NARA News

March 1998 DRAFT

Note: Beware of Dated Information – This is for Historical Purposes Only !

 

NARA Officers.

President: Ron Shaffer KS4LU, ks4lu@nadxc.org, 881-8105

Vice President: Bennie Durham, WA5KRG, bdurham@airnet.net, 971-8936

Treasurer: Todd Freestone, KD4ALP, todd.freestone@msfc.nasa.gov, 721-7558

Secretary: Don Tunstil, W4NO, dtunstil@iquest.com, 536-3904

Technical Advisor: Monte Bateman, WB5RZX, bateman@hiwaay.net, 464-9664

 

Planned Meetings / Programs.

(At the Red Cross Building on Washington St in Huntsville)

HARC Program on Repeater User’s Tips – Friday March 27, 1998

Friday July 24th, 1998 at 7:30 PM - NARA mid year update

HARC Program on Programming Repeater Controllers – Sept / Oct 1998

Friday January 8th, 1999 at 7:30 PM - NARA 1999 Kickoff - Election of Officers.

 

From the Prez.

I am excited about the things we have put in motion this year in the NARA. In general, we have tried to continue an atmosphere that would invite more activity on the NARA repeaters. We are continuing to refine configurations and user features as well as add to our capabilities. Its going to be another year of progress for the NARA and its membership

NARA has it’s own club call, KF4OUK. We could convert this to a Vanity call for future use on one of our repeaters. If you have any suggestions on a catchy or useful call, let us know.

 

Updated Command Sheets.

The updated ’98 NARA command sheet accompanies this newsletter if you are a current (dues paid) NARA member. Most basic items have not changed from last year. However, pay careful attention to the autopatch command code changes which were made in an attempt to simplify things by the use of common codes. These changes will take effect on approximately April 1st. I tried to design the 1st page of the command sheet to stand alone with 90% of the information you need. The remaining pages serve to expand on the basic information of page 1.

 

NARA Membership and Dues.

NARA membership is open to all amateur radio operators. The only stipulation the NARA constitution places on membership (other than paying dues) is a loosly defined "corporation acceptance". This just allows us to police ourselves in the event of malicious interference. Our track record has been very good in the last few years however. Because this is true, and because I know your time is valuable, I opted to skip the voting of new members at the January meeting. We had over 74 new family memberships this year as a result of the joint HARC/NARA membership drive. Hats off to our secretary, Don, W4NO who put a lot of hard work into that mail out. We even had many old timers who are not very active on the repeaters send in dues just to support the Association. We appreciate that, Guys !

NARA dues are $12 per year per family for the remainder of 1998 and are prorated to $3 per quarter beyond the midpoint of each quarter. A dues increase to $16 per year per family was voted in at the January ’98 NARA meeting. This motion passed almost unanimously and will take effect in January of 1999. Many who were present commented that $16 per year was still much lower than the norm of $25 per year for a lot of clubs, including some in the Birmingham area. NARA is glad to accept donations beyond dues to improve it’s capabilities. I assure you they will be put to good use.

 

E-mail updates.

Our E-mail database has grown to huge proportions. Almost everyone now has an E-mail address and we intend to use that to our advantage. We plan to send this newsletter and accompanying command sheet to as many NARA members via e-mail as possible to help cut down our postage costs. We will also continue to provide timely updates on repeater status and NARA meetings via e-mail. You can join our e-mail list by sending a message to Don at NARA@airnet.net.

Keep in mind that a large list requires significant maintenance just to keep it current. We ask your patience in this as we continue to work out the kinks. Our secretary Don Tunstil has done most of the work in getting this thing going. He has even found a way to keep us from having to read the long list of addresses which also gives us an extra measure of privacy.

It is my intent to also provide updates where I can via Packet. I may save the more informal (but sometimes more timely) things for this mode to entice a few of you to dust off your TNCs and get re-acclimated to packet !

 

Mid Year meeting.

We are again planning a NARA mid year update meeting this year in late July, along with a couple of HARC programs about repeaters. We will have a short NARA business meeting during the July program but the other two meetings will be HARC programs only. The program on March 29th will be aimed at getting the most out of the user features of our machines. The September program will be aimed at whetting your appetite to become a control operator. I have not yet decided on a topic for the July meeting but it will be short because of the business meeting. We could replay last year’s slide show with updates from this year’s projects. Drop me an E-mail if you have any suggestions.

 

146.94 News.

The '94 machine continues to be our principal machine as far as wide area coverage and frequency of usage. We have had a growing work commute crowd on ‘94 over the past year which is good. I would urge all ‘94 users to continue to maintain a common sense balance of wide area repeater usage with simplex and local coverage repeater use. Its good to hear more traffic on ‘94 but there are always times when simplex can be used (check reverse) and several other Huntsville machines remain quiet. Try moving to 145.33 or 147.10 as well as 147.18 after making contact on ‘94 occasionally.

'94 is used for the ARES net during severe weather events. When you hear the Morse "W" courtesy tones (dit da da), suspend routine traffic and address the net control station for emergency traffic. The Patch is always off during net activation of any type. The emergency training net routinely takes place on Thursday evenings at 7:30. You will hear a Morse "N" courtesy (da dit) for this and other directed nets such as race events like the Cotton Row Run or the Marathon. A PL tone is not required during net activation including the ham fest talk in.

During normal operation, a 100 Hz PL tone is required for access. If you need it disabled for a net or public service event, contact Ron Shaffer or Ben Durham. The DTMF PL override (key up and send 33) is available to visitors and users without PL capable radios as discussed in the User command guidelines. The 100 Hz PL tone on the repeater output was disabled last spring to help in fighting intermod problems. We will notify you with voice announcements and e-mail when we re-enable it. It is handy in fighting your own intermod if your radios have tone de-code capability.

Our Technical Advisor, Monte Bateman, WA5RZX, is continuing the ‘94 back-up repeater project. He is in the process of modifying a 100 watt G.E. Master II for this. We have a CAT-300 Controller with an autopatch as well as an Ashtron 50 Amp power supply ready to become part of this setup. The plan is to hook up the back-up drawer to the ‘94 antenna system to provide uninterrupted service while we perform some much needed preventative maintenance on the main ‘94 hardware. We will of course have it as a continued back up after that.

 

‘18 News.

The ‘18 machine has been performing fantastic since it’s major overhaul last summer. If you have not tried ‘18 lately I think you will be impressed with it’s coverage. We replaced the main VHF and UHF link feedlines as well as the VHF exciter and shack RF cabling. Once things were tuned up, we were back at full smoke power output (100 Watts) and our receive performance was greatly improved as well. We also installed the ACC DVR system which provides us with another way of making custom voice announcements and allowing users to check their audio. We made the Voice Mail system public in December and I intend to leave it that way unless problems arise.

The ‘18 machine provides good coverage to areas of SE Huntsville and Redstone Arsenal where ‘94 is sometimes shadowed. Since the re-work, I have had good reports from north Birmingham, Moulton and well into Tennessee.

Since the UHF patch link antenna system was completely replaced we have had better autopatch service. There are still some occasional problems with calls not going through which I suspect may be continued de-sense problems on the Monte-Sano end or intermittent tone clipping problems in the link radios. Please let me know if you experience problems. The continued presence of a full time patch on ‘94 should ease the impact of any trouble here.

 

‘443.5 News: W4HSV

The 443.5 Repeater is Located on Monte Sano slightly north of the ‘94 location. Ernie Blair, WA4BPS, is the repeater’s trustee. This machine continues to serve NARA members with a diverse suite of rather unique functions including a 5 band remote base system and a shared autopatch with area calling. This machine has a 10M, 2M, 220Mhz, 440Mhz and 1.2Ghz Remote Base system. We enabled the 2nd audio link capability this year for you avid remote base fans and successfully interfaced the 1.2 Ghz remote base unit (already on hand) back in December. Come on experimenters !

This machine will be the focus of some planned upgrades this year mainly in the area of feedline replacement. The main UHF feedline was used when we installed it several years back and the remote base feedlines are just RG-8 series which are weather worn. (we had to pinch pennies just to get it going back then). Stay tuned to e-mail and voice announcements for upgrade progress.

 

‘224.94 News.

The 224.94 Machine is at the same site as ‘94 and as such should offer wide area coverage on 220. Our Treasurer, Todd Freestone did a rather extensive tune up on this machine last spring which included the installation of a helical bandpass filter in the receiver front end. This upgrade greatly improved receiver immunity to the strong intermod environment of Channel 31. Lab tests showed the repeater to be in good shape so when we returned it to the site and saw continued poor performance, the antenna system was the obvious culprit. Indeed we have an old RG-8 weather worn feedline and a worn out 220 Ringo Ranger antenna. Since there are much fewer users on 220, it does not get priority in the budget. However we had some good 1/2" feedline donated to us and I have found a good medium/low cost antenna which should greatly outlast the current Ringo. With any luck, we should have a new antenna system installed sometime this year. Stay tuned for updates. If any of you reading this have 220Mhz capability, please let me know. I had heard that we might have a few users without tone capability but I thought I knew most of the Huntsville 220 folks. I need to know who you are for the NARA to better serve you. This machine requires a 100 Hz PL to access.

 

‘145.33 News: NARA/ATV

The 145.33 repeater is the coordination repeater for the 440 Mhz Amateur Television repeater located on Monte Sano at the same site. It is basically comprised of components from the old 147.18 machine and is operated and maintained by the NARA in cooperation with the ATV group. The ATV group holds a net on Tuesday evenings at 8:00 PM local time and visitors are welcome. The ‘33 machine is considered to be a back up repeater to ‘94 (in addition to ‘18) because it has similar coverage to ‘94. It is an open repeater and NARA members are encouraged to use it. There is no PL tone required. Gene Marcus, W3PM, is the ATV Group point of contact for 145.33. He and I have maintained a dialogue concerning this machine, including possible relocation options due to interference with the ATV repeater itself.

 

443.800 News: WD4CPF

The 443.800 UHF pair has been coordinated for the NARA for several years. I have renewed the vision for a second NARA UHF machine this year. We have purchased a converted (by WB4TUR) UHF Motorolla Drawer and crystals. We are looking into inexpensive controller options and we have 2 unused antenna systems available to get it on the air. These antenna systems are the old ‘18 patch link antennas which are still in place. The pair is coordinated for the Brindlee site which currently has a beam antenna but the Monte Sano site has a vertical antenna available. There are many trade offs yet to consider but we would very much like to get it on the air this spring and grow it from there. Many Thanks to WB4TUR for the help with this hardware. My long term vision is for this to be the first machine in a linked UHF system similar to that in Nashville. I would welcome comments on this.

 

Membership Roster and Speed Dial List.

Due to the size of the NARA News this year and the size of our growing roster, we are sending the membership roster and speed dial lists in a separate e-mail file. We will see how much space we have on the printed hard copies.

 

NARA Projects for ‘98.

The highest priority project for ‘98 is to get the ‘94 Backup hardware on the air. Most of the hardware has been purchased with last year’s funds and all that is needed is shop time (a precious commodity these days !). My hope is that we will have a backup drawer ready by the Hamfest. Depending on our budget, we may allocate $130 to update our back-up controller from a CAT-300 to a CAT 300DX to help with net operation. This will depend on the anticipated length of time the back up machine will be on the air. The second priority is to perform some preventative maintenance on the main ‘94 hardware including enclosing the CAT-1000 controller and possibly re-working some audio circuitry and the 4 Watt PA. We will evaluate what else needs to be done when we can take the hardware off line which will not be until the back-up drawer is done.

The third priority is to finish getting the 443.800 machine on the air. Once again, part of the funds for this were actually spent last year including the converted Motorolla Micor and the Crystal. We just ordered an NHRC-2 controller kit which will give us all the capability we need for this application for around $60. We still need a duplexer (probably a low cost six cavity mobile duplexer) and a 35 or 50 amp power supply. Any antenna system work on this beyond what was mentioned in the 443.8 news would probably wait for next years funds. Work on this project will proceed in parallel with the ‘94 back-up project since there are different folks working on them.

Fourth Priorities are a toss-up between 443.500 and 224.94. We want to make some much needed antenna system improvements to both. We have a few options on 224.94 which may then effect the dollars spent on 443.500. We are going to try out a sharing arrangement with the packet folks on a free 220 Mhz port of a tri band antenna already high up on the ‘31 tower. If this works out OK, than we have a 132’ run of 1/2" feedline set aside for the 220 project that can be applied to 443.500 and we may get around purchasing a new 220 antenna. If not, I am already eyeing a Hustler G-6 which gives us an inexpensive yet robust solution according to the repeater owners’ reflector. We did some swapping experiments of the 443.500 and 444.175 antenna systems at the WA4BPS site last summer. Since we have the same antennas at equal heights we could conclude that our lack of performance was most likely in the feedline which was used when we first installed it on 443.500. In addition to a main feedline replacement, we would like to rework some of the remote base antenna system so as to improve performance there as well. I need to meet with WA4BPS, WB4TUR, KD4TFV and WD4CPF and hash out all our options on the WA4BPS tower before we will know for sure what is to be done this year.

Other possible ‘98 projects this year include battery back-up for ‘18 and 443.500 as well as autopatch link radio maintenance on ‘18. I know this looks like a lot of ambitious projects with lots of dollars attached but we will probably spend considerably less than last year. Our goal has always been to leave $1000 to $1200 in the treasury for contingency at any time. Since there is still a good influx of dues at this writing it is difficult to have an accurate estimate of our equipment budget however my best guess at this time is somewhere between $1500 and $2000 which is still a good $1000 below last years expenditures. We will have a very good idea by the mid year update meeting of our actual expenditure breakout and as always, I welcome comments.

Taking the dream beyond ’98, I still have visions of things like a 1.2 Gig (and so does KU4FL) or 900Mhz machine or maybe a simplex 6 Meter repeater. Lets think through some long term goals together. They may be easier than you think!

 

KS4LU Repeater News: 443.475 and 147.10

Many of you may have noticed that a couple of repeaters around town now bear my call sign. These are not NARA repeaters but a couple of machines that I have a personal interest in. The 443.475 machine was put together by yours truly out of my own pocket. Actually WB4TUR did the hard part, I just learned a lot! It is at my home QTH near the South Parkway Golf Road overpass and is an open repeater. My wife Sandie, KE4LRX and my daughter Emily, KF4SUV kind of like living under the repeater when it comes to hitting it with a rubber duck on low power while moving around the house. I can work it mobile most of the way to Research Park. When I need to PL it I use a 103.5 tone but it is carrier access most of the time. It has an open patch and the same speed dial slots and user commands as ’94 (I started to program it from a data dump of ’94). I intend to do some experimenting with an HF remote base and other remote control projects in the future which is another reason it stays at my QTH. Don’t expect mountain top coverage but it does fill in a few shadows that the Monte Sano machines have along Whitesburg Drive. I do not solicit or expect any donations for the usage of this machine.

The 147.10 repeater on Weeden Mountain is The North Al DX Club’s backup machine to 147.30. Most DX club activity (and funds) that is not on the packet cluster is on 147.30. While it is an open repeater, priority should of course be given to DX related traffic. 147.10 on the other hand is fully open for usage by all area hams. As an active member of the DX club (an officer this year), I have worked out an agreement to adopt the ’10 machine as my own project. I have always believed the location has a lot to offer but the antenna system needs help. I have ambitious plans to install a new feedline, antenna and (gulp) a set of VHF duplexers. I already have the feedline and connectors and the antenna should not be too much trouble but the duplexers may break the wallet. The current setup uses split antennas which is so so. I believe a set of duplexers would turn that machine into a real work horse given its location. Here, I might appreciate some help if someone is interested but I would say only after you have given your full support to the NARA. I don’t guarantee any partial ownership or voting rights, just a pass the hat deal for a good cause. I may use them till I’m old and gray or I may someday move away and donate them to the club, I just don’t know. I am also considering a Master II drawer conversion with an NHRC-2 controller. I have also maintained a dialog with N4MFN about the Shuttle audio. There are a number of options for us there including a move to 147.46 but the desire is to provide some remote control in either case. I have also talked with KD4FMN about the fact that a duplexer on 147.10 would open up possibilities of moving the 146.46/147.46 WA4NZD machine up to that site as well. If you have interest in this project, drop me an E-mail but in the mean time, enjoy ’10!