A Positive Approach

By N7NG, Wayne A. Mills

While there aren’t many major DX operations taking place at the moment, plans are being made, and it won’t be long until serious DXing picks up steam again. In the interim, many of us continue thinking and working on ways to smooth the behavioral waters for DXers and DXpeditioners alike.

As usual, we operate on a principle put forth most recently by Dima, RA9USU in N6PSE’s April 27th 2015 blog: [the] “Pile-up is the reflection of the operator on the DX side.” Clearly, Dima feels that the DX-side operator is in the best position to control the pileup, to keep it from degenerating into chaos. The DX-side operator is almost by definition positioned to use a variety of tools to accomplish his goals. This in turn suggests that it is important for DX-side operators to learn and subsequently concentrate on the very best operating procedures. For some ops it is a natural process. For others, study, practice and reminders are required. Reminders – cheat sheets – because it can be difficult to keep all of the necessary concepts in mind while shoveling through a huge pile of usually raucous DXers.

Of course the “mirror” concept isn’t at all new. It was put forward long ago (1991) by OH2BH in his book “Where Do We Go Next,” and reiterated by N7NG in “DXpeditioning Basics” (1994 and 2013). It has been promoted as well as by many other DXpedition operating specialists. Operators following this principle assume that their own techniques will make or break the success of the operation. It is entirely within the province of the DXpedition operator to control virtually any situation including DQRM. The tools are available. If an operator succumbs to the feeling that the pileup is at fault, everything is lost. To move further in this direction, OH2BH and N7NG are currently preparing a detailed paper discussing the essentials for successfully working “Europeans” in DXpedition situations. The ideas are applicable to all DXers, but they are critically important for those working huge DXpedition pileups of Europeans.

The first task – and most important – in this case is to maintain a positive attitude. Assuming that there are relatively few “DX Criminals” out there is a good starting point. It is important to feel confident that any situation can be handled. The assumption of “DXer innocence” is the best way to maintain a positive attitude.

Next the operator must make a serious effort to understand the nature of the languages and temperaments of “The Europeans.” We realize that language is always an issue when working any non-native-English speaking DXers. But because of the necessary immersion in huge pileups exhibiting many languages, accents and styles, it is usually a much greater challenge to work Europe under these conditions.

Finally, it is essential to understand that there is absolutely NO single “European” DXer type. Americans and Japanese are relatively homogeneous compared to European ham groups. The European cultures vary greatly from north to south and from east to west. At least a basic understanding of DXers in Europe – their language and temperament — is necessary in order to realize that a lack of cooperation is not the primary reason for poor results. Experience supports this thesis. A persistently positive attitude will help tremendously in the pursuit of the ideal pileup.

N7NG

Advertisements

What about Mt. Athos?

By Wayne Mills, N7NG

The recent episode involving Latvian hams trying to visit and operate from Mt. Athos highlights a situation which has existed for 25 years, namely that it has been virtually impossible for anyone but Elder Apollo to operate from this artificially rare DXCC location. Apparently the Latvians had verbal permission, but in the end nothing written was forthcoming…

According to the SV2ASP/A QRZ.com web page, Ham Radio was initiated following an incident as a means of communications ‘when all else failed,’ but interestingly, according to Elder Apollo (on this same page) “[Ham Radio] remains in order to keep Mount Athos at the height it deserves in terms of DXing, [and] also to prevent its removal from the DXCC list.” A curious if not astonishing motivation indeed.

Mt. Athos remains on the DXCC list according to the current rules, and rules can change; the rules are not chiseled in stone. The door to changes was open in the late nineties. Only a proper procedure should alter DXCC’s path, but make no mistake, public opinion can lead to rule changes given sufficient cause.

Mt. Athos was added to the DXCC list in 1973 as a “distinctively separate administration.” Other entities added under this rule include Kingman Reef. While the separate administration rule is gone – its premise, first distorted and then discredited – these entities remain under current rules which require that entities remain as long as they continue to meet the criteria under which they were added. In reality, they remain on the list for reasons of nostalgia. It’s difficult to take any entities away from DXers.  Those who benefit from the presence of Mount Athos on the DXCC list should understand that there is absolutely no reason why totally impractical entities must remain on the list. It is simply a matter of will – and public opinion.

There are ways to change the status of Mt. Athos. That Mt. Athos is altogether too inactive –that it is too high on the most needed list – is not a reason to remove it from the entities list. It is very important to follow the current, relevant DXCC rules, and inactivity should never be a criteria for removing a DXCC entity. Yet inactivity could eventually provide motivation to change the rules.

In the mid-nineties, a “Blue Ribbon Committee” was created by the ARRL Board — the so-called DXCC-2000 Committee. This committee comprised ten superbly qualified people, Board members, staff members, DXAC members and others, each experienced in DXCC history and procedure. The composition of the committee was varied and the results it produced were comprehensive. Its wide-ranging charge was to rewrite the DXCC rules as necessary. The results were accepted by the ARRL Board with relatively little discussion and few changes. Such a committee could and perhaps should be constituted again. There is still cause for making important changes. What is required is creativity and leadership.

N7NG

Register your comments to this and other opinions on the DX University “Contact Us” page. (http://www.dxuniversity.com/contact_form.php)

QRM and Frustration

(This article is drawn from parts of the DX University presentation at Visalia in April, 2015.)

DXpeditions have always had some form of on-the-air difficulty in conducting their operations. In the early days, there were many fewer DXers, and the QRM potential was less. But, there were always DXers disgruntled by their inability to make a QSO who would transmit on the DX frequency. But, recent DXpeditions have been increasingly plagued by QRM, inadvertent and intentional.

Inadvertent QRM falls into several categories: Ignorance or IQRM, Unnecessary or UQRM, and Created or CQRM. A forth type of QRM is not inadvertent, it is Deliberate — DQRM.

Ignorance IQRM or IQRM* stems from a lack of learning about standard, proven DXing procedures. To the extent that it affects us all, this type of QRM is primarily caused by the inability of would-be DXers to operate their radios properly. This results in transmissions on the DX frequency and the inevitable reactions from frustrated DXers.

Unnecessary or UQRM is usually attributable to the UP and Frequency police. This difficulty appears to be exacerbated by the unnecessarily complex frequency controls of modern transceivers.

A third form of QRM is Created QRM or CQRM which is caused by DXpedition operators who don’t have the ability to control their pileups. (In some cases, CQRM can lead to intentional QRM.) The fundamental principle is that the nature of the pileup depends on how the pileup is conducted. It is likely that CQRM is the easiest QRM to control since it is relatively easy to guide a relatively small number of DXpeditioners.

Having defined several types of disruptive expedition-related QRM, what if anything can be done to rectify these situations? To help combat Ignorance QRM, the “DX Press” has been prolific. But one thing is becoming clear: More often than not we are “preaching to the choir.” We are NOT reaching the large percentage of casual “DXers.” They don’t read the literature, they don’t belong to DX clubs, and often they don’t know other experienced DXers. They have an interest in DX, and they start calling when they hear something interesting. We need to pay more attention to finding and working with more casual DXers.

The code is another situation. With the advent of no-code licenses, we have many new hams who want to work CW, but haven’t yet put in the time to learn it effectively. Thanks to the industry code readers are prevalent. Some DXers wish that these people would stay on SSB and RTTY, but is that what we really want?

Unnecessary QRM can be minimized by better educating DXers in the operation of their radios. In addition, frequency control in radios currently available is far more complicated than necessary and should be simplified. Transmitting on the DXpedition frequency was seldom a problem with separate transmitters and receivers.

In the case of Created QRM, QRM created by DXpedition operator’s style, more attention by DXpedition managers to procedure would prove helpful. Because there are relatively few DXpedition operators, it is easier to help these operators in using the best practices to manage their pileups than to attempt to educate thousands of DXers. If DXpedition operators consistently employ best practices, pileups will be more efficient and more fun. Following the suggested Best Practices published by the DX University and by The DX Code of Conduct – for DXpeditioners can help.

In the case of CQRM, QRM created by DXpedition operator’s style, more attention to procedure by DXpedition managers could prove useful. Following the suggested Best Practices published by the DX University and by The DX Code of Conduct – for DXpeditioners can help.

Intentional QRM is entirely another matter. DQRM is usually generated by discontented operators who wish to retaliate in some way for some reason. Perhaps some of these operators haven’t made their desired QSOs for reasons they deem beyond their control. Some of these QRMers are not DXers at all, and have had their net QSOs disrupted by DXpedition activity.

Some DQRM results from adverse, real-time interaction between DXers and other, pre-existing Amateur Radio activities. For example, DXers in pileups aren’t well known for listening to their transmitting frequencies before transmitting. DXpedition operators aren’t known for listening to their pileup frequencies, either. Opening an expedition on a narrow WARC band without a full complement of stations isn’t the best idea, but it happens. Covering certain nets and mode frequencies isn’t wise either. Some of the QRM and DQRM is caused by the operating style of the DXpedition operator; frustration experienced by DXers can lead to DQRM.

When a major DXpedition in on the air, there is much additional friction ready to be exploited. Better operating on both sides of the pileup is necessary. Putting our educational resources where they will do the most good is essential. The DX University is working in this area. If you have additional ideas, please write.

– N7NG

*The terms UQRM, IQRM, CQRM and DQRM used in this article are attributed to Chris Duckling, G3SVL.

Once Again…

Once Again…

A few weeks ago — during the FT4TA DXpedition — I was suffering. Finding that the best time to visit our son in Vancouver B.C. coincided with the Tromelin Island offering was difficult. Being from the western US, not the easiest location to work the Indian Ocean, my band-slot file for Tromelin had but one entry – FR7ZL/T for a QSO on twenty-meter CW in 1979.

So, I was looking forward to a few more and even – perhaps – the possibility of another Topband country. (Though we would not return to Wyoming before the end of the operation, it became possible to do some operating along the way – in southern Oregon. Even an 80M QSO was made thanks to a monster 3 element beam located on a wonderfully effective hill top.)

Moreover, thanks to the magic of the Internet, I was able to able read all about the operation in detail as viewed from Northern California and Colorado and Utah. What I read was mostly disappointing. It seems that the jammers and usual malcontents were out in force, and once again, there was pause to think about why all of this was taking place.

Many younger DXers – and some returning to the wars following long absences – are sure that the jamming and generally poor operating is worse than ever. “It’s never been this bad.” That is probably true unless you scale the whole picture back according to the number of active DXers. And when it comes to Tromelin, there are more than the usual number of DXers “in need.”

In the 1970s, there were a number of operations which raised a strikingly similar ruckus on the bands. At one time, I even had a few questions for a customer of mine who is (still) a professional psychologist. I was wondering why people would behave in such an anti-social way. While he wasn’t up to speed on the intricacies of DXpeditions, he did offer that people usually had – at least in their own minds – reasons for their behaviors. My point is that it was that bad, even forty years ago.

Why do you suppose that might have been – and still is today? There are lots of reasons. Those who complain the loudest – adding their own form of vitriol – are hip-shooters who never bother to wonder why these disruptions occur. They shoot first and then blame the consequences on others.

A major DXpedition is a usually a significant disruption to the “normal” operations on any and all bands. These operations often generate excessively large pileups. As I have mentioned more than once, part of the responsibility of a DXpedition ops is to limit the impact of their effort on others who are not interested in DXing. We invade these spaces with huge piles of DXers who virtually NEVER listen to their transmitting frequencies. In the case of several recent DXpeditions, 17 meters in particular has been almost fully occupied – band edge to band edge – by excessively large pileups. I am sure that at least a few non-DXers aren’t overly happy about that. Do pileups really need to be so large? Maybe, maybe not.

In addition to the disruption of non-DXers, there are very frustrated DXers who call endlessly without results. In part, this is a function of their own lack of expertise. There is evidence everywhere. They call at the wrong times, on the wrong frequencies, with their antennas pointed in the wrong directions, etc., etc. After experiencing a certain amount of frustration, their operating technique often changes dramatically. Calling sometimes becomes continuous on a poor selection of frequencies. They may become hostile and create their own form of chaos. Thinking is usually put aside.

The blame for much of the poor operating demonstrated by DXers can be laid at the feet of the DXpedition operators themselves. Their instructions are often inadequate. They don’t identify frequently, and they don’t indicate where they are listening and how they are tuning. More critically, they often don’t properly target the most difficult place in the world for them to work. When those who need the most attention are getting precious little of it, temperatures rise. As a result much of the garbage on the bands related to a DXpedition is the result of a lack of experience and good operating practices by the DXpeditioners themselves.

I hasten to add that this isn’t the whole story. There are other causes. DXers who simply don’t know how to operate their radios – split operation in particular are s significant part of the problem. Several misplaced calls – on the DXpedition frequency will generate all sorts of responses from responsible to – well – the worst possible.

Continuous callers are also a problem, although interestingly, they are not that much of a disruption. An experienced DXpeditioner can work around all but the most persistent and aggressive continuous caller. A few such callers seem to find the station being worked and QRM all attempts to compete a QSO. Yet, continuous calling is more an aesthetic problem for those listening to a pileup rather than for the DXpedition operator – he doesn’t hear much of it.

There are lots of reasons for the cacophony we hear during DXpeditions. Rather than reacting irrationally, a more reasoned analysis should take place. This analysis will be highlighted in additional articles in the coming weeks and months in this publication and on the pages of the DX University (www.dxuniversity.com)

*The DX University™ includes a day-long learning session for newcomers and old-timers wishing to hone their DXing skills. DXing resources can also be found on the DX University Website. A DX University session will again be held at the Visalia International DX Convention in April, 2015. This all-day session will be aimed at issues surrounding DXpeditioning. Contact the DX University if you are interested in using DX University resources as a framework for mentoring DXers in your area. For more information go to www.dxuniversity.com

Back to the Future

One of the perennial issues involving Amateur Radio is invigorating our hobby/service by attracting new and younger enthusiasts. Fourteen years ago, I asked “What do we do to attract new hams to the service?” My interpretation of the answer was “we do very little.” Did we advertise outside of the ham radio world? I asked. “No, it’s too expensive.” “Do we survey young folks to find our common interests?” “No.” At the time we were doing very little. We were trying to increase ARRL membership through advertising aimed at newly licensed hams. To me that seemed like preaching to a choir of diminishing size. It still does.

Then along came The Big Project, an ambitious and well-intentioned effort to introduce school-aged children to the wonders of Amateur Radio. What became of that? At the time, it seemed like a very aggressive effort to do what we always do: Try to sell the younger generation on what we loved so much about Ham Radio when we were their age. “Surely, they would love the hobby as much as we did fifty years ago” I said. Does that work? Apparently not. (There are some interesting and successful projects involving robots and other electronics learning that are popular among youngsters.) Part of the problem is that communications simply doesn’t invoke the same intrigue and adventure that it did fifty years ago, and the part that does intrigue them doesn’t interest us. To us Ham Radio is different, but talking spontaneously around the world doesn’t impress young folks anymore.

In the meantime, society has moved ahead. Have we? Not so much. We like Ham Radio the way it was. Other than peripherals, much of the new technology that has been developed has been termed “not ham radio.” Why? Because it involves the Internet. If it involves actual communicating with anything related to the Internet, “it’s not ham radio.”

Now, we have HamSphere. HamSphere is simulated Ham Radio using the Internet. Certainly that’s not ham radio. No, it isn’t by our classical definition, but it is something in which younger people have shown an interest. They are interested in ILRP and Echolink linked radios, too. Recently held was the Internet equivalent of the World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC) called the ETRC 2014 (European Radiosport Team Championship). Interestingly some of the most progressive Ham Radio personalities are introducing these technologies to young people, aiming at integrating their interests into our legacy delights. Maybe we can integrate our different interests.

We’re so stuck in the past that even remote control operation worries us because “it gives [some of] us a propagational advantage!” Horrors!! What that seems to mean is that somehow DXing among the old guard is seen as a competitive sport that requires a level playing field, even on the largest geographic scale. Can any DXing program – with competitors living all over the globe –really be a competitive sport? The current introduction to the DXCC program states: “Individual achievement is measured by working and confirming the various entities comprising the DXCC List. This is the essence of the DXCC program.” Clearly, DXCC progress measures our individual achievement. If there is competition it must be defined locally, not by rules.

In his report to the Programs and Services Committee for the July ARRL BoD meeting, the DXAC Chairman added that “some distance limitation should be included for the remote station.” According to sources, this wasn’t really discussed, but there it is. The distance rule was added to the original DXCC rule after a month or two, and it stood for over 40 years. It was changed because the world changed. Going back to our beginnings in this area would be a major mistake.

I grew up in an era of Ham Radio that was really fun. It was simple and concise for me, and it will never be quite the same. And why should it?  We live in a world that has changed. Get over it. Let’s help create a new legacy for younger enthusiasts, one that actually interests them. Let’s integrate!

*The DX University™ maintains an Internet-based website containing lots of useful DXing information. Read additional thoughts on these topics in the coming week at www.dxuniversity.com.

DX IS!

One of the best and often funniest publications on serious DXing, DX IS! The Best of the West Coast DX Bulletin is a compendium of short stories (and maybe opinions) written by Hugh Cassidy, WA6AUD, editor and publisher of the West Coast DX Bulletin. If you don’t have a copy of this book, this may be your last chance to get a one. It’s well worth the price. — N7NG

“Back in 1980 after WA6AUD shut down his highly popular West Coast DX Bulletin, my brother, W5DV, and I compiled and published a book, entitled “DX IS! The Best of the West Coast DX Bulletin”.  We thought that we had fulfilled all of the requests for it within just a few months, but we still get occasional inquiries about its availability, more than 30 years later.

During a recent move, I found a supply of unsold copies, still in new condition.  We have arranged to make these available through Amazon at

http://www.amazon.com/The-Best-West-Coast-Bulletin/dp/B002ODDJ0Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408745485&sr=81&keywords=DX+IS!+The+Best+of+the+West+Coast+DX+Bulletin

While we do not expect a major demand for it after 30 years, we want interested parties to be aware of its availability.  If you feel that it is appropriate to mention this in the DXer, there are probably some DXers who would like to know about it.  We have a very limited supply and when these are gone, that’s it.

73 de W6OGC  Jim Allen

The West Coast DX Bulletin

We moved to Wyoming in 1972, and I operated five years in an apartment using a 14AVQ. It was a major hiatus in my DXing – possibly even terminal – because I left California (K6ALH) at 293 mixed on the DXCC list, and I was faced with working all of those countries again. As much of a DXer as I had always been, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about starting again from the beginning.

As luck would have it the DXCC rules changed beginning in 1977 allowing DXCC QSOs to be made anywhere in your own DXCC entity. As a result, my interest was again engaged. I gave up W7JFG for N7NG and was again up and running.

In becoming active in DXing again, it seemed reasonable to look for a source of DX information. It was probably Bob, W6RGG who introduced me to the West Coast DX Bulletin. The WCDXB had been published by Hugh Cassidy, WA6AUD and his wife Virginia as “The Marin County DX Group” since 1968. There were several bulletins being published, but the WCDXB was “local” for me, so I sent a subscription request. I received a receipt dated April 19, 1978. I don’t recall the price, but I can tell you now that it was worth every penny.

I had been active in high school and during my college days at the University of California in order to get that 293 countries worked. Now it was down to 275 due to deletions. Some of the stuff that I had worked had become very rare, stuff like Burma, Heard Island, the Andaman’s and Laccadives (Lakshadweep) and so on. I was missing some other countries that came up while I was inactive. The West Coast DX Bulletin was a tremendous help in finding the countries that I needed to fill out my list. By early 1979 I was already at the Honor Roll level. Even then, I looked forward every week to the arrival of the WCDXB.

As were most DXers, I was shocked the day I received the last copy of the WCDXB in July, 1979. I sat in front of the Jackson Post Office for some time as I read that last issue. Could it be? I had had the pleasure for only a little over a year. Cass had been hinting for some time, and finally as he said: “Sooner or later most of us learn that even the longest road has an end, the most glorious day a sunset, the beautiful melody a final note, and that even the most enthusiastic can tire.”

In hindsight, the value of the West Coast DX Bulletin was as much in Hugh Cassidy’s way of presenting the bulletin as it was in delivering DXing information. Through his stories, he included lots of interest and even some wisdom. I always found Cass’ stories had a point, something to think about. Also, I usually found it difficult to figure out what his own take was on the issue of the day.

Many of his stories are just really funny. Charles Allen, W5DV and his brother James, W6OGC published a book of “The Best of the West Coast DX Bulletin” in 1981. Every once in a while I pick up my copy and turn to a story on one of the well-marked pages and get another chuckle. They are still really good, over and over again.

According to Ross, K6GFJ, “When Cass decided to stop publishing the bulletin, he shipped his entire collection to Paul, Dunphy, VE1DX.” Paul recently shipped Cass’ collection back to the West Coast where the Northern California DX Club will have every issue scanned to be available on the Internet. So far, issues from issues from May 1, 1968 to December 30, 1975 have been published on the NCDXC webpage. After every issue has been scanned and available on line, the collection will be moved to its permanent home in the W6CF Memorial Library at the California Historical Radio Society in Alameda (CA) (www.californiahistoricalradio.com). Most likely, by the time you finish reading those issues already published, the remainder will be scanned and online.

Although many of the stories refer to operations and other DXing matters that are dated, not relating directly to today’s operations, you can easily substitute current callsigns, as most of the topics are the same and relevant, maybe more so. As Cass would say, “DX IS!” Still is? You bet!

*The DX University™ maintains an Internet-based website containing lots of useful DXing information. Visit it at http://www.dxuniversity.com. The next scheduled in-person DX University session will be held on Thursday, July17, 2014 in Hartford, CT, at the ARRL Centennial celebration.