Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Another Xtreme Contester Emerges

Following on the heels of last week's report of the first announced Xtreme contester, a second Xtreme contester has emerged and joined forces with the first.

Last week, the Fi-Ni Report profiled self-proclaimed Xtereme contester Macho Cuesew and his prophecy of domination in the new Xtereme category of the CQWW DX contest. This week, Macho Cuesew has announced he has a new Xtereme contesting partner that goes by the name Leche Dinero. Dinero seems to have as much ego as his new partner.

"Together, Macho Cuesew and I, Leche Dinero, will dominate the ranks of Xtreme contesting and come October, we will own the World Xtreme Tag Team belt!" proclaimed Dinero. When informed that no such belt or title existed, Dinero seemed confused. When we suggested that perhaps he and Macho planned to enter the Multi-Two category, Dinero muttered something to the effect of, "Yeah, that's what I meant..."

Whatever this pair plans for the new category of Xtreme contesting in CQWW, we should be entertained.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

QSL Venus?

Last month a team of radio amateurs with AMSAT-DL were able to successfully transmit and receive their signals after bouncing them off the planet Venus. This is the first successful amateur earth-venus-earth (EVE) transmission. They transmitted HI in morse code. With their signals traveling over 100 million kilometers and having a round trip delay of approximately five minutes, it was hardly QSK. Nevertheless, such an accomplishment certain qualifies them for Big Gun status. To prove that their successful transmissions were not a fluke, they repeated the tests the next night.

It turns out that they may not have been the only ones listening to their signals.

Late last week, an unusual thin metallic plate was discovered on the doorsteps of the station used to conduct the tests. The plate was oddly iridescent and unidentifiable as any common metal such as aluminum or steel. It was extremely light weight, almost impossibly so for its size. Upon further examination, the AMSAT-DL team members found its surface was extremely hard and they could not scratch or mar it with any tool they had.

But the real surprise came when they attempted to examine it under an ultraviolet light. Suddenly a hologram appeared on the top of plate, as if projected from within the plate. It was almost like a scene out of the original Star Wars, except there was no Princess Leila image. The hologram displayed a sequence of cryptic runes followed by a playback of the AMSAT-DL EVE transmission in morse code, followed by more cryptic runes. At a loss for the origin, let alone the meaning of the device and its message, one is led to the possibility that this may be an SWL QSL from Venus itself. But that begs the question, how do you QSL?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

CW Speed Limit Proposed

It as just a couple of years ago that No-Code International helped to persuade the FCC to eliminate the Morse code testing requirements for American ham radio operators. The no-code fad spread to other countries faster than a chlamydia outbreak in Fort Lauderdale during spring break. Despite the success of No-Code International and its sympathizers, the airways have continued to be perversely full of cw signals. However, if another group has its way, those cw signals may be slowed to a crawl.

A new organization by the name of Slow-Code International plans to petition the FCC to place a speed limit on all cw signals. They suggest that no one be allowed to send cw faster than 15 words per minute. Although the Slow-Code International members have learned cw, they complain that too many operators send faster than they can copy. Many of these high speed, or QRQ, operators have spent decades polishing their cw skills through participation in traffic nets, contests, DXing, and everyday rag chewing. The Slow-Code group maintains that it is unreasonable to expect them to spend years practicing to perfect an outdated skill. A spokesman for Slow-Code International claims that 15 wpm is as fast as anybody need to operate cw. "Those hot shots running 20, 25, 30 words per minute are just show offs. Most of our members can't think faster than about 18 words per minute."

Slow-Code International has found an allie in their crusade. The Anti-CW Lovers Union (ACLU) claims that a cw speed limit is justifiable under the American With Disabilities Act (ADA). Prior to the elimination of the code testing requirement, the FCC would issue medical exemptions to license candidates who could provide a doctor's certification that they had a condition which prevented them from copying Morse code. By extension, the ACLU argues that the FCC must accept that not being to copy cw is a medical disability, hence not being able to copy fast code should also be considered a disability. Therefore, under the ADA, it is reasonable to place some limitation on cw operators to accommodate those with the disability.

Slow-Code International and the ACLU plan to file their petition with the FCC later this summer.

Friday, June 19, 2009

LIDS Lobby in DC

A contingent from the Lost Island DX Society (LIDS) spent the last couple of days in the nation's capital (no, not Newington) attempting to lobby congress to overturn the ten minute identification rule in Part 97 of the FCC rules and regulations pertaining to amateur radio operators. The ten minute rule requires hams in the United States to identify using their callsigns. While on the surface, seems a good idea, the reality has been less than useful.

The majority of US hams fall into one of two categories when it comes to identifying. The first are hams who begin and end every transmission with their callsign, and sometimes the call of the station they are talking to, regardless of the length of their transmission. We call these hams Ever-D's, for Ever IDing. Many of these are newer hams, who are justifiably proud of their newly earned callsign, and who may be afraid they will fail to meet the FCC ID requirement. In time, they may slow down and only identify every other transmission.

The second category is composed mostly of old timers, Big Guns, and scofflaws. Hams in this category never bother giving their callsigns. We call these ops Never-D's. They typically only talk to their close friends, and figure they already their call, so why bother giving it? Although not limited to any particular band, they can be commonly found on 75m. There are tales of two cronies on 75m that once managed to have a QSO that lasted for four days and they never once give a callsign.

So why do the LIDS feel the ten minute rule should be abolished? Well, the Ever-D's are constantly IDing because they fear they'll miss the ten minute window, and the Never-D's don't bother to ID anyway. So why not just eliminate the rule? Most hams will continue to ID at some reasonable regularity out of pure ego. So the FCC will be able to identify everyone except the scofflaws, but they never ID to begin with.

How did our lobbying efforts in DC go? Well, we didn't actually get to see any congresspersons or senators. But we did find a really good Thai place in Dupont Circle that makes a mean Peach Bellini martini. DC still has a plentiful supply of fine YL staffers acting as gatekeepers for our legislators. Unfortunately, our charm offensive is still ineffective. But we'll re-group and plan another offensive before the fall contest season begins.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Xtreme Contesting

With the announcement of the new Xtreme category for the CQWW contests this year, new xtreme contesters are beginning to emerge. The first to go public goes by the name of Macho Cuesew and hides his real identity behind a mask (see accompanying photo). Macho Cuesew says the mask is intended to strike fear into the hearts of his competitors and conceal his identity so the evil forces of contesting can not stop him. Macho's xtreme approach to contesting is evident in his training regime.

"I start every day by eating three raw eggs, followed by a six mile run. Then it's two hours on RUFZ to hone my cw skills. Then in the afternoon, I climb each of my 100 foot towers and check the coax and antennas to insure they are in top condition. In the evenings, I listen to 160m with the AGC turned off to acclimate myself to high static levels and improve my ability to pull signals out of the noise. I also do pilates to strengthen my butt muscles so I can sit for long periods of time comfortably"

Macho has also claimed to have built an xtreme superstation in an undisclosed location in preparation for this year's CQWW. Macho worries that other xtreme competitors will steal his superstation secrets before October, so he refuses to identify his callsign or even his country of origin. We think it safe to say, it is likely somewhere south of the US border, though. During our interview, Macho did let it slip that he was busy working on a massive log-periodic array that will not technically fit inside the conventional 500-meter circle limiting conventional stations. Thanks to the new Xtreme category, that is no longer a problem.

Macho Cuesew is also not shy when it comes to challenging his competitors or boasting about himself. When asked for his thoughts on this year's contest, he said, "I, Macho Cuesew, will obliterate my puny opponents. When the bell rings at 0000Z, all will quake at the at the enormity of my signal. Lesser stations may have their radios explode when they tune across Macho Cuesew's signal. I will dominate on any band I choose to run on. I do not need the crutch of a second radio to find multipliers. They will all come to me, drawn by my enormous signal."

The likes of Macho Cuesew have likely existed within the contesting world for a long time. But now there is a category for them to compete in, they can come out of hiding and compete in the open, unleashing their form of xtreme contesting on the bands. If successful, they may represent the future of contesting, becoming even Bigger Guns.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

LIDS now Twitting

In a move no one has asked for, the Lost Island DX Society and the Fi-Ni Report are now on Twitter. In true LIDS fashion, we expanding the realm of places and ways to annoy you. The URL is Don't expect much. We can barely handle email.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Lost Island Found?

Returning from the recent Lost Island DX Society International DX Convention (LIDSfest 09), one of the LIDS spotted this large sign on a connecting road. It only makes sense that if Lost Lake had an island that it might be Lost Island. Unfortunately, the LID in question was on the verge of being lost himself and was running behind schedule to make it to the hotel in time for happy hour, so he was not able to fully investigate the Lost Lake to ascertain if it had an island. So for now, we'll only speculate and make plans for a DXpedition to Lost Lake to see if that's where Lost Island is located.

Field Day Tips & Tricks

Field Day 2009 is just a few weeks away, so it's time to start making preparations. Here are some tips and suggestions from the Lost Island DX Society (LIDS).

First, take care of the most important item. No, not the radio. Saturday night's dinner. Statistics show that the average Field Day participant's ratio of eating to operating time is approximately 10:1. Everybody gathers out at the Field Day site and works hard all day stringing up antennas and putting up tents. But most of them want to spend the rest of the day and evening eating and talking rather than sitting in front of a radio. So its important to prepare a good supper for Saturday night. That's what most of them are going to remember anyway. The LIDS prefer a good, hearty chili. With beans and meat. The beans are important. You need lots of them. LIDS chili is renown for recreating the campfire scene from "Blazing Saddles" in the 40m cw tent late at night. Newcomers run in teary eyed terror. You can find chili recipes everywhere, so we won't bore you with ours. But just a word to the wise. The key to a great chili is adding a little peanut butter and chocolate. Trust us.

Sometime during the weekend, somebody will likely suggest that you make a few radio contacts. Remember that Field Day is not a contest, according to the ARRL. You keep score and they report the results ranked by score, but this IS NOT A CONTEST. Say it enough times and we'll all believe it.

If this is your first time on HF, you'll notice all the signals aren't "full quieting". This is normal. There is no courtesy beep. Just key the microphone and start talking. Preferably when the station you're trying to work has stopped talking. When he calls you, don't worry about being ready to copy his exchange. He'll be happy to repeat it again for you. If you do copy his exchange the first time, make sure you repeat it back to him and thank him for it. Then ask him to "please copy my..." and give him your exchange. Follow these hints and nobody will spot you as a noob.

If you decide to wander down to the cw bands, be aware that sending "PSE CPY..." is perfectly acceptable.

The last bit of wisdom we wish to impart is a bit of planning advice. Setting up for Field Day is a lot of fun. Operating Field Day is a lot of fun. Taking down for Field Day is the least fun thing you can do all weekend long. Show up early and leave before the party ends, or else you'll be stuck cleaning out the chili pot on Sunday.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New DXCC Entities – A Modest Proposal

If you're a real Big Gun, you've already sitting atop the DXCC Honor Roll, or you're sitting around waiting for a DXpedition that may never happen (P5?). With the pitiful state of the sunspots, adding new counters on the high bands is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

We miss the days when New Ones came around at a regular pace. Gone are the days of Danny Weil, Don Miller, and Gus Browning traveling the world activating new countries, whether they existed or not (Maria Theresa, anyone?). Even Martti Laine has slowed down his lifelong quest of finding new ones.

After all, it's become much more difficult. Satellites have mapped the earth, so finding “new” islands or lands is practically impossible. Even the League had to admit there were limits to what could be considered an island after the obscenity of Scaffold Reef. No hinterlands of undiscovered peoples and kingdoms exist. We have conquered all of the mountain ranges, jungles and rivers. All of the lands have been claimed. Or have they?

In recent history, the only way to create a new one has been through political recognition of sovereignty or independence. Before the fall of the Eastern Block, we had Czechoslovakia. Afterwards, we have the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. One DXCC entity becomes two. More recently we have seen Saint Barthelemy came about due to a quirk in the organization of French rule.

Our best hope for new DXCC counters is to encourage more independence movements within existing countries. Now, we don't want to advocate violent rebellion in the name of the DXCC program, although we won't turn it down if it gets us another counter. No need to resort to violence or encourage ethnic strife. Seriously, we got enough of that already.

It turns out there are already a boatload, ok, maybe a dingyload, of republics, duchies, and principalities that have already declared their independence from their native countries. If we could just get a few of these recognized by other countries, we can probably get the ARRL to add them to the DXCC list. Hey, if they can call Scarborough Reef an entity with a straight face, any place that has dry land ought to be eligible.

Here's a list of potential “new ones”:

We at the Lost Island DX Society are preparing to start a letter campaign to petition for recognition of these already declared independent entites. If we can get even one member of the United Nations to recognize the sovereignty of the these nascient countries, we can petition the ARRL to add them to the DXCC list. Most of them are easy to reach. Some only require a short car ride. Itay has it's Vatican and SMOM, why can't we have our Republic of Molossia?

Friday, June 5, 2009

LIDfest '09 DX Convention Report

Cousin QRM here! I was supposed to report on the Lost Island DX Society International DX Convention (LIDfest '09) held last weekend in Las Vegas, but when they say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, they also apparently include your camera and laptop. TSA says I should get them back in 6-8 months, but I'm not holding my breath. The address they gave me for inquires was in Guantanamo Bay. My memory is a little fuzzy, thanks to those accommodating casino waitresses and the free 807's, but I managed to piece together a report from some notes written on cocktail napkins I found in my clothes.

The weekend started with a seminar entitled "Working by Numbers" by Stan Orhit, C21BJ. It involved some advanced number counting methods for working through the pileup, regardless of how deep it is. Stan talked about an advanced technique called Double Down, but I could never figure it out.

Since the LIDS didn't have a budget to rent meeting space, we usually had our gatherings wherever we could find an open area, usually somewhere on a casino floor. The QRM from the slot machines is reminiscent of a Chinese Over-the-Horizon radar on 40m, but our DXing skills helped in filtering it out. Also helping were the free 807's, as long as we kept pulling the arms on the slot machines. After a long session discussing pileup busting techniques, the cacophony of the casino floor gave way to cw among the QRM. Somewhere around 2AM, I managed to copy 62 callsigns from the Kansas City DX Club's pileup tape out of the bells and rings, besting the Skimmer by one. Now if I could just do it while listening to the tape.

According to my notes, sometime in the early morning there was a seminar called "Greenstamps - Not Just for QSLing". The featured speaker was G/STR1NG, must be some special event station call. The op's name was Brandy, or Candy. Might have been Mandy. The ink on the napkins is smudged. Apparently it was held at the Olympic Gardens Gentlemen 's Club according to the napkin the notes were written on.

One night, several of the LIDS managed to sneak a K2 over to the Paris casino and hooked it up to the Eiffel Tower replica they have out front and loaded it up on 160m. They managed to work two KH6's and a JA, but got complaints of choppy keying. What they didn't tell anyone was that they had rigged up the arm on a slot machine to work as a straight key. They lost $60 trying to break the pileup on the JA.

I spent an evening trying to parlay my remaining savings into a new rig at the craps tables. Yells of "Daddy needs a new K3" didn't impress the gods of random chance but I managed to return home with enough to pick up a HW-101 at the next hamfest. As long as it isn't in too nice shape.

Next time, we'll try to send out some publicity before the next LIDfest, in case any other Big Guns want to join us. But odds are, that won't happen. In the meantime, look for us LIDS in the pileups!

Cousin QRM