Monday, 2 September 2019

First 1296 contact and the woes of uploading to eQSL

My last posting unveiled my aspirations to work somebody on 1296MHz ...

It did not take long to have my first contact on 23cms.

David, G4RQI, agreed to give it a try. That would be a distance of 243km and quite a long way for 10 watts. I was spurred on by a comment from Gordon, G8PNN, who said that he was now working stations on 23cms that he would have been happy to have worked on 2m when he started in the hobby. If that is the case, I might have a chance with 243km on 23cms. My antenna has a claimed gain of 18.5dBi, so that should help.

David picked the right parameters for the QSO. As we both thought it would be difficult with my low power level, he suggested one of the fast JT9 modes, JT9F. I have used this mode quite a few times on 2m and it benefits from just about any enhancement it can get, such as aircraft or tropo scatter. As it turned out, just about any mode might have done.

Then David suggested 15 second T/R interval (of course), 1500hz tx and rx frequency and as he is South of me, he was to transmit first (quite correct). Following all the rules, he suggested that as 1296.140 was clear at his end we should use that. Fair enough, I started calling CQ and he heard me almost at once.
QSO with G4RQI on 1296MHz on 1 September 2019
As usual, click to enlarge if you need to.

You can see RQI's trace on the lower part of the fast graph. I had stepped out of the shack to deal with some query or other from Mrs FVM, and I could hear David on the loudspeaker from down the hall. Mrs FVM remarked that I seemed distracted from whatever it was she was on about at the time.

Returning to the action it was not an immediate QSO. Although David gave me a +05dB report there was a lot of variability in my signal at his end, possibly due to QSB or sporadic aircraft scatter. Anyway I gave David a report of -02dB. He was never less than -05dB and peaked at -02dB. I decoded every one of David's transmissions.

An interesting aspect to this was the figure WSJT-X gave for David's frequency - 1175Hz. We had agreed in advance to use 1200, so that suggested a discrepancy of 25hz in 1296140000hz. Is that 1:51 million or is my maths wrong? Not bad and it proves how good GPS locked radios can be.

We could certainly have completed this QSO on a mode less capable of utilising scatter enhancement. I think FT8 or CW would have worked. I know that David did not get such easy copy on me, but given a bit more time SSB would surely have completed too.

I really appreciate David's help with this. I usually find it very difficult to work into IO93 on any band, so doing it on 23cms was a surprise.

So off we go again. 1 x DXCC entity, 1 x square, 1 x QSO on 1296MHz.


Over the past few years I have been finding myself spending ages replying to QSL cards on eQSL.

I do not usually originate QSLs but I feel the need to reply to ones I receive. eQSL's method of dealing with them requires me to spend ages comparing the received card with my log and then sending a reply.

So I thought I might try uploading my log instead. That way eQSL would simply treat any correct in coming QSL as confirmed at both ends and present me of with a list.

Various warnings on my logging software - the excellent VQ Log - pointed out that there are limits on how much data you can upload to eQSL. I tried a couple of variations, all of which were rejected before deciding on only 2019's QSOs. This would have been great except that the ones eQSL rejected still seem to have been uploaded anyway. I am getting confirmations of eQSLs from QSOs which took place in 2017, even though eQSL told me that those records had not been received.

I am a bit perplexed about this. Over the past three days I have received HUNDREDS of confirmatory eQSLs, many of them done by hand. People all over the place are sitting down doing the very laborious thing I was trying to avoid myself. Whilst it saved me time, the people receiving the resulting eQSL seem to be under the quite reasonable assumption that I would like an eQSL back in return. But I don't really want a confirmation, I just want to avoid the work involved in replying manually to the eQSLs I receive from others.

There is no such thing as a free lunch. If I want to simply reply to eQSLs it looks like I will just have to sit down and go back to the old laborious manual way of replying.

But hold on ... how many of those eQSLs I spend so much time replying to are in fact from folks like me? Maybe they never really wanted a hand crafted reply, carefully checked with the log book. Perhaps they too were just trying to avoid opening eQSL and finding 100s of requests to answer. So they too just upload their logs and let someone else deal with the consequences. For the past decade those mugs have included me, who did think it was a bit odd to get dozens of requests from the same station.

Now, if Henning, OZ1JXY, ever opens his eQSL account he will find about 100 requests from me for eQSL confirmations for 4m meteor scatter contacts. I hope he doesn't reply to them all. I do not expect replies to all of them. One eQSL would be nice though, because I might have worked into that square over 100 times, but I still have no QSL to confirm it.

The upside of all this is that I have found about ten errors in my log. The downside is that I have made a lot of people busy. Those who already upload should not mind, those that don't upload might mind. One or two of them have emailed me to tell that they definitely do mind.

I suppose when an amateur of 40 years (plus) standing uploads a log (it was only supposed to be 2019, honestly), it is bound to create some traffic.

But do I upload again? Honestly, I doubt if I can face opening eQSL and replying manually to a hundred and half eQSLs, as happened recently. So probably either nobody gets a manual reply, or everybody gets an automatic one.

Where is Solomon when you need a judgement?

I will need to decide one way or the other.

P.S. My Yaesu FT-817 has developed what appears to be a terminal fault. It seems that the processor has been zapped by lightning. With the Icom IC-705 on the way, I think I will wait the year or two it might take for this new rig to appear ...