Monday was MLK Day. There was, surprisingly, nothing on the calendar for the household. No service projects. No Scouting events. Nothing. Just a cold, clear day in January. Without much thought, I decided to head out to West Branch SP – K-1999.
This was the first park I tried to activate and the site of my first failure though I’ve activated it since. The entire park is really based around the water. When the reservoir is frozen, there’s almost no one around. What’s especially nice about that is the plethora of picnic pavilions that are mostly closed up for the winter. Why does that matter? Because the tables will be dry. Or should be. They were when I arrived for sure.
It was just about 32F when I set up. Very little wind. Sunny. A generally nice day to be outside. The antenna of choice was the Chameleon whip with extension. But today was going to be different.
When putting together goals for 2023, it was obvious that they needed to include messing around with the X6100 and that expanding the modes used for POTA needed to be on the list. Why not do both at once? That was the “plan” for the day!
With the X6100 set up, I spotted myself on the POTA site and started calling. It only took a couple of minutes to get someone to come back. That was heartening! Sitting still in the cold, even when playing with the radio, isn’t particularly comfortable. It really only took about 20-some minutes to get 10 contacts. I was sticking to 40m and getting pretty decent signal reports. I got from Western New York to Virginia and up to Ontario. Almost everything was to the east.
With 10 Phone contacts in the log, I decided to set up on FT8 and see what I could do. And the answer was: Nothing. For some reason, WSJT-X would not recognize the X6100 though I definitely had it configured and working in the past. After some fiddling with it, it was apparent that this was not going to be quick or fun. And POTA is fun. So if it’s not fun, it’s not POTA and I was here to do POTA, soooooo… I shut down the tablet and packed up before the wind started.
A few things are beginning to become obvious for my style of portable operations. The first is absolutely from being spoiled by the IC-705. If I have to run a wire from a computer to a radio it’s not worth it. There’s noise. There’s hassle. Things can’t move around. All in all? It sucks. And given that the X6100 has a WiFi chip in it and runs Linux, I’m a little more than astonished that there hasn’t been a firmware update to allow for audio and CAT control over WiFi. For digital field work, it’s a must have. It seems that once an operator has used an IC-705 for digital modes in the field, there’s no going back. Aside from making sure I can do it and occasionally practicing with the X6100, I doubt that I will use it for digital modes if wireless functionality doesn’t show up.
Having dinged the X6100 for not being a much more expensive radio than it is (ya know, like twice the cost), let me take a shot at the IC-705 for NOT having an internal ATU. It is really nice to have that internal ATU on the X6100. When operating Phone, there is a minimum of cable usage. With an external ATU on the IC-705, it feels like there are cables everywhere. This is exacerbated by the tuner control jack being on one side of the rig and the RF out being on the other. I also haven’t found a great way to situate the IC-705 next to or under or on top of or whatever around the mAT-705. This is some seriously nit-picky stuff, but it’s a thing. I remember when I first got the 705 and people were complaining about it not having an internal ATU. I kept thinking “This is a Shack-In-A-Box that does EVERYTHING and is the size of a water bottle…c’mon!” But…yeah. I’m spoiled maybe? At the end of the day, I could just use a resonant antenna and call it even. There’s always a solution if you move the variables around enough.
There’s a lot more to say about the X6100 and there are more and more notes building up as I take it into the field . I’ve read a lot about it from others and it’s probably time for some updated reviews. The rig has come a long way since the initial release. Firmware updates have added stability and features. There will be more to be sure. It would be easy to do worse, but at the price point and feature set, one has to really look at what it is that’s needed from a portable rig and what the individual operating style is. It’s also good to check in with how much time is available to the hobby. Oh. And money. Budget is a thing so it’s not fair to say something like “If money is no object” because it always is. With all of these factors floating around, there’s likely a bit of a review coming from me in the next couple of months as I do more and more field work as the daylight sticks around longer.
What’s the next big plan? Taking the IC-705 to the field and doing Phone and Digital contacts on the same activation so I can figure out how to mind-meld the logs for submission. I’m sure that’ll be a ton of fun! Or…not. On a more serious note, I want to have so much facility with the rig that changing modes, etc. isn’t a challenge in the field. That comes with practice.
Back to the activation! Here’s what it looked like on the QSOMap.