fortunately, zip cord is pretty universal and can be pressed into service as a feedline when needed.

With a dipole in the air and the rig ready to go, we were ready to put UP5LID on the air. That was when Rusty discovered we had also managed to leave the microphone behind, so he was SOL for the DXpedition, but the rest of us could still operate cw.

When UP5LID came on the air, it certainly stirred up a lot of excitement. We generated lots of on-air activity, but few of them seemed to be trying to work us. In fact, some of the responses we got when we called "CQ UP5LID "were down right rude. The pileups we did generate were exciting . The JA's were the most unruly, while the Europeans were gentlemanly and well behaved. Did I happen to mention that Kazakh vodka is amazing cheap and plentiful?

With the delays caused by our travel snafus, we had to cut our operating time short by several days. But when we shut down the UP5LID operation, we were happy with all the calls we had put in the log, and hopefully gave many a new one.

The circuitous routing to get to Kazakhstan was repeated on our return flights. But as luck would have it, we had a long layover in Morocco, which would allow us to play tourist for a few hours. For security sake, we had to carry all of our gear with us, which made things a little awkward, but we still managed to get out and see a few interesting sites.

During our site seeing trip, our log master, Rusty Key, made the mistake of eating some shawarma from a street vendor. About thirty minutes later, Rusty was in severe intestinal distress. In a fit of panic, he traded his laptop for a half roll of scratchy toilet paper. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Unfortunately, Rusty's laptop contained all of the expedition logs. Our QSL manager was all prepared to order cards and ready to upload the logs to LoTW as soon as we got back, but unfortunately we have no other records to QSL from. If someone is passing through Morocco and finds a fellow named Murkat with a nice laptop, he might be able to confirm a UP5LID QSO for you.

We have not heard back from the 4Q2LID crew, but last reports sounded like they were doing well. The last contact we had from them, they had managed to hook up with what I assume is some sort of Sri Lankan baseball team, as their name was the Tamil Tigers. The Tigers must be in spring training since the LIDS crew said they were staying at the Tiger's camp. Actually, they said they were "being held" at the Tiger's camp, but I assume the message was garbled during transmission. They are a little overdue returning, but we assume they have had travel difficulties similar to the UP5LID team. When they return, we'll share all the exciting details with the Fi-Ni Report.

Full Disclosure

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released new guidelines governing endorsements and testimonials which include blogs for the first time. Under the new rules, blogs that do not disclose "material connections" with the products they advertise or endorse can face fines of up to $11,000. What are "material connections"? Getting stuff for free or getting compensated for the endorsement.

To insure that we are in compliance with the new FTC rules, the Fi-Ni Report would like to disclose that, yes, we have received and used Dr. DX's Antenna Wax and Sunspot Salve, as well as McElroy's Key Grease. However, we have received no discernable benefit from any of these products. So take that as you will.

What stylish LIDS look like

Doing what they do best....

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Age Surveys

Recently, CQ Magazine contest column editor and all around Big Gun, K1AR reported on an age survey of contesters. Although this was an admittedly unscientific survey, the results were pretty much what we all know - contesters are getting older. The average age for American contesters was 55; the average for European contesters was 45 years of age.

This has resulted in another round of collective hand wringing about how to get more youth into amateur radio in general and contesting specifically. Worthy goals, but we'll leave it to mo' smarter folks than us to figure out how.

From our vantage point here at Lost Island, we've taken a different perspective on the aging of our fellow amateurs. (Who woulda thunk?)

Age is a numerical counting of the time we've spent on this spinning rock making laps around Ol' Sol waiting for sunspots to open up 10 and 15 meters again. They say a man is only as old as the woman he feels, but we try to keep this a family friendly blog so we won't pursue that line of thinking.

Nevertheless, our point is that numerical age is but one way of counting. Perhaps a more important measure of a man, and a woman, is a measure of their maturity and growth as a human being.

With this in mind, we decided to conduct our own highly unscientific survey of our fellow amateurs by turning on the radio and seeing the current state of ham radio, judged through its own medium.

After spending an evening listening to the pileups for FT5GA, we tuned down to the upper ends of 40m and 75m SSB.

The good news is that the reported aging of amateur radio appears to be premature.

Our best guess is that the average age of the operators we heard on the air is about four.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Interview with a Privately Disqualified Contester

The intrepid reporter over at has provided excellent coverage of the disqualifications and controversy around the CQWW results for 2008. One of the more troublesome aspects of the CQWW scoring is the rumored "private disqualifications" of certain operators. Certain operator scores posted on 3830 or in the CQWW log database mysteriously disappear from the final results. While some instances might be attributable to human error, others may not be, as some high profile entries have been known to disappear. Officials with the CQWW Contest Committee have to date refused comment.

The Fi-Ni Report has exclusively managed to locate a contester who claims to have actually been privately disqualified from the CQWW contest and is willing to go on the record with his story, as long as his identity is protected. We will refer to him only as Deep Key. We have no way of confirming the details of Deep Key's story, but leave it up the reader to decide if he is believable.

Deep Key is an experienced contester who has entered the major contests for many years. He is not a Big Gun and does not consistently appear in the Top Ten Boxes. Two years ago Deep Key had an exceptionally good year in the CQWW CW contest and submitted his score with hopes of perhaps earning a certificate.

"I thought I ran a clean contest, really I did," claims Deep Key. He submitted his score as usual and forgot about it knowing the results would be out in the usual eleven and one-half months time frame.

"One night in June, I went outside in the dark to switch the matching section on my vertical over from 160m to 80m. It was dark out, no moon. Suddenly I was jumped from behind. Someone threw a bag over my head and I was hustled into a van. No one said anything. I was held down on the floor and my hands tied behind my back. We drove for what seemed like hours, but I really couldn't tell you how long it was."

Scared for his life, Deep Key expected the worst. Finally, the van stopped and he was hustled into a building, the bag still over his head.

"When they pulled the bag off, I was seated in a darkened room with a single overhead light above me shining in my face. In front of me was a table with three people seated at it. All of them had on black robes with hoods and they all wore black masks and had black gloves on their hands. It was just like some star chamber movie set or something."

"No one would talk to me. The people at the table each had a paddle in front of them and they would send me questions in CW. They kept asking if I had used packet during the contest. I told them no, but they kept asking. They said they had proof I was cheating with packet. I kept denying it. It was nerve wracking. One of the guy's fist was so bad, I could barely understand him. He had this weird spacing thing going on. I had to keep asking for repeats. Another claimed that was proof I was a cheater since I couldn't copy CW very well. They keep pounding away at me, all sending on top of one another, over and over again accusing me of cheating with packet."

"Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and I broke. I told them, yes, I looked at the packet cluster. I would have done anything to get them to stop. But I didn't cheat. I just wanted it to stop."

"After I confessed, they told me that I would be privately disqualified. My score would just disappear. They said if I ever told anyone about it something much worse would happen to me. Someone mentioned pins in the coax."

"The next thing I knew, someone threw the bag back over my head and I was hustled back out to the van. Again, no one said a word to me as we drove. The next thing I know, the van screeches to a halt and someone pushes me out the door. I hit the ground hard as the van sped away. I picked myself up and took off the hood. I was standing in front of my own house and the sun was just coming up."

"I've never told anyone about what happened that night, until now. I still operate the CQWW contests, but I haven't sent in a log since then. I can't even think about looking at the packet cluster, not even during the week when not contesting. It's really hurt my DXing. Honestly, I didn't cheat. OK, maybe during one of my breaks I glanced at the cluster briefly, but that was just to check the propagation conditions, honest!"

Deep Key has the look of a broken man. His eyes wander constantly, looking at nothing and everything at the same time. Whether this is the result of his experience is difficult to ascertain. Is his story true? Is there a CQWW star chamber working behind the scenes to keep the contest clean? We can't say for sure. Perhaps the mere possibility is enough to give those who would push the limits a little too far pause. But come this fall when the DX begins to fly through the air, at least one operator is sure to be keeping his nose clean, very clean.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Xtreme Contester in Training

Investigative journalists for the Fi-Ni Report (stop laughing!) have obtained video of Xtreme contester Macho Cuesew in his secret lair training for the CQWW contests. It is rumored that Macho's lair may be near the North Korean border, thus this video was obtained at great risk. Bill Clinton was standing by, just in case. Informants tell the Fi-Ni Report that Macho spends hours a day working out as shown in the video, getting in tip-top shape for the upcoming contesting season. These secret training techniques used by Big Guns all over have never been captured on video before.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Cure for the Sunspot Blues

Are your sunspots faded and weak? Is your flux flagging? Then you need Dr. DX's Old Dotty Disk Sunspot Salve!

Applied topically, Dr. DX's Sunspot Salve will help revitalize your slow and weak cycle and give you strong, frequent sunspots . Dr. DX's Sunspot Salve stimulates the development of new sunspots and encourages new cycles by increasing magnetic activity and inhibiting convection. With Dr. DX's Old Dotty Disk Sunspot Salve you can again experience the frequent, vigorous sunspot activity of your youth.

Occasional declines in sunspot activity are normal and natural. However prolonged periods of sunspot inactivity may be caused by stress or more serious factors. While Dr. DX's Sunspot Salve cannot correct fundamental causes of sunspot dysfunction, it can stimulate the creation of new sunspots and shorten periods of inactivity.

Warning. If you experience sunspots lasting for more than 28 days, consult … someone. May cause coronal mass ejections and increased solar flares.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sporadic Pee - A New Propagation Mode

It appears there's a new way of bouncing radio signals around to work DX. Thanks to the eagle eye of W4KAZ who spotted this prime opportunity for turning pee into propagation. Now we'll have to start tracking the space shuttle's dump schedule to look for DX. Who'll be the first to work VUCC-P? DXCC-P?

Where, oh where, are the sunspots?

Friday, September 18, 2009

New Cheating Accusations Surface in Radio Sporting

The summer of 2009 has been a difficult one for the amateur radio radio-sporting (i.e. contesting) community. After years of rumor and innuendo, the CQWW contest committee has publicly lowered the boom, disqualifying a number of top stations and operators. First the CQWW SSB contest saw several top multi-two stations disqualified for apparently being unable to count to ten. Then just a month later, with the results of the CQWW CW contest announced, comes word that the top claimed single op score was disqualified along with several others. While CQ Magazine has remained extremely terse in their announcements of the disqualifications, the website has provided excellent coverage and commentary.

On the heels of the CQWW controversies comes accusations of contest cheating by another world class top operator, i.e a Big Gun.

The Poisson d'Avril contest was started in 1992 and is held every year on April 1. Every year since its inception the contest has been won by K1DG. While K1DG is an acknowledged world class operator, having won the World Radiosport Team Championship, albeit with family help, the string of 18 consecutive top finishes in any contest is simply beyond credibility. In no other contest has a single operator been able to finish in first place more than a handful of times. Yet, K1DG has won every running of the Poisson d'Avril contest since its inception.

A careful examination of the rules for the Poisson d'Avril contest, which is difficult given that they are published in such obscure languages as Esperanto, l33t, redneck, and pig latin, shows that the contest is not only sponsored by K1DG, but that he also is responsible for all log checking. How such blatant bias has been allowed to continue for so long is certainly a question that senate investigators should ask when this scandal finally receives the attention it deserves.

In what may have been the height of arrogance, back in 2006, K1DG preemptively declared himself the winner of the contest from 2006-2009.

But there is a glimmer of hope that respectability may be restored to this contest. The rules for 2010, which were announced back in 2006, provides new categories and much needed reform. However, like most government reform, a careful reading of the rules exposes loopholes large enough to drive a truck carrying a Big Bertha through.

Will the 2010 Poisson d'Avril contest finally have a winner other than K1DG? We will have to wait and see if legitimate competition will finally be allowed to occur. But we have all suspicions that if K1DG's call doesn't top the winner list, it might well be K1AR, in which case charges of nepotism will likely follow.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dr. DX's Double Zepp Antenna Wax

The cry from across the land has been heard! Those desiring their own sticker, mousepad, coaster, or magnet of Dr. DX's Double Zepp Antenna Wax can now get them here. The talented artist responsible for the good Dr.'s logo, Jeff, K1NSS, is making them available for a limited time (lim t -> infinity). Also check out Jeff's Dashtoons site.

We now return you to your normal radio silence while we wait for sunspots to appear.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Op-Ed: Government Funded Heath Care

Have you seen the TV news lately? With the bands in such bad shape and the late summer thunderstorm season in full swing, I've spent more time than usual with the Idiot Box on to give me something to listen to other than bandnoise. I swear, some of that stuff on TV almost makes the shenanigans on 75m phone sound like intelligent conversation.

I keep hearing the Idiot Box talking about National Heath Care and the government taking it over. Now, I'm not a big boat anchor fan , but Heathkits were still a staple of many shacks when I were a snot nosed Novice. I admit there was a day when I would have welcomed an SB-line in my shack. I still stop and have a gander when I pass an SB-220 at a hamfest. They are still fine amps after all these years. I even owned a Benton Harbor lunchbox at one point in my ham career, but never did work anybody on it.

Why the government would want to worry about maintenance and repair of Griefkits is beyond me. They were decent rigs in their day, and anyone who enjoys nostalgia has every right to preserve and enjoy their green boxes all they want. But why should the government spend our tax dollars to help keep these boat anchors running?

What makes Heathkits more deserving than Hallicrafters or Collins or National rigs? They were all American manufacturers of fine radio equipment, in their day. Shouldn't they, and their fans, deserve the same support?

No sir, the LIDS do not support government funded Heath care. If you want to keep your Heathkits running, that's all well and good, but do it on your own dime!

73, Cousin QRM

Monday, September 7, 2009

New Tools (Toys) for the Contest Season

The LIDS just got back from a road trip to the Stinkbait Hollar Hamfest and Contest Symposium last weekend. All of the new products for Big Guns are introduced there. Dayton is too far a trip and too many Shack-on-a-Belt wannabe Squirt Pistols for those catering to Real Big Guns. No, the Stinkbait Hollar Hamfest is the place to go to get the real lowdown. If you've never been, put it on your calendar for next year. To get there, just head south on the big interstate until you hear banjos. Then you're getting close. Look for the signs. Or stop and ask directions. If you dare.

Below is a short list of must have items for the new contest and DX season. Without them, you'll be hard pressed to maintain your Big Gun status as the pileups will be fierce. With no sunspots, we all may be CQing on 160m during the day trying to scare up Qs. Don't say we didn't warn you. Ours are already on order.

Dr. DX's Double Zepp Antenna Wax

Do the bands sound noisier to you lately? Does your signal seem weaker than it used to be? It's probably not all due to the
lack of sunspots. As antennas age and weather, corrosion on the wire and tubing surfaces and result in decreased efficiency and increased noise.

Dr. DX's Double Zepp Antenna Wax can ameliorate those problems. Infused with state-of-the-art nanoparticles of room temperature superconductors, Dr. DX's Double Zepp Antenna Wax will coat and protect your antennas, cutting though the existing surface corrosion and providing a new layer of high conductivity coating while also sealing it from future corrosion.

Dr. DX's Double Zepp Antenna Wax can add dB's to your
dipole, varoom to your vertical and yowweee to your Yagi. To apply, use a rag and coat the entire antenna with a generous coat of antenna wax. While buffing is not required, it does add a shine and luster to your antenna making it sparkle like new.

McElroy Key Grease

CW operators, does your key make too many mistakes? Does your straight key stutter? Do you find yourself ditting when you meant to be dahhing?

It's not your fault!

Even the finest of paddles get rusty over time. Bearings and pivot points collect dust and dirt. Contacts oxidize, The result is erratic operation, resulting in Sloppy Fist Syndrome (SFS), characterized by missed dits and extra dahs.

McElroy's Key Grease can fix these problems and more. McElroy's builds upon the latest in tribological science and superconductivity research to create a key grease that combines a synthetic lubricant for the bearings and pivots with superconductive nanoparticles to lower the resistance of all electrical contacts. McElroy's Key Grease is the secret of success of top cw ops the world over. Periodic application to all mechanical and electrical connections of your key will ensure it stays in competition condition.

No animals are harmed in the production or testing of McElroy's Key Grease although several were very annoyed. Not responsible for excessive QRQ operation or carpel tunnel injuries resulting from the application of McElroy's Key Grease


Do you run Multi-2 in CQWW? Do you fear the dreaded DQ for accidental 'rubber clocking'? The new M2Timer will eliminate those worries. The M2Timer is an advanced hardware/software product that monitors for adherence to the CQWW Multi-2 10-minute rule and GUARANTEES* that you won't ever rubber clock, even accidentally.

The heart of the M2Timer is a GPS disciplined Cesium clock to insure timing accuracy to within 0.1 ns. The clock interfaces with your logging computers and all major contest logging programs (CT, N1MM, Writelog). The M2Timer software monitors the logging of both the run station and the multiplier station to insure compliance with the 10-minute rule. The basic version of the M2Timer locks out the PTT of the multiplier station if it tries to violate the 10-minute rule. The advanced version of the M2Timer attaches the amplifier HV supply to the multiplier station operator chair seat. If the multiplier operator attempts to violate the 10-minute rule, the amp HV is switched to the chair seat. No operator will attempt to violate the 10-minute more than once. Ever.

Having one of these insures you'll pass that CQWW committee inspection!

*Guarantee requires use of the advanced version of M2Timer.


If you are a serious contest Big Gun, you know that you now have to worry about that dreaded station inspection from the CQWW contest committee. The EST-Detector (K3 model) is a new device that detects the presence of CQWW officials, providing needed warning before the dreaded knock on the door. Based on proprietary technology developed by water dowsers and psychics , the EST-Detector can detect a CQWW committee representative from a distance of 500m or more. It provides a visual alarm in the form of a flashing red light and an audible warning in the form of a 110 dB buzzer. With sufficient warning, you can have a hot cup of coffee waiting for the CQWW cop when he appears at your door.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Cousin QRM on Rubber Clocking

The recent spate of DQ's from the CQWW's has raised the topic of rubber clocking again, especially in the Multi-Single category. Most of us thought rubber clocking had gone the way of the #2 pencil and rubber erasers when everyone starting using computers to log contests. Computer clocks are pretty accurate, and while you might fudge your clock, it's a lot harder to fudge the other guy's clock.

The real crux of most these DQ's was a failure for multi-single stations to adhere to the CQWW 10-minute rule. From discussions online after the fact, it became obvious that many contesters feel the 10-minute rule is about as convoluted as MLB's infield fly rule. I think the problem is a lot simpler.

The other day I was visiting my local Chinese take-out, getting my usual order of General Tso's and Broccoli and Beef, when I had an epiphany. You see, no matter when I go in and order at this Chinese take-out place, they always tell me my order will take the same amount of time before it is ready - ten minutes. It might be at 4:00 on a weekday afternoon and the place is as dead as 10m, or it can be at the peak of the dinner rush on a Friday night when they're as busy as 20m at 0005Z Saturday of CQWW. It's always ten minutes.

I've never actually timed them to see how long it takes for my food to come up. I'm usually reading the free local independent rag they toss over in the corner near the door. It's eye opening to read some of the classifieds for "alternative services" and checking out the bands playing in the local clubs is as close to being culturally relevant as I usually get. I can pretty much guarantee that they rarely, if ever, actually get my food up in exactly ten minutes. Most times it's more, sometimes it's a little less.

The point is, this restaurant can't stick with their own 10-minute rule (well, maybe it's not a rule….). They prepare hundreds of dishes a day, thousands a week, and their best guess is that it's going to take 10-minutes to fix my General Tso's. Most of the time, they're pretty close.

I figure these Multi-Single stations sort of operate like a Chinese take-out. The multiplier guys has a list of hot multipliers he wants to work on another band from the run station. The run station says, "Ok, you got 10 minutes to work them and then I'm going back to the run band." Just like the cook at my Chinese take-out with his smoking hot wok, the multiplier guy hits his hot new band and starts sweeping up multipliers, the metaphorical steam rising from the radio as the tally wheels spin on the score with each new multiplier.

Most of the time the multiplier station takes a bit longer than ten minutes before the steam starts to settle from the new band and he can toss it back to the run band. Those extra minutes spent on the multiplier band adds a little extra spice to the score and are well worth the time. But once in a while, the multiplier station runs out of steam a little early. His ten minutes might only last nine minutes. When I'm waiting for my Broccoli and Beef, I don't mind getting it a minute or two early, but in CQWW, it's a big no-no. On the average, these Multi-Single stations are following the 10-minute rule. In fact MOST of the time they probably easily exceed their 10-minutes before the band change. But most of the time don't cut it. It's got to be every time, all the time. That's why there are new rules and station inspections being implemented.

Cousin QRM is still anxiously awaiting the notice for his station inspection from the CQWW cops. We haven't been able to break into the Top Ten boxes, but if we can get that station inspection, then EVERYONE will know that we're real Big Guns. We plan to video tape it and post it on YouTube, just to document our Big Gun status. We don't mind putting black bars over the faces of the inspectors if they want to preserve their anonymity.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Big Gun Cloning Coming Soon

It's no secret that the average age of the ham radio population is increasing, and particularly so in the elite world of Big Gun contesters. Almost all Big Guns today are members of the Baby Boomer generation. The question is often asked "Where will the next generation of contesters come from?" The answer may be cloning.

A new venture called BigGun Cloning has been launched with the express intent of offering Big Gun contesters and DXers the chance to clone themselves. The capability to generate a genetic duplicate of oneself creates the opportunity to pass on the highly honed skills, not to mention the impressive station, of top notch contest and DX operators to a new generation.

BigGun Cloning said it is focusing on Big Gun contesters and DXers as they are the most likely segment of the ham radio population to have the resources to devote to the endeavor. BigGun Cloning is working with scientists from the South Korean Institute of Cloning Sciences and Advanced Cosmetology to perfect the cloning process. A scientist from the institute explained their breakthrough.

"We have been able to clone sheep, dogs, and cats for over a decade now. But there is no market for cloned sheep, not even in New Zealand. Our breakthrough came when we were able to clone a parrot. The original parrot knew five simple phrases he could say on command. When the cloned parrot was born, we discovered he already knew the five simple phrases. My thoughts instantly went to ham radio contesters. I knew this was a market for this technology."

While the possibility of creating cloned contesters is seen as an exciting step forward in technology by some, others see problems. If a station owner and his clone enter a contest together, could they actually enter in the single operator category since they are genetically identical? The CQWW contest committee refused to rule on any hypothetical situations, but did say that genetic testing may be included in the new station inspection regime if deemed necessary.

BigGun Cloning will be offering group discounts for multi-op stations and contest clubs. No word on price or expected availability at this time.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Contest Ruling

Here's a new topic for the contest lawyers to discuss: if a contest operator has multiple personalities, does he enter as a single-op or a multi-single entity? Discuss among yourselves. Bonus points if you can provide examples.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Contest Cheats, New Rules

The following is an editorial from Cousin QRM. It does not necessarily represents the views of the Lost Island DX Society, the Fi-Ni Report, NASCAR, or the AP Stylebook.

Recently the Fi-Ni Report MFWIC complained I haven't been pulling my weight around here. (For those who aren't familiar with the term, MFWIC, pronounced 'miff-wick', it’s a pseudo-military acronym for Mo-Fo What In Charge). As anybody who has seen the Cousin knows, it's quite a job to move my weight around, much less pull it. But I have been slack sharing my wisdom with all the Big Guns and Big Gun Wannabees that look to the Fi-Ni Report for all the news that ain't.

The big news in the world of contesting is that some stations cheat. Oh really? Color me surprised. No, the Big News is that some stations got caught AND punished for cheating. That is news.

I'm not one who believes that cheating among contesters is pervasive, but as the late great Dale Earnhardt was once quoted as saying, "If you ain't cheatin' you ain't trying." Frankly, I never was a Earnhardt fan. My hero growing up was Bobby Allison. Bobby never raced dirty and the only time he did anything on the track remotely unsportsmanlike was when he stopped his car and went over and punched out Cal Yarborough through the window of his car. Cal deserved it though for intentionally wrecking Bobby's brother Donny. But back to contesting.

Even before ole' cuz was a snot nosed Novice, there have been California Kilowatts and Italian "300 watt" amplifiers. Rubber clocking was easier in the days of handwritten logs with pencils. With the rise of packet clusters, self-spotting became the new way to drum up pileups. All are just wrong. For whatever reasons, contest sponsors seem to have been hesitant to DQ entrants, more so in recent years than long ago. I'll not speculate why.

But Cousin QRM is happy to stand up and cheer a loud "Well done!" to the CQWW contest committee for their recent actions. The rumor mill has it that more DQs are expected for the CQWW CW contest results due out any day now. Boy, that's gonna stir the hornet's nest up. The contest reflector will so busy discussing the CQWW, we probably won't get around to discussing cut numbers or Sweepstakes checks until mid-October at the earliest.

If I was a devious minded person, I would think this whole DQ business was publicity stunt by the CQWW folks. Think about it. The contest and DX world is all abuzz. Everyone is anticipating the 2009 contests to see who gets disqualified this year and what extraordinary lengths the Big Guns will go to avoid getting DQ'd. This is brilliant. No sunspots to create band conditions, generate interest and controversy by DQ'ing a few blatant offenders. Find a couple of belligerent competitors to complain loudly about their DQ and it will be a show worthy of WWF. Maybe Macho Cuesew can help out?

The CQWW contest committee has added a new rule for 2009 requiring competitors to allow "a scheduled visitation by a representative of the CQ WW CC during the contest ". Oh the howls from the peanut gallery. Some seem to think it is somehow offensive, an insult that someone wants to check up on them. Cousin thinks they doth protest too much.

Actually, Cousin QRM would welcome a visit by a CQWW contest committee representative during the contest. In fact, I encourage it. Please, please, please come check up on me.

I got nothing to hide. Plus, the way ole' Cousin views it, the CQWW committee isn't going to waste it's time on the little squirt pistols in the contest. They're only going to bother visiting the Big Guns. So you see, getting a visit from the CQWW committee is like a Big Gun stamp of approval, almost as impressive as being a member of the Lost Island DX Society. In fact, I'll go so far as to argue that you ain't really a Big Gun if you haven't been visited by the CQWW committee. Puts things in a different light, doesn't it? Once the big boys get their panties untwisted, they will see the light and be begging for a visit from the CQWW committee, just like Cousin.

Now, if you have been cheating, well, you'll get what you deserve. But, if like 99.5% of the contesters, you run up a big score using legal hardware, hard earned skills and old fashioned butt-in-the-chair time, you have nothing to worry about. Once word gets around that the CQWW committee visited you, and you got a clean bill of health, everybody will know that you're a serious competitor, and a good guy to boot.

So please, Mr. CQWW inspector, come visit old Cousin this fall. We need something to brag about.

73, Cousin QRM

Monday, August 10, 2009

MFJ To Acquire ARRL

In the wake of their acquisition of Cushcraft antennas last week, MFJ Enterprises announced today that they have reached an agreement to acquire the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), a publisher of amateur radio literature. An ARRL spokesman stated that declining membership numbers coupled with increasing costs of printing and shipping have eroded the business of the ARRL to a point where a merger with the burgeoning MFJ empire was attractive. MFJ, a manufacturer of radio accessories and antennas, had few publishing products in its expansive portfolio. The acquisition of the ARRL, leaves only the manufacture of actual radios the only portion of the amateur radio market that MFJ does not dominate.

MFJ intends to continue to publish the full line of handbooks and other publications for which the ARRL is known. The ARRL membership journal, QST will continue to be published as an appendix to the monthly MFJ/Ameritron/Hy-gain/Cushcraft/Mirage/Vectronics catalog. Readers should notice few changes.

There will be some changes in the operation of the ARRL though. The world famous ARRL club station, W1AW, will be moved from it's historic Newington, CT location to a new home in Starkville, MS. The call W5AW is currently allocated to the Big Spring Amateur Radio Club of Big Spring, TX but negotiations are in progress for MFJ to acquire the club and its callsign, which can then be re-assigned to the relocated ARRL club station. The most noticeable change may be the replacement of the Connecticut Yankee accent with the Mississippi southern drawl on the voice bulletins.

The planned acquisition is expected to be completed by April 1, 2010.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Ham To The Bone Update

Sad to say, still no entries on the Fi-Ni Report Ham To The Bone tattoo contest. This is one even a QRPer could win. Heck, get out a Sharpie and go to, take a pic and send it in.

We did find another pic online of a ham who is truly hardcore and shows COMMITMENT.
KL7FH obviously had no plans to change his call anytime soon. But about that worm..... must be the one at the bottom of the tequila bottle.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Correspondance Course To Be Offered

Outside of on-the-air activities, a significant number of radio amateurs spend a majority of their time engrossed in "discussions" on the Internet regarding the interpretation of rules for activities ranging from basic Part 97 FCC rules to various contests. The majority of these "discussions" are unhindered by knowledge or logic. But they all involve activities common among lawyers, i.e. interpretation of "law" and arguing their cases.

Few in the amateur radio community are actually trained lawyers, and those who are usually have enough sense not to admit it. Lawyerly skills are missing in these "discussions" as well as the gravitas a law degree lends to the status of the arguer. Law school is a long and expensive endeavor not many are willing to tackle.

But a new correspondence course will be offered to give those back bench lawyers the training needed to argue their points successfully and a prestigious title to bandy about. The Amateur Radio Lawyers League (AR-double-L, not to be confused with the A-double-RL) is offering a multi-module course to meet this need.

The first module is Contest Rule Interpretation. Topics covered will include: strawman arguments, fallacious allegory creation, and sentence diagramming and butchering. After completing this module, you will be able to wade in on such meaty "discussions" as the CQWW 10-minute rule, choosing a check for Sweepstakes, and what constitutes a "single operator station" and be able to argue at least three positions for each topic.

The second module is FCC Part 97 Rules and Regulations. This module will prepare you to "discuss" such pressing rules as FCC identification requirements, the definition of third party traffic, and applying FCC rules to DX stations.

The third and most advanced module is entitled DXCC Entity Definition and Documentation. This module should only be attempted by those who have completed modules one and two due to its complexity and mind twisting logic requirements. This module will attempt to analyze the ARRL DXCC criteria for DXCC entities and the requirements for accepting operations from rare DX entities. Scarborough Reef will be used as a case study.

Amateurs successfully completing all three modules will be awarded an honorary Juris Doctorate Hamus (JDH) degree from the Dick Bash School of Law and Muffler Repair.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

CQWW SSB Disqualifies Five

First, a humble apology for the lack of Fi-Ni Reports recently. We've been off looking for missing sunspots and collecting bribes for friendly customs officers for the upcoming UP5LID/4Q2LID DXpedition this month. In our absence an alert reader/fanboy(?) tipped us off to the dramatic announcement from the CQWW SSB results, and a possible conspiracy.

Monday, July 27, the CQWW SSB 2008 results were unleashed. The joy of the Top Guns taking home yet another plaque and/or certificate to hang on the I-Love-Me wall of the shack was overshadowed by the almost footnote mention of the disqualification of five Multi-2 stations placed at the end of the telephone book style printout of the contest results. The reason for the disqualifications was explained in the terse statement as “Altering of QSL log times to conform with the 10-minute rule .“ At meetings of the Lost Island DX Society (LIDS) we strictly enforce the 5-second rule for dropped pizza, but we have never attempted to actually understand the 10-minute rule as it applies to Multi-2 operation.

For Squirt Pistols who've never had to worry about such rules, the practice of adjusting log times to appear to conform to off-time or band-change times when in violation of the contest rules is referred to as 'rubber clocking”. See the note following this piece for a historical perspective on rubber clocking.

The effect of the disqualifications goes far beyond the CQWW SSB contest. The operators of the disqualified stations are not only disqualified from the 2009 CQWW SSB contest, but they are now also ineligible for the 2010 World Radiosport Team Championship to be held in Russia. While we hesitate to take joy in the misfortune of others, this does improve the odds of some actual LIDS making the WRTC teams. However, the Vegas odds makers still put our chances of making a WRTC team only slightly above that of our scoring a Brazilian supermodel date for next year's Dayton Contest Dinner.

The buzz about the disqualifications in the contesting world was soon overtaken with discussion and arguments of exactly how the violations were discovered among the entrants' logs. The lack of actual knowledge about the techniques and methods used by the CQWW Contest Committee to adjudicate the contest results did little to quell the discussions. It actually fueled the fires in some cases. The CQWW Contest Committee is notoriously secretive about the tools and techniques used to cross-check and score logs. The contest results are issued as if carved in stone and carried down from the mountain by Moses, with about as much explanation of how they are obtained. The Fi-Ni Report has been informed by a knowledgeable insider that the preparation and adjudication of the CQWW contest results involves high level statistical analysis run on donated supercomputer time and the tossing of runes and reading of chicken bones. However, no chicken blood is spilled, unlike the preparation of the ARRL DX Contest results.

Overlooked among the buzz about the disqualifications is an oddity of how the results leaked out to the contesting world. The first appearance of the results on the internet occurred on a Croatian website with an electronic copy of the results listing from the Spanish language edition of CQ Magazine. Such a confluence of international connections can easily lead to conspiracy theories involving the cognoscenti, the Freemasons and the IMF, but as responsible journalists we refrain from any such suggestions. However, contributions from readers are welcome.

What will be the ultimate result of the 2008 disqualifications? Will the 2009 CQWW contests be run with contestants walking on egg shells in fear of the dreadful DQ? The Multi-2 category will be a little more open with five major competitors gone. If the sunspots don't return, will the whole event be red-flagged until Monday? But this isn't NASCAR. The only prediction we can confidently make about the 2009 CQWW contests is that Macho Cuesew will dominate the Xtreme contesting category. We stake our reputation on that.

Now that the CQWW Contest Committee has taken a definitive stand on the practice of rubber-clocking, we only hope they will begin to address other dubious practices in the contesting world.

A Brief History of Rubber Clocking

Rubber clocking is the practice of altering QSO times in a contest log to make it appear that all contacts occurred during the legal contest period. As an example, if a contest requires a minimum of 30 minutes of off time, an operator might start operating after only 25 minutes of off time and then 'fudge' the log times to make it look like he actually did take a full 30 minutes of off time, giving him an extra five minutes of operating time. Needless to say, this practice is frowned upon. More so when someone is actually caught doing it.

To understand the origins of rubber clocking, we have to go back to the days of paper logs and mechanical clocks. In those days, operators had to actually copy the contest exchange off the air without the aid of a supercheck partial database and manually write it on a piece of paper. They also had tubes in their radios. The time of the QSO was manually noted as well, usually from the shack clock or operator's wrist watch. Back then, men wore watches on their wrists rather than using their cell phones to keep track of time. Blackberries of the time occupied an entire desktop.

A very popular clock of the time was an MFJ 24 hour wall clock with a large dial and hands. In an MFJ cost saving measure, the arms of the clock were outsourced to a low cost overseas manufacturer. The manufacturer produced a large quantity of minute hands using a faulty plastic compound with an extremely low melting point. As a result, when exposed to a hot environment, such as the exhaust of a two holer Alpha 77 running at full bore, the minute arms would soften and sag. The sagging or “rubbering” of the minute arm would result in an incorrect time begin logged. Thus, some Big Guns would accidentally record QSO times that were several minutes off and could potentially result in rule violations. This became know as rubber clocking.

(The preceding was relayed to the Fi-Ni Report by an old timer Big Gun who swears that this happened to him.)