N1MM Logger+ & SmartSDR in CQ WW Phone

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I used the latest versions of N1MM Logger+ and SmartSDR / SmartSDR CAT in last weekend's CQ WW Phone operating SOSB(A) 10m HP. 1,044 QSOs, 34 zones and 143 countries.

Operation was 99% perfect. I positioned the N1MM capture window over the waterfall and found that to be a comfortable set-up. One quibble, when I would click anywhere in SmartSDR the N1MM window would disappear behind SmartSDR. Would like to make the N1MM window persistent on top of SmartSDR.

SmartSDR lost contact with the 6700 twice during the 2 days but that was easily recovered from. N1MM crashed when I tried to edit logged contacts so I stopped trying to edit contacts during the test and just hand wrote notes regarding the log fixes to be made (usually as a result of hitting the enter key too fast).

A couple of times clicking on a packet spot opened a second slice rx instead of QSYing the primary slice. I'm not sure why this happened, but it was only a few times.

Flex 6700 again showed itself to be a wonderful contest radio. It is essential to keep the AGC threshold as low as possible when the band is full of big signals - it is noticeably quieter when the AGC is adjusted correctly and signals become much easier to copy.

Now if we could only do something about the horrible tx audio coming out of many of the non-Flex radios! Does everybody turn their processor up to 11?

On the wish list - position logged contacts and spots from the cluster over the panfall at the appropriate frequencies with color coding to show their age. That would very, very, very useful!

73
BIll AA7XT (W0LFA in contests)
Glade Park CO
DM59pa
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William Hein

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Posted 4 years ago

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Barry N1EU

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It is essential to keep the AGC threshold as low as possible when the band is full of big signals
Bill, wouldn't you want to keep the AGC threshold as HIGH as possible to minimize AGC action by neighboring strong signals? 

73, Barry N1EU
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Ken - NM9P, Elmer

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Thanks for your report.  Great score!

I also am appalled at the quality (or lack thereof) of many of the signals on the band.  especially the following:

1) Some hams seem to think that if full drive is good, shouting your amplifier up to 120% will get through better.  Never mind that you are now at least 10 KHz wide and splattering over the weak signals next to you.  or that you are wasting your power as distortion products and actually reducing your effective signal.

2) Many of the contesters seem to think that "Bob Heil recommends boosting the 1k-3k frequencies a bit for maximum intelligibility.... So I will boost them by 20-40 dB and cut off everything below 500 Hz and hope it will make me sound better!"  Some of these stations were so badly EQ'ed that they were nearly impossible to understand, even though they were 10 dB over S9.  They wasted so much time giving repeats.  I had to use my RX EQ to reduce their treble levels and boost the bass so I could understand them.  I wish I had a three button option for the RX EQ that would let me have a CW RX EQ profile, a "Boost" profile, and a "Cut and compensate" profile for stations like this.  One button and I would be able to apply the fix quickly...

3) The same thing with compression... "a-little-dab-'ll-do-ya."  If 5-10 dB compression gives you more talk-power in a contest.... how about 20, 30 or 50% compression?  Yes, you sound like "Spinal Tap"  with it on '11'  but they don't need to understand me, only hear me... at least I'm LOUD!   Sadly, there is no easy way to "uncompress" this disaster of a signal.

Keep having fun!
Ken - NM9P
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Steve W6SDM

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I think a lot of this is due to little or poor Elmering. More people need to realize that it's not enough to move the meter, they have to be able to understand what you're saying.
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Stu Phillips - K6TU, Elmer

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Bill,

I would guess that the spots that opened a second slice are ones that a QSX assigned to them as a listening frequency.  Odd in a contest to operate split but a few guys do.

I work very hard at training myself not to touch the radio via SmartSDR in a contest for the reason you mention - I don't want to lose window focus on the logging program.

I'm sure you know this but you don't need to click on the band map in N1MM+ to go to the next spot... Here's an extract from the docs...

Jumping to Spots on the active radio or VFO (the one with the Entry focus)
  • Ctrl+Down Arrow - Jump to next spot higher in frequency.
  • Ctrl+Up Arrow - Jump to next spot lower in frequency.
  • Ctrl+Alt+Down Arrow - Jump to next spot higher in frequency that is a multiplier.
  • Ctrl+Alt+Up Arrow - Jump to next spot lower in frequency that is a multiplier.
If you configure for SO2V operation (ask me if you need help on this), you can run one "radio" as your CQ frequency and then use the "other radio" to look for spots - here again from the spots.

Jumping to Spots on non active radio/VFO
  • Ctrl+Shift+Down Arrow - Jump to next spot higher in frequency on the inactive radio/VFO. This will skip over CQ-Frequency when radios or VFOs are on the same band. Proper keystroke operation is radio dependent. Disabled for SO1V.
  • Ctrl+Shift+Up Arrow - Jump to next spot lower in frequency on the inactive radio/VFO. This will skip over CQ-Frequency when radios/VFOs are on the same band. Proper keystroke operation is radio dependent. Disabled for SO1V.
  • Shift+Ctrl+Alt+Down Arrow - Jump to next spot higher in frequency on the inactive radio/VFO that is a multiplier. If you are operating single mode, your mode won't change when jumping between spots. Disabled for SO1V.
  • Shift+Ctrl+Alt+Up Arrow - Jump to next spot lower in frequency on the inactive radio/VFO that is a multiplier. If you are operating single mode, your mode won't change when jumping between spots. Disabled for SO1V.
  • Shift+Alt+Q - Jumps to your last CQ frequency on the inactive VFO/radio. Disabled for SO1V.
I also use the logging program to move the rotor(s) in use for the antenna(s).

Using the bandmap for spots and multipliers lets the whole process of chasing multipliers be automatic.

Most of my personal contesting is done un-assisted - with the strong exception of SweepStakes or contests where there isn't a separate category for assisted operation.

Nice score!  I only dabbled in the CQ WW DX this weekend in between other chores but the bands were wide open and it was nice to see a SFI over 200!  Short lived but I'll take it when Old Sol offers it up!

Stu K6TU
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Ken - NM9P, Elmer

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Thanks, Stu.
I knew I had read about the "QSY" function, but couldn't remember how to do it and didn't want to take the time to look it up.  I was having too much fun running the contest!  But it would have saved a bunch of time for me.  I like the option to go to next spt, or next multiplier.  Does it also filter out the ones you have already worked?

Also...is there a keyboard command to tune the ATU?  That would be really nice.  That is probably one of the biggest reasons I used the mouse on the SSDR console.  That and adjusting AGC-t, until I reprogrammed the AUX2 button on the Flex Control Knob to do that for me.

All in all, I thought I did pretty well for my first major contest running N1MM (regular OR plus)  I am hooked now!  My next goal is 500,000 points, which should be easy once I get the antenna up!
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Dave - WB5NHL

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I also used N1MM logger and SmartSDR.  I ran "assisted" on 40 meters only trying to get my country count up. Most of the time I was watching the band map with a hand on my Flex control. I only occasionally checked SmarSDR. Dual monitor setup.

Also set N1MM to "grab focus on frequency change", thus I had no focus issues.

I was really impressed by clicking on a split (EU/US) spot on 40 meters and have the "B" receiver popup in XMT right at the specified frequency.

Who says Flex isn't a contest rig.
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William Hein

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Thanks for the band map and SO2V tips, Stu. I will try those in CQ WW CW. Was just getting my feet wet this past weekend. I wish now I had put in a better effort!

With regard to AGC Threshold, I may be mangling the terminology. What I find is moving the AGC-T slider to the left under band noise drops down gives me the best readability, weak signals seem to 'pop' at the right level. I adjust this frequently as propagation and band noise change. I have assigned a FlexControl button to AGC-T to make this easy.

My day-to-day logging software's (DXLab) log entry window does have persistence (its an option) and does not disappear behind SSDR so I am going to request this feature in N1MM Logger+.
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Stu Phillips - K6TU, Elmer

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BUTT IN CHAIR

:-)
Stu K6TU
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Mike Hoing

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Stu,

Great information. One question is how are you dealing with running splits on 40. I found that it might be easier if there were two mice or two flex controls so I could control each slice. It was a lot of mouse clicks between slice b and logging soft ware to turn both VFOs.

Hopefully my question made sense and I would welcome your comments on how you do it. Rate matters and it probably 10 seconds a qso additional time adjusting

Mike
N9DFD
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Stu Phillips - K6TU, Elmer

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Mike,

I have two suggestions...

Until FlexRadio adds extended support for the FlexControl, use DDUtil if you can with its support for the FlexControl - for example, you could set DDUtil up so that to alternate between VFO A (slice A) and B (slice B), you simply tap on the knob.

The second solution is to use my K6TU Control ipad app (SPOTD #1  - shameless plug of the day ;-) and use it to select the slice you want to tune.  By default, the slice that is displayed in the detail view of the app is also set as the active slice in SmartSDR.  SSDR will tune whichever slice is active via the FlexControl.

When we originally designed the FlexControl, the concept was that you would have two separate modes of operation - one for S&P where the knob would alternate between tuning VFO A and B with a simple tap, and a second mode for CQ/running - where tapping on the knob alternated between VFO A and RIT - in that second mode, the double tap was designed to reset the RIT.

To get from one mode to the other was a long press on the knob switch.

Hope this all makes sense and is helpful! :-)

Stu K6TU
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Mike Hoing

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DDUTIL, I should have thought of that it's installed and running and would have solved that problem. I have your app but have not tried it in competition. Will have to pull it out and try it as that would have been good as well just bumping from a to b

Thanks for the tips

Mike
N9DFD
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Stu Phillips - K6TU, Elmer

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Mike,

I've found that it takes some personal re-training to get optimum workflow with SmartSDR in combination with the logger, FlexControl and iPad App.

I've made it a point to think about what I'm doing whenever I find myself about to reach for the mouse to go and do something on SmartSDR during a contest.

Its the mental "ruler across the back of the hand" to make me break the old habit.

I do the same when learning new things I can do with the logging program.

I've found the best way to do this is to practice in a contest where I'm not going all out - for example, over the last two weeks, I've entered both the Fall pre-Stew Perry and the CQ WW Phone events as a training exercise for me.  My efforts have been around forcing myself to never change the focus away from the logging program.

Try the practice - you can do it while DXing or casual operating as well.  Set everything up as though you are going to contest, now make sure you never change the focus.

I've learnt a lot over the years from my aircraft training about what it takes to convert a trained response into a automatic response... repetitive practice in a safe learning environment (that generally means a simulator for flying!).

Try it - it doesn't take long especially when you can focus in a non-heat of the moment environment.

Stu K6TU
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Guy G4DWV/4X1LT

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I just dabbled a short time during the contest, but I found that those calling 'CQ' only seemed to listen for a second or two before calling again. That is the time it takes me to draw breath and start replying (not really, but almost). Is this considered 'good' contest operating? To me it seems a good way to miss callers.
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Stu Phillips - K6TU, Elmer

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It depends on the operator - both Writelog and N1MM/+ have a timed repeat CQ function - the default value is 1.8 seconds in N1MM+

Its not uncommon when the rate drops - as it most surely will on Sunday afternoon this coming weekend in Sweepstakes...

I resort to it myself but only with my finger poised over the ESC key to interrupt the sequence when some one calls me back - I usually put in a delay of 2.5 seconds for exactly the reason you state.

I used the digital voice keyer in phone events to send my callsign ( i have it pre-recorded) - so generally its easy to get in during the pause - just press the button.

Almost everything I send in a CW contest comes from the function keys - so equally quick on the draw.

Stu K6TU
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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I usually leave it at 2 Seconds between Automatic CQ... anyone slower than that is not a contestor
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Guy G4DWV/4X1LT

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I thought that was the reason. But even when calling a relatively local station in another country, when you know the signal must be getting through, the number of 1 points x total multipliers that could be getting lost, all for a 5 sec QSO.
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Ken - NM9P, Elmer

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Howard, you are right.  About 2-3 seconds should be adequate.  If they are calling again when I get off my mike, it usually means that they can't hear me!  Or that there are too many calling and they can't understand anyone.  So I am learning to change antennas and try again, or move on and come back later.  

But one thing I have found is that some ops call inconsistently and when you THINK they are done and are listening, they send their call ONE MORE TIME while you are trying to call them.  Their CQ call, or their call after working someone, is unclear, leading to wasted time for everyone.  

My other pet peeve are the stations that constantly call 'QRZ?' after every contact and seldom send their own call, or speak it so rapidly that it is not copyable.  Then people must ask for clarification.  "Repeat your call?"  I have had to ask people to slow down and speak clearly.  Perhaps that makes me a contest LID, but only because THEIR operating habits lead to confusion and frustration.  I guess if I followed Stu's good comments "It's all about rate" then I would simply move on and work other stations!  I'm not going to waste ten minutes listening for a call just in case I haven't worked them yet.
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Stu Phillips - K6TU, Elmer

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If they don't give their call, move on...  later in the contest they will be begging for QSO's.  Same is true for those whose callsigns are incomprehensible... such as "XE1A" I heard yesterday that turned out to be HK1NA - the op would have done his rate a favor by clear pronunciation at a slower pace - he sounded like he was inhaling helium.

S&P or Running...

Stu "Its ALL ABOUT RATE" K6TU :-)

PS: RATE is not an excuse for sloppy or inconsiderate operating - it is about being efficient!  Especially on phone, I will always take the time to explain the contest if someone calls me and "isn't in the contest" - rate is less important at that point than being considerate and maybe attracting someone new to radio sport.
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Steve Gw0gei

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Great thread

I used my flex 6300 on Sunday in cqww ssb after abandoning a field day style m2 entry on Saturday due to multiple site and antenna issues. I am an experienced contester of 20 + years using n1mm classic . I used my 6300 and n1mm plus on Sunday to s and p mainly on 10m hp assisted and the dropped onto 15m and 40m in the evening to pick up countries and to put the radio through its paces in a major crowded contest . I had focus help running and was happy to use mouse to move the slice over stations when trawling the bands but mainly used the keyboard shortcuts to jump from one mult to the next - worked great.

Very impressed with performance of 6300 on crowded 40m band narrowing filters and moving them to pull out weak ones - better than my previous ft1000d and current pro3 and easier to use than my recent ts590s.

Looking forward to trying the 6300 in cqww cw now

73

Steve gw0gei
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William Hein

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Barry is right - I meant keeping the AGC-T slider as much to the left as possible and my brain wants to call this "low"