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Author Topic: is Reverse Beacon Network bad for ham radio  (Read 7160 times)
OLLIEOXEN27
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« on: September 18, 2011, 10:54:51 PM »

It seems to me since I've used the Reverse Beacon Network to see the propagation of my own transmitted signal I've pretty much lost interest in ham radio. My 100 watt signal with what I previously thought was a good wire antenna appears to go nowhere. RBN has pretty much debunked the belief I've always had that if I got on the air anything could happen.

True I usually can work the garden variety dx on cw such as the Eastern Euros, the Russians, South Americans, and Western Europeans. However RBN never shows my signal ever making it into Europe! In the ten years since I moved to Florida I've worked exactly zero JA's, zero VK's, and one ZL. For some reason either the distance and so the skip is wrong, the season is wrong, or the sunspot cycle is wrong - who knows? RBN bears this out - my signal never makes it past W7 land!

With the knowledge gained from monitoring RBN I've lost interest in trying new antennas and operating in general. I think in the case of RBN too much information may be a bad thing.
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K0OD
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« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2011, 05:50:55 AM »

What bands and times do you operate? I would think long path VKs would be easy on 40 CW in the afternoon from Florida.

JAs are all over the place around sunrise in contests on 40 CW.
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K2QB
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« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2011, 07:32:14 AM »

Actually I would think the reverse beacon would do just the opposite and spur you on to improving your antenna system and experimenting to see how you can get your signal past W7 land. To have that sort of information available to us now is fantastic in my opinion. I plan on putting up a 7 band vertical and a 7 band wire antenna in the next week or two and one of the first things I'll do once installed is check the reverse beacon to see exactly where my signal is being propagated to and at what times of day. Based on that info maybe I'll turn the wire antenna 90 degrees or whatever and take another look. Nice to be able to orient an antenna so it radiates into the area of the world you are trying to reach.
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N3OX
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« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2011, 09:30:10 AM »

With the knowledge gained from monitoring RBN I've lost interest in trying new antennas and operating in general.

Well that's a shame.  I feel like there are only a couple of possibilities here:

1) You were deluding yourself that you ever would have worked JA, VK, ZL, etc.  If you hadn't found out you weren't able to be routinely heard and decoded by whatever stations are on the RBN there, that wouldn't make it any more likely that you'd ever be heard there.  Is it your operating habits?  Antenna?  How can it possibly be worse to know that something  may be wrong?  If you're restricted with your antennas I can understand that it's frustrating but it doesn't seem like a reason to give up. 

2) You're putting too much stock in the RBN results given the stations who are using it compared to the biggest stations in the places you might want to work.  There's still an outside chance that you could get some great long haul DX, and that will probably increase substantially with better sunspots.  Ten years of drought of that kind of DX plus some RBN results suggest that, but do the RBN results really strengthen the case that much?   How much have you analyzed those results as to the reason for your failure to light up RBN participants in Asia and Oceania?

==================

If you're really absolutely maxed out on antennas, like you can't even reconfigure your wire a little or change the feed system, I can understand how you'd be discouraged.  But I think a wake-up-call for a possible station problem would be beneficial for most folks provided they examine that information carefully.

A lot of people use things like long low wires that work great when you don't care WHO or WHERE you work but are bad enough to kill tougher paths especially on the higher bands.    A 22 foot long 15m dipole (shorter if you bend it) might beat a longwire type antenna by a dozen dB to VK or JA just because of poorly placed nulls in the longwire pattern.

On a lot of paths, you'd never really notice the operational difference between 10W and 100W and so you'd never notice that you were losing 10dB in your feed system.  On other paths, 10dB will just bury you in the noise.... though if you're not even HEARING the distant spots you want to work, this is probably not the problem.

I can empathize with the discouragement people might feel if they're not "getting out" but I also don't see a single bit of reason for people to just go on thinking that their situation is way better than it actually is!  In fact, I see a lot of people who don't have a good estimation for how much difference there can be between certain antenna systems.  It actually cuts both ways in a way that's massively unhelpful for people with restrictions.  A lot of people think any random hunk of wire fed casually is about the same as any other, and that's very far from the truth.  A lot of other people think that a three element yagi is a magical device that's 20dB better than a simple dipole at the same height facing the same direction (might be on RX in some situations but not always)

In my opinion, these two groups of antenna mis-estimators conspire to make people depressed about their antenna options.  I can't count the times someone has said something like "well, I know my West Carolina G5RV is a compromise, but I can't put a beam on a 50 foot tower"
Really, maybe if you just put up a single band dipole oriented to favor a tough direction, or even a ground-mounted shortened vertical, it might fill a null and fix your problems!

I'd think it would be helpful to find out your buddy across town with a 15m dipole can get into a JA RBN station all the time in the late morning and late afternoon/early evening but you can't.  JA from W4 should be occasionally possible with even simple low wire antennas, and if your antenna isn't cutting it, or you're on at the wrong times, I'd think you'd want to know that.  Have you done experiments with antennas that are specifically put up to favor JA or VK?  Have you logged into the spotting network to see when your neighbors are working JA and VK and have you simply not heard them at those times?  Have you not been able to get back to them?
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73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
STAYVERTICAL
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Posts: 854




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« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2011, 12:25:54 PM »

Hi,

I can understand your sentiment about not lighting up the reverse beacons in places of interest,
but as an antenna restricted ham with a 100W rig I would advise you to forget the beacons and
just try some different bands.
Beacons, like every other station, are subject to skip zone vagaries and you may be getting into
your target, just not the beacon location.
VK for example, is a big place, and the location of the beacon/s may not mean you can't get
into VK somewhere.

My station is frequency agile in that I use a remote ATU with some random bits of wire slung
inconspicuously between any appropriate supports.

Yet most days I work around 20 to 40 CW stations in DX locations mainly through hopping from
10m to 30m.
Due to my limited antennas I cant dictate the path my signal will take, but each band has a
different radiation pattern of course and some surprising results are often obtained.

With the increase in sunspot numbers right now and particularly a few days after a geomagnetic
storm has pounded the ionosphere, 10m/12m/15m light up pretty well for a while, so to regain
the fun and excitement, I would just put my signal out there and see what comes back.

Of course, sometimes the bands are just dead, but then its time to turn off the rig and do a
bit of hobby number two - after all life balance is important as well.

73s and good luck.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2011, 12:34:20 PM by STAYVERTICAL » Logged
OLLIEOXEN27
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« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2011, 07:13:04 PM »

The problem with JA's, VK's, and ZL's is they just don't put any signal into Florida. I use vertical wire antennas currently and I'm working more dx that I ever did with a horizontal antennas such as a dipole or an extended zepp - just not into Pac and As . The thing is no one else I know down here hears them either. I hear them but they are always s-1 or just above noise level. Right now I have vertical half waves on 20, 15, and 10 and a 45 degree sloper facing west on 30.

It could be something as simple as we are between skips down hear on the bands I an using. Since most of my antennas are verticals I don't thing the problem is antenna direction. It's not ground losses otherwise I wouldn't be able to work the dx I work.
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OLLIEOXEN27
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« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2011, 07:19:10 PM »

I've heard often over the years that West coast stations have trouble working Euros and Africans, and East coast stations have trouble with AS, Pac. I suppose stations with beams and Yagi's don't since they have gain to wherever they are pointed. Makes sense. I just get board working the same $*&! all the time.
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N3OX
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« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2011, 06:48:02 AM »

I've heard often over the years that West coast stations have trouble working Euros and Africans, and East coast stations have trouble with AS, Pac. I suppose stations with beams and Yagi's don't since they have gain to wherever they are pointed.

Asia IS hard and the Pacific is harder than EU and AF propagation-wise.  Signals are weaker for sure... the hardest of all is SE Asia from here.  XU, XV, etc are very hard.

Quote
It could be something as simple as we are between skips down hear on the bands I an using. Since most of my antennas are verticals I don't thing the problem is antenna direction.

True.

Quote
It's not ground losses otherwise I wouldn't be able to work the dx I work.

Well I don't know about ground losses as the mechanism but I think this is a dangerous trap.

I can drop power 10dB and it won't mess up my ability to work EU and AF stations.  It will make it a lot harder to work weaker stuff, though.  You could be a QRPer and work all the EU and AF you want and not be able to get into Asia... I would still be surprised if you never work a JA just because there are so many Japanese hams and some of them have huuuuge stations... but I haven't operated from Florida with gear like yours.  I have operated with pretty low key stations, and I didn't work Asia much, but it happened every once and a while.  I worked a 9M2 from my apartment in Maryland.

What kind of stations are the other people you know running?  What time are you guys on the air?  Does it line up with the best times for propagation?

If you can hear them weak  but can't work them maybe you just need an amp or maybe you do have some extra losses messing you up. 




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73,
Dan
http://www.n3ox.net

Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
W3PO
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Posts: 38




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« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2011, 03:46:07 AM »

I have to agree with Dan,
From Maryland and in general all the east coast it is more of a challenge to work Asian stations.
Even with my 5watts most of the time if I can hear him I work him.
Lately 12 m has been open and there is a lot to do with Asia over the pole.
Now if you cannot hear them at all while other in you area do, then you are having obviously antenna, or locational  issues.
Back to the point the RBN has been a great tool to estimate where my 5 watts go, there are only five of them and I want to know at all time where they are Grin
« Last Edit: September 23, 2011, 03:49:33 AM by W3PO » Logged

73 de Pat W3PO
W8JI
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« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2011, 06:49:23 AM »

The problem with JA's, VK's, and ZL's is they just don't put any signal into Florida. I use vertical wire antennas currently and I'm working more dx that I ever did with a horizontal antennas such as a dipole or an extended zepp - just not into Pac and As . The thing is no one else I know down here hears them either. I hear them but they are always s-1 or just above noise level. Right now I have vertical half waves on 20, 15, and 10 and a 45 degree sloper facing west on 30.

It could be something as simple as we are between skips down hear on the bands I an using. Since most of my antennas are verticals I don't thing the problem is antenna direction. It's not ground losses otherwise I wouldn't be able to work the dx I work.

I'm in middle Georgia. I can assure you propagation from here to SE Asia, or points further south like Florida, is infinitely better than it is from the northeast USA. Granted I have large antennas, but I can work 50 or more Japanese on 160 meters in one morning. I can go to my mobile and work SE Asia easily on 40 and 80 meters. While we do not have it as good as the west coast, it is close.

Despite being 1000 miles further from Europe, I can compete with any NE USA station into Europe or Africa.

Any claim it is propagation or geographical location is absolutely 100% false. The thing that kills propagation is a polar path that goes through or along the auroral regions near the magnetic poles. Distance is a small factor, but getting near the magnetic poles with signals is HUGE. This is why as we generally move latitude toward the equator, reliability of paths in on HF improves.

The sole disadvantage of a southerly location is increased noise from thunderstorms. That can be offset with directional antennas, but it also does not undo the propagation advantage.

If you are not in a location where the path to target is along or over the magnetic poles, and you cannot work stations in those areas on HF or MF, then you should look to your antennas or local problems near your station in those directions.

I can use a ground mounted trap vertical from here and 100 watts, and fill the log with Japanese on 40 meter CW. Using the same system in northeast Ohio, it isn't even close when working Japan. That's because of how close the signal gets to the north magnetic pole.

This is really and factually how it actually works. North and south latitude change has a HUGE effect on propagation, much more than distance, when a signal is getting near the magnetic pole. If I could take my station and pick it up and move it anywhere I wanted along with my local noise floor, I would move it to the south tip of Florida. From that location in winter, I could beat any station anywhere in the USA as an accumulated total of DX in all directions. California might be a little better to Asia, but I would kill them everywhere else. The very far NE might be better to Europe, but I'd kill them everywhere else.

Look at your antennas and you local problems, or maybe your bands or operating hours. It positively is not geography.

73 Tom
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WG7X
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Posts: 350




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« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2011, 08:37:05 AM »

It seems to me since I've used the Reverse Beacon Network to see the propagation of my own transmitted signal I've pretty much lost interest in ham radio. My 100 watt signal with what I previously thought was a good wire antenna appears to go nowhere. RBN has pretty much debunked the belief I've always had that if I got on the air anything could happen.

True I usually can work the garden variety dx on cw such as the Eastern Euros, the Russians, South Americans, and Western Europeans. However RBN never shows my signal ever making it into Europe!

With the knowledge gained from monitoring RBN I've lost interest in trying new antennas and operating in general. I think in the case of RBN too much information may be a bad thing.

You have gotten tons of good responses here.

Your initial post is confusing though, because on one hand you say that it appears that your signals never make it into Eu, then the next statement mentions that you do work EU. You go on to bemoan the lack of propagation into the SE Asia and the Pacific.

This sounds to me like a metering problem. Did you ever consider the question of whether a lack of participating stations in the areas you mention is the reason why the RBN is not showing your signal in EU when in fact you are actually working EU stations? These are two logically conflicting statements.

If in fact you can work EU, then the data from the RBN is patently false. End of story.

Why depend on a problematic system to determine your enjoyment of ham radio?  Forget about what some silly web site or beacon network says. Just get on the air and operate!

If that's all it takes to discourage you...

73 Gary
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W8JI
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« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2011, 10:09:59 PM »

Doesn't the RBN also look for certain criteria to spot a station? Like sending "de callsign"?
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N2UGB
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« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2011, 02:13:33 AM »

I agree with W3PO. As I am, essentially, QRP on 20 meters, I like to know who is hearing my peanut whistle cw signal. I'm not looking to find openings anywhere in particular. It's just fun to read the Reverse Beacon report Cheesy.

If I could, I would become a monitor myself.

73
F8WBD
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AB7KT
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« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2011, 01:25:47 PM »

I wouldn't put all my faith in the Reverse Beacon Network.
First of all, there are just a few stations, many monitoring only a few bands.
Second, I have talked to guys whose signals never show up on there, but yet they are working stations on the air. I was talking to a guy on the air who wasn't seeing spots for himself on RBN but I was seeing spots for him on RBN. He said he was going to try to figure out why he couldn't see them, but I don't know what ever happened. 
Third, I have noticed that even when my signal shows up in the area I am trying to work, I still have difficulty working stations in that area: probably because the monitoring station isn't in the same place as the station I am trying to work and they are using different antennas.

It's a tool.
I like it and load it up practically every time I am on the air.
But I wouldn't base my participation in ham radio on what it said.

FWIW: I live in the western US and run 100 watts and a dipole at 30 feet. It is much harder for me to work Europe than it is for me to work JAs, VKs, ZLs........ I have worked all of them (VKs, ZLs, JAs....) running 2 watts. I have worked many JAs while I was mobile going to Home Depot (or whatever). Working JAs for me is no challenge at all. They are far easier for me to work than the North Eastern US.  I do work into Europe. But not regularly. I have to have a good band opening to work Europe. I was never a serious DXer, but do occasionally chase a little DX. I was a ham many years before I ever worked some very common countries like UK countries, Germany, Italy, and France.
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I thought you said this was a weak signal mode ? I HAVE a weak signal and he still didn't hear me.

FWIW: My callsign is AB8KT
AI4HO
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« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2011, 02:30:01 PM »

I live on the East coast of Fl. although it was earlier this year I worked a VK3 who was working long path to the states.  Took me a while to get through the pile up, but once through I made the contact.  Around the first of this year or late last year..I'd have to check my log..I worked a JA station.  It hadn't been since 2008 since I worked my last JA, by the way this was done using 100 watts and my GAP vertical.  My amp was off, don't always like using my amp..too easy, just to turn it on, switch to the beam and work some DX.  Think it fun to step down some use what I used before the amp, 100 watt rig, and my trusty GAP vertical.  Power doesn't always yield contacts either, my amp only produces 600 watts, I've seen guy the have blown me out of the water using just 100 watts and either a wire, a vertical, or a beam, but that beam was up at >60', a lot depends on the time of day too, I know this has been beaten to death, but its true time of day still trumps.  I've worked a lot of VK's on 40 meters late at night, and I mean late a in 0100 EDT, or very early in the morning around 0530-0700, with fall coming on and then some cooler weather you will see the Vk stations on in the early morning, rather hear, not see, sorry for the typo.  It can be done..it takes a lot of patience, I don't really use the beacon system per se weather regular or reverse, just never got interested in beacon, true they can be of great use, but then all I ever do is turn the rig on spin the dial..if noone is there go to another band..repeat as often as necessary till you get what you're looking for:-}

Just a little post script..the VK I worked on long path was back in April of this year, the JA was back in Dec. of last year.  Had to bring up my log book to see when it was, I'm still waiting on the JA's card, those always seem to take the longest to get for some reason.

73 de Mark
W3LZK
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