/ October 2012
2, Issue 5
Lighthouse & Lightship Weekend
Team Activates Wood Island Lighthouse
Tim Watson, KB1HNZ
The weather was nearly perfect on August 19th, as members boarded the
"Light Runner," a small aluminum landing craft, that would take us
two miles out from Vines Landing in Biddeford Pool, to Wood
Island, where we'd activate the 204 year old lighthouse for
International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend. The expedition also
qualified for IOTA NA137 and US Islands ME103S.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Saco, Maine
Tim Watson, KB1HNZ
Emergency Preparedness Fair
On September 22nd, several
club members attended an Emergency Preparedness Fair, which was held at
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in Saco. We set up a
booth with information about emergency communications, and also an HF
station, using a Yaesu FT-857D, running on battery power, and a
BuddiPole rotatable dipole. The idea for this wasn't to make a lot of
contacts, but to demonstrate how easily a fully operational two-way
radio station could be setup in the field.
an interesting QSL featuring a special prefix commemorating the
European Grand Prix, in Valencia, Spain. This year's race was won by
the featured driver on the QSL, and current Formula One points leader,
Fernando Alonso. (Contact made by W1WMG with Axel, on 20m SSB, at 2129
UTC on June 5, 2012).
Project: Building Pneumatic Antenna Launchers
Wassamki Springs Campground
Tim Watson, KB1HNZ
August, WSSM members built pneumatic "antenna launchers" under the
direction of Steve K1MV, who built the original prototype. The
launchers are constructed using 3" and 1-1/2" pvc piping, a plumbing
valve, an air gage, schrader valve, and a fishing reel. With about 40
pounds of air, they are capable of launching a weighted plastic slug
several hundred feet - perfect for putting up that next wire antenna!
APRS on a Smartphone
iAPRS and OpenAPRS apps
by Tim Watson, KB1HNZ
Typically, APRS is done using a 2 meter FM transceiver, and the
combination of a terminal node controller and GPS receiver, to "report"
your location via the VHF automatic reporting system (APRS) network.
While this method works well, it relies on fixed stations that are
connected to the internet to relay position reports. So, what do you do
if you're attempting to send reports from more rural areas that are
beyond the reach of these fixed stations?
two recent road trips - one to Ontario, Canada, and the latest to
Burlington, Vermont, I decided to try APRS on my iPhone, using the
iAPRS and OpenAPRS apps. Both of these are easy to setup, and can
actually be done using the same username and password that you create
at openaprs.net and anything that is reported via either of these apps can be viewed on the aprs.fi website.
FCC Seeks to Change Amateur Radio Licensing Rules
Allow Additional Emission TypesOn
October 2nd, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks
to change the amateur radio licensing rules, especially as they concern
former licensees. Acting upon a 2011 Petition for Rulemaking filed by
the Anchorage VEC to give permanent credit to radio amateurs for
examination elements they have successfully passed, the FCC proposes to
revise Section 97.505 to require that Volunteer Examiners give
examination credit to an applicant who can demonstrate that he or she
formerly held a particular class of license. In addition, the FCC seeks
to shorten the grace period during which an expired license may be
renewed, and reduce the number of VE's needed to administer an amateur
radio license exam.
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the Editor's Desk
Recently, while driving along the NY State Thruway somewhere between Albany and Syracuse,
I had a QSO with some hams in the area about dx clusters and their
use in contesting and DXing. We talked about packet clusters and
internet sites such as DXWatch and DX Summit, but surprisingly, none
of them spoke very much about the Reverse Beacon Network, except to say
"oh, that's that CW skimming thing." This prompted me to do some
research on just how the Reverse Beacon Network works, and whether it
can be a useful tool for the assisted or multiop contester.
The "spot search" feature allows visitors to search spot history for a specific callsign
The RBN is a combination of several technologies. At its core is a software developed by Alex Shovkoplyas VE3NEA, called CW Skimmer.
The software is capable of capturing and decoding several CW signals at
once, and has the ability to feed spots directly into logging software.
It didn't take long before someone thought of the potential of using
this to feed the world via a web server. In early 2008, Felipe
Ceglia PY1NB, founder of DXWatch.com, and Pete Smith N4ZR, began
discussions on how to do just that. Felipe saw a way in which the basic
framework of DXWatch could be modified and adapted to display skimmer
spots. He wrote a software called Aggregator, to receive spots
from skimmer's telnet servers and transmit them to the website for
display. Over the next two years, the RBN focused on recruiting a
network of stations throughout the world to submit skimmer spots.
Spot history for 3D2C for September 29 - 30
One of the latest features to be added to the RBN website is a Signal Analysis Tool,
which is a way to graphically compare signals of multiple stations on
multiple bands as heard by a single skimmer anywhere in the world. Pete
Smith writes in his article about the history of the RBN, that "a
couple of key hardware and software developments added momentum to the
RBN's development." These include the SDR-IQ receiver offered by
RFSpace (www.rfspace.com), and W3OA's SkimScan software. The
combination made multiband spotting with a single receiver possible for
the first time. Further developments include Phil Covington's, QS1R
software defined receiver, with a large field-programmable gate array.
In the summer of 2009, VE3NEA released Skimmer Server, which could simultaneously decode a swath of up to 192 kHz on up to seven bands, using the QS1R.
to Smith, by early 2011 60 to 70 skimmers worldwide were feeding spots
to the RBN, and during last year's CQWW contest 114 unique skimmers
contributed during the weekend.
Current spots for September
30th. Note the cw speed that is detected, as well as snr.
RBN exists because of volunteer contributions from software and
hardware developers and individual skimmer stations that colllect and
forward data. The DXWatch platform on which the website is based,
contains many useful tools, such as a spot history search and the
ability to filter spots to suit your needs, by creating a "watch list."
Skimmer spots are updated as often as every 5 seconds and can be
adjusted to your liking.
Spotting activity and grayline map
displayed on the RBN home page
as competitive as international contesting is, it didn't take long
before controversey emerged over just how to categorize the Reverse
Beacon Network. Should it be considered the same as a traditional DX
Cluster, and therefore be limited to use by assisted and multiop
contesters only? Or, could non-assisted single operators take advantage
of this new technology? So far, its considered among the traditional
clusters, and in my opinion, this is a good call, since the RBN is a
cluster and a whole lot more. Click the link below to check it out for
Acknowledgments: Smith, Pete. "A Brief History of the Reverse Beacon Network." National Contest Journal. September/October 2012. ARRL: Newington, CT pp12-13.