Friday, January 31, 2020

N4Y Winter Field Day 2020 Outing from Falling Waters

This year we had a setup similar to previous Winter Field Days at Falling Waters State Park near Chipley, FL. At campsite 5, Linda and I had a camper. We also had a tent for operating. Chris VA3ECO and Dennis WA6QKN used the tent for sleeping quarters. Tom WD0HBR and Sandy joined the group for Friday set up and dinner at the Mexican restaurant in Chipley. George W4GHG brought his family on Saturday and made his first out of town HF contacts. Bob KK4DIV and Carla had a tent site and station at the other end of the campground. Visitors included Frank KC8VKA and Rick NZ2I.

Dennis WA6QKN in operating tent

The N4Y class/category was 2O. We used non-commercial power. Chris helped out with a satellite contact for 1500 bonus points. This year, I created a logging program I call Cycle 25 Logger. It worked well enough. A couple of improvements were noted.

Carla and Bob KK4DIV camping and operating.
We balanced our time among eating, socializing, and operating. Chris warmed up Margot's Canadian Chili Saturday night. Chris also cooked eggs for breakfast. We found plenty of activity on the 80, 40, and 20-meter band. However, 15 meters was dead, which could have boosted our multiplier of 9X. Digital PSK-31 contacts were our biggest point maker.

Here is Bob KK4DIV's excellent video on Winter Field Day

The experience was enjoyed by all. We plan to combine camping and radio for the Florida QSO Party from Three Rivers State Park near Sneads, FL in April 2020.

The Falling Water's namesake

Monday, January 6, 2020

My Solar Cycle 25 Reboot

I am attaching some significance to Solar Cycle 25 for my ham radio experience. I got my Novice and upgraded to general during Solar Cycle 20. However, I took a 25-year break from the hobby and missed the peaks for Solar Cycle 21, 22, and 23. In 2008, I got relicensed and I have been active during Solar Cycle 24. I see the upcoming Solar Cycle 25  as a great opportunity to personally enhance my amateur radio experience. I have not pursued aspects like contesting, DX, or Awards. So I should at least dabble and keep records in those activities.

My Splash Screen

Keeping records is my weakness even though I design databases at work. So my Cycle 25 Resolution is to log my contacts. There are dozens of computer log programs out there. However, since I have so much database experience, I will create a logging database for my own purposes. The first phase is to design the schema, tables, fields, and relationships. The more complete and correct the schema is, the easier creating the application or GUI will be. I actually teach a class on this at work.

My database schema diagram for Cycle 25 logging
The schema is coming along see the relationship diagram. You may glean something from it even if you have not studied databases. I am attempting to cover activations like POTA, RaDAR, Winter and ARRL Field Days, and Satellite Contacts for starters. Unfortunately, every activity and contest is a little different and will require specific fields to support them. Since I can write my own queries against the database, I can do statistics for each activity and overall statistics.

I also have considered multi-station operating at Field Days. It would be nice to use a networked central database for logging. I hear this is really tough to pull off in the field. Therefore, I am looking at an approach to synchronize copies of the logging database via sneakernet every few hours. This is a KISS approach. The database will be implemented in Microsoft Access since I have so much experience with that tool.

Solar Cycle 25 has not been officially started yet, although there are hints that it is on the way. A couple of Cycle 25 sunspots have been spotted. We just have to have faith it will start at all. It is up to the Sun. I am looking forward to it.