[CQ-Contest] Convergence - Contest Skimmers and the Reverse Beacon Network

Pete Smith n4zr at contesting.com
Fri Apr 17 14:28:01 PDT 2009

The ARRL CAC's decision on the use of CW Skimmer has an interesting 
nuance.  Skimmers on-site may be used by SO Unlimited and Multi-Op 
contesters, but Skimmers situated outside the 500-meter-diameter 
station circle may also be used by SO Unlimited and Multi-Op 
competitors, so long as "a closed or dedicated communication link" is 
not used, and on the understanding that the remote Skimmer cannot be 
configured or controlled so as to benefit any one user or group of 
users over any other (my interpretation, nothing official here...)

This is not intended to lead to a debate about the rule change - 
honest!  But it is a matter of practical reality.  Some local clubs 
have already set up Skimmers for their members to use during recent 
contests, evoking memories for some of us of the 2-meter voice 
spotting nets of many years past.  Some multi-ops are contemplating 
the establishment of nearby but off-site Skimmers, to avoid problems 
with interference from their own transmitters. Some individual SOU 
operators are thinking about setting up remote Skimmers (at a 
mountain cabin, for example).

The question is, how can these plans be made to conform to the letter 
and spirit of the CAC decision.  Does simply deploying the remote 
Skimmer on a publicly-accessible IP address meet the intent of the 
CAC?  Or does the IP address have to be publicized, in some 
more-or-less widely-distributed way?

Enter the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) <http://reversebeacon.net>. 
Skimmers sending spots to the Reverse Beacon Network can now have 
their IP address publicized on the RBN site, and have links to them 
displayed there.  That would certainly meet the CAC requirement of 
not being "closed or dedicated" communication links.  Besides, 
imagine the potential of 20 to 50 reverse beacons, closely co-located 
with major contest stations or clubs, all reporting what they hear 
and storing it for analysis after the contest.

This is strictly a hypothetical example, but suppose HC8N or DA0HQ 
set up a remote Skimmer and forwarded spots to the RBN during the WPX 
CW Contest this May.  Each spot posted by the Skimmer would include 
the station's signal-to-noise ratio. Then, after the contest, 
competitors from around the world could compare their signals with 
one another *as heard at ..."

Adding the RBN to the configuration of a remote Skimmer would be 
trivially easy.  Install and run the RBN Aggregator software (a 
simple 2-minute download and install) alongside CW Skimmer.  That's 
all it takes.  Set it up in a batch file so that if anything knocks 
your Skimmer off the air, you can restart easily.  Voila - you're 
unquestionably legal, and you'll also be contributing to a databank 
that will be a lot of fun to revisit after the contest.

To download the Aggregator, visit 
Download the zipfile with the .exe and its companion .dll file, and 
put them in your CW Skimmer program directory.  Start Skimmer, 
start  the Aggregator, and you're a contributor to the Reverse Beacon 
Network.  It really couldn't be much easier.

I'll be glad to answer questions and discuss this off the reflector, 
or on skimmertalk at contesting.com.  Thanks for reading.

73, Pete N4ZR
the World Contest Station Database is back, and updated daily  at 
Visit the Reverse Beacon Network at http://reversebeacon.net

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