IF Comp 2012 – Living Will

Now to try my hand at a web-based game. I suppose that almost all the games are now web-based in the sense that some excellent online interpreters are now available.

The first one I tried was Living Will, and reading the fine print at the bottom of the browser window, I see that it is written in Undum, a client-side (i.e., in the browser) engine for presenting linked text, keeping track of state, etc. I’ve played a bit with Inkle, and it sounds like it has some features in common.

My first impression of this work is that the graphics are top notch: a textured leather background with a gradient runs down the page in the background, while text is presented in several boxes with lighter backgrounds with classy typography.

And now for some spoilers beyond this point…

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IF Comp 2012 – A Killer Headache

Well, the first line certainly draws the player in, “Ever since you died, the migraines have been getting worse.” Sounds like my kind of game.

I always record a transcript as I play through games, both for my own record and because I am a dyed-in-the-wool betatester and can’t play a game without part of my brain (brainns!!!!) thinking about the medium itself. I usually try to send these transcripts on to the authors even if there are no problems because I’ve always appreciated receiving transcripts. As an author, receiving a transcript lets you know firstly that someone cares and is playing the game, but also gives some insight into how others apprach the game. After writing a game, an author is so close to the game that an external perspective often turns up surprising twists.

Anyhow, when transcript recording starts, the version information scrolls by, and I was stunned to see the number of extensions that this game uses. It’s nice to see that this author has built upon work by others and furthermore that he’s managed to get all the extensions to play nice with each other, which I know can be a challenge.

Okay…from here out, spoilers…

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IF Comp 2012 – The Island

Ricardo_Montalban_Herve_Villechaize_Fantasy_Island_1977IFcomp 2012 is suddenly upon us. Last year, I played a bunch of games, assembled comments and never put them on the blog. This year, I’ll try blogging each game as I play it. I may not get through them all, but at least there will be some record of my impressions of the games.

I downloaded the zip file of games and did a quick overview. Looks like some are meant to be played on the web, so I’ll play those later. Some seem to work best under windows, so likewise, I’ll put that off for now. I see only one game, The Island, written with TADS, so I’ll somewhat randomly start there. No maps, feelies, or READMEs in that games directory, so I can hop right into the game, which suits me fine. From here out, expect spoilers.

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Sky House: Arrival

view south towards the Pacific oceanThe Nerkspedition to Sky House is underway. We arrived in LA a couple days ago and drove up the 101 to around San Luis Obispo yesterday. The final road to Sky House is a long, winding dirt road that hairpins its way up a mountain to a fabulous house that overlooks neighboring mountains, Morro Bay, and the Pacific Ocean. Most of the first day was spent getting everyone unpacked and settled.

Earlier today, I set up the FT817 for local repeaters in San Luis Obispo and Los Osos. No problem hitting them with full quieting from the top of the mountain, but not a lot of activity on them.

Even though this is the IARU World Championship weekend, I didn’t bother setting up for HF today given the solar activity: strong wake from a CME and an intensely south vectoring magnetic field. By report, the bands were pretty dead earlier except for sporadic E on 6m later in the day.

I’m hoping tomorrow will be better, so I tossed the 40m half wave dipole antenna into the trees at the top of the mountain. The wire comes down near a comfy chair next to the pool, and if conditions are better on Monday or Tuesday, I’ll give HF a try.

slt plus board with a missing L1 toroidImmediately before leaving for California, I noticed that both my winkeyer and SLT+ antenna tuner had developed rattles. I have to assume that this happened during my last flight back, which had involved a bumpy segment on a regional jet from Reno to LAX. Either that, or the TSA got more curious than usual and looked inside them. The winkeyer was missing a screw and the rest of the screws were loose, but there was no internal damage. For the SLT+, however, L1 had fallen off the pc board. I rewound the toroid and soldered it in while I was packing my bags for this trip and as an extra measure tacked all the coils down with hot glue.

Field Day CW Totals

We’re still assembling the total number of contacts from FD 2012 because the SSB and CW stations were not networked, but here are the totals for the two CW stations. I’d say we hit our goals and then some.


The 80/20/10 station

Mhz Contacts
3.5 279
7 304
21 15
Total 599

The 40/15 station

Mhz Contacts
7 430
21 115
28 4
50 1
Total 550

So, our CW total for the event was 1159 contacts. The results from the SSB, VHF/satellite, and GOTA stations and all bonus points should be out soon.

RAC Canada Day 2012

While the emphasis is on working stations in Canada (10 points), other stations do count (2 points), and this year there was more of an “everyone works everyone” flavor to the event. I worked stations from BC to the maritimes, but also a few French, one Netherlands, and one Romanian station. I heard a Brazilian station calling, but he couldn’t hear me.

In addition to working this contest for fun, it was also a test that the outside vertical had survived the storm. Right after the storm, the antenna had more slack in it than usual because the counter weight was resting on the ground. Apparently, a few branches that the antenna had once draped over are no more. I tightened up the support rope and the vertical seems no worse for the wear.

Field Day 2012

Ray, K2HYD at the operating position of the 80/20/10 tent. Hap, K7HAP is at the second position on the laptop, and Byron, W4SSY, supervises

To make everyone’s life easier, we stuck mostly to the plan developed for last year’s event, although I made some effort to simplify the set up where possible. This year, the main rig was a TenTec Omni VII, a radio with clearly marked controls and big tuning knob. Most people could sit down at this rig and be on the air in a matter of minutes without reference to reading material, nifty or otherwise. Instead of three antennas, we went with two: a moxon for westward gain on 20 meters, and a G5RV for all band coverage. The Omni had no difficulty tuning the G5RV for any band that we tried (10, 15, 20, 40, 80).

One major difference from last year is that we did not shut down in the wee morning hours. Both of the CW stations pounded brass for the entire 24 hour period of the contest. We had more operators than the previous year and divided the shifts carefully to assure that at least one person would be at the key all the time. It also helped that several of us brought our own tents this year for quick cat naps. We were all a bit punchy by Sunday morning, but after several cups of coffee, we powered through the rest of the event.

The CW tent is near a busy intersection and more accessible to other parts of the park, so we had a number of visitors drop by the 80/20 tent.  Some of these visitors turned out to be hams eager to put their hands on the paddles, and a few of them racked up an impressive list of contacts and we made sure to invite them back for next year. The more operators we have, the more pleasant staffing becomes. We might even be able to put someone on VHF CW for part of field day next year.

The 20 meter moxon (left) and G5RV (right) supported by a 40 foot military push-up mast, guyed at 3 levels.

Our computer wasn’t fully networked in at the start of the contest, so I don’t know how all the stations did. I have fuzzy recollection that we had around three hundred contacts on 20m and another 300 or so on 80m. We also worked on 15m for a while on Saturday evening, when the 40/15 station had gone to 40m and our 20m operation had been interfering with the SSB 20m station. I’m eager to see the final numbers after all the logs are merged.

One item to consider for next year — is it time to bring an SDR radio to field day? Would a graphic view of the whole band give us an advantage? Would a Flex radio (or other similar radio) play well with the other radios? I like the feel of a big tuning knob and I am used to zipping up and down the band by ear, but that’s all a matter of habit, and if there is better technology, we should consider it. Maybe it would be worth a test drive at some other event before field day 2013.

June mW Sprint

The view west towards mount roseI was sent on fairly short notice to attend a meeting at Lake Tahoe, which is just south of Reno along the California/Nevada border. I had one free evening before the conference, and it just happened to fall on the date of an NAQCC Sprint. I gave serious thought to throwing a wire out the hotel window, but the surrounding mountains called to me. This was not the usual monthly sprint, but the milliwatt version, so I figured that I needed all the help I could get and wanted to take advantage of the elevation.

After some quality time with Google Maps, it looked like Mount Rose was the highest accessible peak in the area. There is a parking lot near the trails that lead to the top of the mountain, but I didn’t think a business suit and dress shoes would fair very well on the gravely slopes. Across the road from the park lot is a campground with picnic tables and tall trees: the ingredients for comfortable field operations. In principle, there is a trail that runs up from the campground to Mount Slide, which, like Mount Rose is a SOTA peak. Again, if I had the right clothing and gear I might have attempted it, but it just wasn’t going to happen this trip. I settled for the 9000+ foot elevation of the campsite.

The view North, down the slopeI tossed a water bottle with a string into a tree, fired up the FT817nd on internal batteries and tuned up with the Hendricks SLT tuner. Before the Sprint, I worked WW0SS in Minnesota on 2.5W. Everything went faster than I had planned, so I laid down on the picnic bench and basked for a while.

I started searching around just a bit before the sprint to get a sense of band conditions. When the sprint started, I alternated between searching and calling. A number of local signals masked the sprint stations for a while, particularly with the poor selectivity of the ft817 (without a filter). I heard quite a few, some of whom were operating at 5W, while others were true milliwatt (less than 1W) stations.

I kept the rig at 0.5W for the entire event, and although I had two small lead acid batteries in the radio bag, I never had to use them. The 817 was running on fumes by the end of the sprint, but I was glad to see that it could make it through two hours of minimal power operation that had included a lot of calling.

All in all, I had six qsos on 20 and 40m. I reported 5 on the NAQCC sprint page because I wasn’t sure the last qso was complete, but I heard afterwards by email from the other station and confirmed that he had, in fact, correctly copied by call at the end of the contest. I think we gave each others 339 for that contact, and I recall that we needed a lot of repeats due to a mixture of summer weather background sounds, QSB and neighboring signals.

I didn’t come close to winning the sprint or even my category, but I enjoyed the scenery and the chance to sign myself as AI4SV/7.

WV Double Whammy

A few days ago, a troublesome area of the sun rotated earthwards and belched forth a stream of plasma meant to make my weekend challenging. A second coronal mass ejection occurred shortly after, with a higher velocity stream in the direction of Earth. Both shockwaves arrived during the West Virginia QSO Party. This K-index histogram covers the period of the QSO Party up to the point that I returned home.

The WVQSOP runs over the whole weekend, but I was only able to join on Sunday. I knew about the CMEs, but figured that I’d still be able to make a least local contacts. I was also hopeful that as the day progressed, conditions would improve.

Since it was also father’s day, Lara decided to accompany me on my mad drive around WV. I had planned a course through three of the northeastern counties: Morgan, Hampshire and Hardy. Looking over reports from recent years, there were some Morgan entries, but not much for Hampshire and Hardy, which is suprising considering that both are near enough to the Baltimore/Washington corridor that it should be possible for hams from those areas to support the event.

My flight plan took me first to the Capacon Mountain Resort, a state park with some really nice facilities, but most importantly, a road that runs to the top of a 2500+ foot ridge. From the observation parking lot at the top, there is a clear shot east and west.

I set up the Tarheel screwdriver antenna and tuned around on 40m and 20m — I heard almost nothing. I know that the car station works okay — I worked Sardinia and the Virgin Islands last night on the way home from work, and I’ve had lots of DX success with the antenna. After about an hour and a half, I had one CW contact on 20m, and one very surprised voice contact on 40m. The voice contact was at least 58 from New York — he said I was the only station he heard on the air, and the feeling was mutual.

The operating location in Hampshire County wasn’t ideal, so I didn’t spend long there, and logged no contacts. I continued towards the VA border and stopped just short, on top of another ridge to get some contacts in for Hardy county. It was getting towards evening (7 pm local / 23:00Z) and 20m seemed to have some life. I worked two more stations on 40m cw, both in Indiana, and one in Kansas on 20m.  So, at the end of the day, what do I have to show for the effort? Five contacts.

Throughout the entire contest, I didn’t hear one other WV station. I had wondered why I had no logged contacts on LOTW, and only a couple that issued physical QSL cards. The low activity seems to be a combination of the number of hams in WV and their level of participation in this contest. Looking at the past logs, it looks like participants from states outside WV dominate the contest.

I’d  like to revisit the Capacon resort this summer for camping or perhaps for next year’s WV QSO Party. The one change I’d make would be a full size antenna. Even if I were to deploy from a car, I’d consider hanging some sort of wire antenna with a tree support and running the cable to the car. The screwdriver is a versatile antenna, but still physically very short.

For next year’s reference, and for anyone else who works the WV QSO Party, I’ve prepared a reference sheet of the counties in West Virginia in a more friendly format that is found on the event website.