Archive for General Info
Summits on the Air (SOTA)
SOTA is an award scheme for radio amateurs and shortwave listeners that encourages portable operation in mountainous areas. SOTA has been carefully designed to make participation possible for everyone – this is not just for mountaineers! There are awards for activators (those who ascend to the summits) and chasers (who either operate from home, a local hilltop or are even Activators on other summits). The summit is “activated” when the activator logs four contact
SOTA is now fully operational in many countries across the world. Each country has its own Association which defines the recognized SOTA summits within that Association. Each summit earns the activators and chasers a score which is related to the height of the summit. Certificates are available for various scores, leading to the prestigious “Mountain Goat” and “Shack Sloth” trophies. An Honor Roll for Activators and Chasers is maintained at the SOTA online database.
The purpose of SOTA is to encourage Amateur Radio based activity from the summits of hills and mountains in countries around the world and to provide an award system for Radio Amateurs in all DXCC Entities.
The program is intended to encourage activity from clearly defined peaks, including major mountains. To enable participation in the program to be as wide ranging as possible, lesser peaks may also be included. An incremental scoring system recognizes the higher peaks accordingly. The program does not accept operation from a motor vehicle.
The program is open to all radio amateurs, worldwide. There are no restrictions on who may activate Summits, although it is probable that most activators will live in the general area. Chasers and Short Wave Listeners may be in any country, even if there is no Association covering their area.
The SOTA web site is; http://www.sota.org.uk/ Their you will find more information about summits, rules, past activations, and photos. There is also a SOTA Watch page with information about peaks currently being activated and upcoming activations.
This summer I will be activating peaks in Vermont and New Hampshire. You can follow my tracks via aprs.fi on Google maps and know when I’m on a summit and what frequency to find me on. I usually operate on 20 meters and 2 meters FM & SSB. I would love to make contact with my ham friends in Sarasota. I will post activation info on the SOTA watch page and my QRZ page. You do not have to wait until this summer you can start “chasing” right now. Go to the SOTA Watch page and contact hams on peaks now.
If you like to hike summits, or share the adventure of hams who do, then SOTA is for you
OK, you just worked a new rare one and would like to confirm the QSO by exchanging QSL cards. Here is a tutorial on the various methods that can be used to get that confirmation.
There are two ways to confirm that you made the contact:
- Cards: you send a QSL card to the station you worked and he sends you back his card. This is the traditional method. Modern conveniences have added some twists explained below.
- Electronic: Using either LOTW or eQSL you confirm the contact electronically via the internet. Which service you use depends… The ARRL’s DXCC program only recognizes LOTW electronic confirmations. eQSL has their own set of awards based on their electronic confirmations.
How you QSL really depends on two factors:
- Your ham radio goals: If you are after ARRL awards, such as DXCC or the ‘Challenge ‘ award then you will need to collect cards and/or LOTW confirmations. Just interested in eQSL awards then cards and/or LOTW is not needed.
- The DX Station: Most DX stations will explicitly declare their preferred (or perhaps only) way that they will confirm contacts. Usually you can find this information on the DX station’s QRZ web information page.
Lets look at the various QSL methods in detail:
For many years it was acceptable to send a DX station a post card QSL and they would respond with a post card back. Increasing postage rates put the squash on this method.
Now there are three methods to exchange an actual QSL card:
Direct: You send the DX station a card using their QRZ address, he / she sends you one back. Most DX stations require that you include a self addressed envelope and ‘green stamps’ a.k.a. US$. The going rate is currently $2 or $3. Yes, you enclose US currency in the envelope along with an addressed envelope and your QSL card. A little scarey putting money in a letter and sending it to a foreign country. Your elmer has had pretty good success doing this but he has been ripped off at times. The practice is still very common.
Direct is good for US stations as they usually only request a SASE without any green stamps.
When would you do this? If the DX station does not use LOTW and/or you need the confirmation quickly and you would like to have the card in your collection. Not something you do for every QSO.
The Bureau: a.k.a. the buro. The Bureau is a system of exchanging cards that was set up a long time ago to help save postage, especially if you are sending / receiving a lot of cards. The bureau consists of an outgoing service where you send your cards and an incoming service where you receive cards.
To start the process you set up an account with your call numbers incoming QSL bureau so they can receive cards for you and then bulk mail them to your home. You bulk send your cards to the outgoing bureau at the ARRL headquarters. It is simpler than it sounds.
Use this link: http://www.arrl.org/incoming-qsl-service
You can not exchange QSL cards with US stations via the bureau.
When you you use the Buro? Send a QSL via the =bureau for every contact you make outside the US. or just to new band / countries. it may take 2 years to get a reply but it sure is a reasonably priced method.
The Online QSL Request System (OQRS): This is a relatively new system for obtaining a DX QSL card that has become very popular with DXpeditions. This system is set up by the DX station and uses the popular Club Log web site. You confirm the QSL(s) on line, make a donation via PayPal and the station sends you the card.
Here is a link to the Club Log OQRS help page: http://clublog.freshdesk.com/support/articles/54921-oqrs-online-qsl-requests
The recent, and popular, Wake Atoll DXpedition (K9W) is using OQRS. here is a link to their QSL page: http://www.wake2013.org/pages/qsl.html
There are two popular electroninc QSL confirmation systems:
LOTW: This is the ARRL’s electronic QSO confirmation site. It supports the ARRL and CQ awards. While a bit difficult to set up, if you use a good logging program such as HRD or DXLab up / downloading QSLs is straight forward. One complaint is that it does not include card images. If you are going for DXCC or any of the related ARRL awards is its the only accepted electronic system.
More information is available here: http://www.arrl.org/logbook-of-the-world
eQSL: eQSL pioneered electronic QSLing. It is a simple to use system that have their own awards which are nice certificates you can order or download and print. eQSL does have card images you can set up for your station and you can download the cards of DX stations you worked into HRD or DXLab. eQSL is not recognized by the ARRL for their awards.
More information is available here: http://www.eqsl.cc/qslcard/Index.cfm
That’s about it for a tutorial on QSLing. if you have any questions or wish to add anything please e-mail SERC@n4ser.org we’d be happy to hear from you.
Good DX, hope you snag that rare one!
There are many approaches to determining which bands are open and where your signal may, or may not, end up. Here are a few aids that you can use that just may, or may not, help:
- There is a simple propagation chart on the bottom of this web site’s home page. Click here to visit the home page, scroll to the bottom and you’ll find the chart. Click on the chart to visit the site where it originates where you’ll find a lot more information.
- SunSpotWatch.com: more information than you could ever digest on current a future conditions.
- A weak signal propagation network a very good way of seeing where QRP (low power) signals are propagating.
- WSPR Home Page Link
- WSPR World Map Page
PSK Automatic Propagation Reporter
- Another great site for determining where low power signals are propagating. This site utilizes digital mode information .
- PSK APR Home Page Link
- PSK APR Map Page
Know of other good sites to monitor propagation. E-mail your Elmer at: WebMaster@N4SER.ORG
EmComm is an important aspect of amateur radios and becomes vital to us in Florida when the wx kicks up. EmComm in Sarasota is handled by SARACS Sarasota County Auxiliary Communications Service. Vist their web site for up to date details.
In order to participate in EmComm you must be trained. FEMA offers a number of required courses (* below) and is a good place to begin.
Here is a list of EmComm courses :
- IS-100.b Introduction to the Incident Command System *
- IS-700.a National Incident Management System (NIMS), An Introduction *
- The-ARRL-Emergency-Communication-Handbook A good introduction to EmComm for Hams
- IS-200.a ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents *
- IS-802 Emergency Support Functions Communications *
- IS-800.B National Response Framework, An Introduction
- IS-704 NIMS Communications and Information Management
- IS-706 NIMS Intrastate Mutual Aid – An Introduction
* Additional training is required and is described on the SARACS Training web page
Link to : ARES/RACES/ACS/SKYWARN Volunteer Registration Database
(Thanks to Eddie Palmer K4JP for help on this)