DATOM Tech Note

State QSO Party Tips Using NA

By Dave Pruett, K8CC

 

The NA Contest Logging Program contains a number of features that can benefit the state QSO party contestant. This DATOM Tech Note describes some of these features and how to prepare for the QSO party. We speak from experience. In April 1999, this author along with Ken Meier, W8MJ went mobile in the Michigan QSO Party and made 462 QSOs from 25 counties in twelve hours in our first HF mobile attempt, despite a geomagnetic storm affecting the bands. We learned a lot using NA during this operation, so while some of the tips in this Tech Note apply to all contestants, we have a special section for the mobile stations as well.

Most state QSO parties have similar rules and scoring. Usually the multipliers are counties (and state/provinces for stations in the target state) and there are a number of mobile stations running around activating counties. These tips should apply to most state QSO parties, in particular those from CA, PA, FL, MI, GA, OH, and perhaps others.

We must make one disclaimer up front. NA does not support so-called "county line" QSOs where a station is allowed to be in multiple geographic entities (usually counties) simultaneously. This rule has dubious legitimacy (even with a civilian GPS you only know where you are within 100 meters) and would require another level of complexity in the logging software, which would benefit no other "normal" contest. If the state QSO party of interest allows such QSOs, the user will have to figure out how to log and score these QSOs on their own.

COPING WITH ROVING MOBILES

Probably the biggest issue is how to log and score the mobile station that moves from county to county during the QSO party. Some people add some sort of appendage to the callsign, like K8CC/WASH, to make it unique and allow the duping algorithm to function correctly. In NA, there is a better way. When in the Logging Window, type the word OPTIONS and the PROGRAM OPTIONS CONTROL PANEL will open. The first selection is called QTHs MUST MATCH FOR DUPE. Turn this feature ON with the spacebar and both the callsign and state/county must match before the QSO is flagged as a dupe. Press Ctrl-Enter to save this setting.

There are two things to be aware of when this feature is turned on. First, if you do a dupecheck (press F9, or hit the spacebar), NA cannot determine if the QSO is a dupe until the state or county is entered. Second, the hardcopy dupesheet that is generated only shows the mobile callsign once. This has not been a problem with the QSO party sponsors.

Another feature that is useful when dealing with mobiles is the QSOs WITH STATION display. If you enter a callsign and press Shift-F9, you will see a list of all the QSOs with than station, regardless of band, mode, callsign appendage, etc.

UNFAMILIAR COUNTY ABBREVIATIONS

One of the challenges for QSO party participants is in recognizing state county names and abbreviations. NA can help here too, with the MULTIPLIER ABBREVIATION LIST. Press Alt-L to open the window. If this window is left visible while you’re logging, whenever the cursor is in the state/county field it will update automatically to help you find the correct multiplier by zeroing in on the county NAME (sort of like the automatic Check Partial window). Note that the county name is not necessarily the same as the county abbreviation, although many QSO parties use the first few letters of the name as the abbreviation, in which case the feature will lead you automatically to the right abbreviation.

TIPS FOR MOBILERS

Most state QSO parties require mobile entrants to keep separate logs for each county they operate from. Keeping these logs straight, and remembering what county you’re in while operating can be a challenge. Here are some tips and NA features to help you out.

Use The County Abbreviation For The .QDF File Name - For example, during our MQP trip our log for Cheboygan County, MI was CHEB.QDF, Emmet County was EMME.QDF, etc. This makes things a lot clearer when you’re collating the logs after the contest.

Create A Batch File For Each County – A batch file will simplify starting a particular county log file, particularly when you’re bouncing down the road in the mobile and your driver suddenly announces you’ve crossed a county line. The batch file only needs one line:

NA countyabbreviation programswitches <cr>

"Programswitches" are any of the optional startup switches you might need to run NA; the –now startup switch will complete the automation. Name the batch file using "countyabbreviation", just like the .QDF file name. In the example above, our CHEB.BAT file simply contained:

NA CHEB –now <cr>

What County Am I In? – Once you have the correct county log file, NA has a feature to help you remember which county you’re in. Beginning with version 10.38, a feature was added called LOG DISPLAY BANNER. This feature allows you to create a one line ASCII file called filename.BNR (where filename is the name of the .QDF file you will load) which will be displayed on the lower edge of the Logging Window. To continue our Cheboygan example, our CHEB.BNR file contained:

Cheboygan County – CHEB

When giving the exchange, we would often say "Cheboygan County, C, H, E, B". This would help stations (out-of-state in particular) get not only the county, but the official abbreviation too. Our operator knew where he was as well!

Creating Multiple County Files – If you’re going to operate from multiple counties, get one log file (and optional batch and banner files) set up for the first county the way you want it, then copy it to make log files for the other counties. These copied files will have to be edited for the correct names, counties, CW messages, etc., but the contents of the files, CW keyer settings, etc. will at least be the same.

NOW GO OUT AND WORK THOSE QSO PARTIES!

Get on, work the boys (and girls) and have some fun!


DATOM Tech Notes:

DATOM TECH NOTES is a feature of the DATOM Online Web Page, covering technical topics applicable to the NA Contest Logging or Contest Voice Blaster programs. We would welcome your comments, and suggestions for topics to be covered in future editions.

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