The WPX 2005 CW was a great experience this time. We made just short of 2500 qso's and a score ofalmost 4 Million points, embedded in a tlf testing orgy. Of course I used the event as a beta test for tlf... the last time we used it for the wpx was the 2004 SSB contest (version 0.9.16), and I expected version 0.9.23 to be more stable.
Some obeservations were quite interesting...
This was the first time this group of operators was confronted with tlf. Detlef, DK3QZ had experience with TRlog, the others (Marcus DL1EKC and Ralph, DL4YD) had used CT. Although nobody had had the time to look extensively at tlf before the contest, after a short run with the simulator we had no problems with operating.
The fieldday site of DARC dept L03 is in Schermbeck on a 60 mtr high hill looking over corn fields. Antennas available ude a 3-el cubical quad for 10-15-20 and a TR33. Plus a dipole for 40-80 and a 160 wire antenna. We put up a vertical for 40 mtrs (a GFK pole with a piece of wire). With the exception of the 80 mtrs dipole all antennas worked well. The 80 mtrs dipole is too low for dx.
I envy the people who can use this qth regularly. I had NEVER, NOWHERE, heard 9+40 signals coming out of complete silence. On 160 mtrs!!!
This was an excellent opportunity to compare the K2 receiver to the TS 850. I always liked the 850 very much, I think it has one of the best receivers Kenwood ever produced. But in the harsh contest environment the K2 runs circles around it. Especially on 40, where you have a run frequency about every 100 Hz during the big contests. Only my ORION equals this. Next time I will bring the Timewave DSP filter.
Hardware setup of the 2-node system was 2 old 166 MHz Dell desktops. I had put all the new software on at home and build the system up and tested it. Everything worked. I switched the 1 monitor available from 1 node to the other and everything appeared to work fine.
The plan was that one of the other crew members would provide the other monitor. When the system was built up in the contest shack I could choose between 3 monitors, all from the good old DOS days. They were not capable to run graphics. So I had to use one of the systems with a linux text console. No problem, only that somehow the text console started in some strange mode accepting only CAPITALS, and of course my root password was in non-capitals... After playing some (undocumented) tricks I got it running. Everything seemed o.k. Packet, rig control and CW output worked like a charm....
Marcus and Detlef had volunteered to take the first 6 hour shift starting at 2 o'clock in the morning local time, so we left the system running, waiting for the first qso. I went to bed, as I had the 8 AM shift.
At 01:45 somebody knocked on the door of the camper. "Houston, we have a problem...". So I dressed and went to the shack. And indeed, there was a LAN problem preventing the qso's from the run station to log on the multiplier station. I tried to fix it (ping worked) but I could not get into a root terminal. So I decided to quickly substitute my UBUNTU laptop for the faulty desktop. This took 45 minutes including configuration etc. The laptop communicated with the LAN through wifi, which was a bonus. Everything o.k., and the qso's came rolling in!!
At 02:30. "Knock knock" - "Sorry to wake you but unfortunately your laptop is switching itself off..". I decided to get out of bed and babysit the system for the rest of the shift...
Hardware error again. The laptop had overheated and switched itself off. I provided a small fan and made sure the machine could get enough air.... Mind you, the stuff going in was 35 degrees C, and the machine is missing 2 of its small feet.
The rest is history. Happiness 'till the break of dawn... Almost 2500 qso's and 3.880.000 points.
And when we looked at the condx values this morning it turned out the K value had risen to 6 during the last hours of the contest....
The lesson learned is that I have to provide a TEST PLAN for the next occasion. We took too much for granted. And start tlf in VERBOSE mode the first time. The debug messages were quite explicit in this case...
Other minor things I noticed:
- the 'needed' display is quite useless for the wpx, needs some work
- I had forgotten to set the SERIAL_EXCHANGE variable to lock the qso number (corrected during the contest)
- Tlf needs a better "this is a mult you should/can work" indication
A plea to the CQ Contest Comittee:
CAN WE PLEASE SHIFT THE STARTING TIME OF THE CONTESTS TO 8:00 UTC !!!
I think this would be fair after all these years...
We had hell of a time... Thank you L03 - We will be back!!
P.S.: On another foot: I wonder if there is a linux driver to send console data to BRAILLE output devices? Marvin, DL2VD, the 'white sticker' chairman of L03, uses TRlog with a BRAILLE device, and cannot use any non-DOS program. I am not aware of anything similar for LINUX. Any ideas?
We are preparing for the WPX contest next weekend. The contest location is the fieldday ground of the DARC L03 club, near Duisburg (see location on the APRS map). Crew are DL4YR,DL1EKC and DK3QZ. The latter two were ops of CT9L in 2002 and 2004 resp.
Equipment will be 2 Elecraft K2's, 2 linears, a cubical quad, a 3-band TH33 and some dipoles.
We are going to use TLF of course, and this morning I prepared the computers for the wpx.
They had not been updated since last year's wpx so it needed the latest versions of Ncurses (5.4), cwdaemon (0.9), hamlib (1.2.3) and tlf (0.9.23).
If you do the upgrade in this sequence you will be o.k. (don't forget ldconfig after installing the libraries, and make clean before making tlf!!). Under Morphix cwdaemon is copied to /usr/local/bin, which is not in the PATH. We will have a network (Wifi compatible) with 4 nodes, with cluster data, rig control for the K2's and cw via the cwdaemon.
The photo shows how you can use a pool table for contest preparation (notice how the K2 is dwarfed by the computers... is this radio?)
The weather forecast is fantastic, the CONDX forecast is MISERABLE!! So we will have plenty of time for the social aspects of this event....
I have spent most of the rest of the day refreshing the CVS for tlf, on popular demand. This had been dormant since the crash of the servers of Savannah in October 2003, I have cleaned everything and added the complete source tree of version 0.9.23.
Tlf's CVS repository can be checked out through anonymous CVS over SSH with the following instruction set. . When prompted for a password for anoncvs, simply press the Enter key.
The SSHv2 public key fingerprints for the machine hosting the cvs trees are:
RSA: 1024 80:5a:b0:0c:ec:93:66:29:49:7e:04:2b:fd:ba:2c:d5
DSA: 1024 4d:c8:dc:9a:99:96:ae:cc:ce:d3:2b:b0:a3:a4:95:a5
Software repository :
cvs -z3 -d:ext:email@example.com:/cvsroot/tlf co tlf
You can also use your web browser to browse through the source at:
I hope someone will need it :)
The cw sprint seems to rouse less participants... a lot of regulars were either missing, or I could not hear them. I did not make any qso on 80, and only a few on 40. So instead of the adrenaline-generating event it used to be, it was more of a relaxing experience. Maybe the rx was dead? I did have S5 noise on the band. I worked a few USA stations without problem on 20. Anyway, I made 60 qso's, and the largest number received was below 100, where in previous sprints the top was 190.... Condx??
I missed 1 feature in tlf. The most efficient way to work the sprint is to:
call someone in S&P mode,
then give QRZ in CQ mode,
work the caller and
find the next CQ'er.
It would be nice if after the first QSO tlf would switch to CQ mode automatically. Won't take much effort I think.
Today I have ugraded the software on the shack computer to tlf-0.9.23 and hamlib-1.2.4, in preparation for the eusprint contest tomorrow. Tlf did not compile out-of-the-box, it wanted the ncurses-dev library. After I installed that, everything went without a problem. I only forgot to compile tlf with the --enable-hamlib directive, so I had to do it twice :).
Hamlib-1.2.4 also built without errors. This latest release includes support for my ORION, and I was eager to know if it worked as well as the driver I had written for tlf. I was not disappointed. Everything runs like clockwork!
I also wrote a small script to start to start cwdaemon. On UBUNTU-0.5 it reads:
echo "starting cwdaemon"
mknod -m 0660 parport0 c 99 0
cwdaemon -x b
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