THE AIRWAVES CALENDAR
From the President's Shack
We are rapidly moving to summer with schools being out June 10th, just over a month. Field Day comes upon us at the end of June. The Scouts that stopped by the SARC operations at their Camporall had fun talking to a mysterious voice that said he was in a far off place. Some got mike fright real quick. Some could only come up with yes or no kind of answers. Just wait a few years and try to stop them from talking, especially when it is on the phone to a girl. Any way Phelps, W6PTH, Greg, WA7IRW and Bill, WA6QYR had fun with the kids and the other adults there. Make plans to join the Field day group either at the site chosen or on the air to have fun and talk to all those far away places.
Vacation time also allows you to take the rig along and try out those strange places like our famous Ridgecrest traveler and QST writer David Rosenthal, N6TST (see February 2004 QST). Get on the air during one of the contests, be it HF, VHF or Microwave and have fun. Get radioactive. See you on the bands, Bill WA6QYR
Board of Officers Meeting Minutes
The April 2004 board meeting was called to order at 1910 hrs. Those present: Pres. Bill Burns (WA6QYR), 1st Vice Pres. Paula Herr (N6VGW), 2nd Vice Pres. Dennis Farrell (W6DWF), and Treas. Pam Evans (KC6UUS).
The ARRL has updated their Technician Series video tape. The question came up should we purchase a new tape, have a class, or ?
Discussion on the ARRL Big Project and the possibility of a classroom or after school club activity at one of the schools.
The board meeting was adjourned at 1927 hrs.
Minutes of the General Meeting
The April 2004 meeting was called to order by the President, Bill Burns (WA6QYR) at 1935 hrs at the Heritage Inn. The Sign-in sheet was started around.
1. 50/50 tickets are available.
2. The Treasurers Report is in the newsletter.
3. Greg, WA7IRW (Technical Assistance Committee) was assisting KE6CE on some digital modulation problems. Work is continuing
4. Camporee Demo coming up on 17 / 18 April. SARC is putting on the demo.
5. Mike, WA6ARA, discussed the plans for Field Day. It will be a joint effort with High Desert DX Association. The interested parties met after the meeting for additional planning.
6. Greg, WA7IRW, showed off a new amplifier for HF he had procured. Greg also discussed his upcoming sailing vacation and possible sked times stateside.
7. Bill, WA6QYR, provided the program on wind power generation.
Greg, WA7IRW won the 50/50.
The meeting was adjourned at 20:20.
TREASURER'S REPORT Treasurer's Report As of May 03, 2004: Draft Account $ 1,388.99 Share Account $ 5,462.52 BALANCE: $ 6,851.51 Submitted by Pam Evans, KC6UUSField Day June 26 - 27
Proposal for Joint Field Day Operation
This year SARC and the High Desert DX Association (HIDEXA) will be conducting a joint Field Day operation. We have done this before very successfully. Plans are still in flux but will be settled very, very soon. The basic shape is 3 QRP (low power) stations along with a Get On The Air (GOTA) station for newcomers. Expect SSB, CW and PSK-31 stations along with who knows what else. I will act as the SARC Field Day coordinator and John Denson for the HIDEXA email@example.com
IWV Emergency Net
Phelps, W6PTH, has been doing a great job as net operator for April. Thanks Phelps! I am still looking for net operators for the month of May and beyond. You don't have to sign up for a whole month, just a week here and there is fine! ...Mike WA6ARA
SARC supports Boy Scout Camporall
At 07:30 am on Saturday 17 April Phelps, W6PTH, Greg, WA7IRW, and Bill WA6QYR left Ridgecrest with the SARC Tower Trailer and a carload of radio gear and headed for the former town site of Keysville, southwest of Lake Isabella where the Southern Sierra Council Boy Scouts were having a Camporall. Some 383 Boy Scouts from all over Kern County came together for competition in Scouting type activities, like archery, tomahawk throwing, string burning, first aid and the like. The Tower Trailer was set up between the events and the camping area. The weather was windy with light sprinkles, so the tribander was just left at the top of the tower section without raising the sections.
Phelps's IC 746 PROII, solar panels, battery, charger and Honda generator kept the station on the air for the Scouts to experience Amateur radio field operation. 20 meters was used to make all the contacts. Most stations contacted were nice enough to talk with the sometimes mike shy scouts. VE3YRI mobile in Winnipeg put in good signals. Rick, AA1KS a lighthouse station on a US little island near Nova Scotia was an interesting station to talk with. AS propagation shifted during the day, stations contacted moved from Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan, Nebraska New Mexico, to our last contact with VE3 PYJ in Calgary. Our standby station was John AI6A in Ridgecrest, who was there for use when Scouts showed up and we didn't have a station on the line to talk with. Thanks again John for being there for us.
When the Scouts went off to dinner, we elected to fold up our gear since the rain was now getting a little harder. By the time we made it to Lake Isabella for dinner, the rain was really coming down real heavy for us desert rats.
Thanks to all who helped. Bill WA6QYR
BPL CALL TO ARMS!
==>ARRL CALLS ON WHITE HOUSE TO WITHDRAW SUPPORT FOR BPL
ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP, has appealed to President and fellow Texan George W. Bush to withdraw his support for broadband over power line (BPL) technology and focus on "more suitable technologies" such as wireless broadband. The League this week also issued a call for members to support Haynie's request. In an April 26 speech at the Minneapolis convention of the American Association of Community Colleges, Bush advocated changing technical standards to encourage BPL deployment in the US. Haynie told Bush that while the League supports universal and affordable broadband access, BPL is the wrong direction to take.
"Power lines were designed to transmit energy," not broadband signals, Haynie said in a fax. "The broadband signals radiate from power lines and cause severe interference to radio reception."
Haynie said test sites throughout the US and elsewhere have amply demonstrated BPL's potential to interfere. "You may have been told otherwise; if so, you were misinformed," he said, directing the president's attention to the BPL page on the ARRL Web site.
Bush this week told the community colleges gathering that there need to be technical standards to enable new broadband technologies such as high-speed communication over power lines. "Power lines were for electricity; power lines can be used for broadband technology," Bush said. "So the technical standards need to be changed to encourage that."
"Once deployed," the president declared, "BPL has the potential to turn every electrical outlet into a broadband pipeline." Bush also suggested that BPL could supply broadband services to rural dwellers, a prospect that the League and others claim is not economically feasible.
"BPL is sometimes touted as a solution for rural areas," said ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ. "It is not." Sumner explained that BPL signals carry only a few thousand feet down a power line and then must be repeated.
"This requires a lot of hardware and will not be economical in areas with low population densities."
Bush also praised FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell and "his decision to eliminate burdensome regulations on new broadband networks' availability to homes." He also called for opening up more spectrum to make wireless broadband "more accessible, reliable and affordable" and for no taxes on broadband access.
In its BPL Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) in ET Docket 04-37, the FCC has proposed amending its Part 15 rules to adopt new requirements and measurement guidelines for so-called "Access BPL" systems. The comment deadline is Monday, May 3; reply comments are due by June 1.
In direct response to the Bush speech, the ARRL is asking its members to support Haynie's request for the White House to withdraw its support for BPL technology. "Using power lines to distribute broadband services is a bad idea that should not be encouraged," said Sumner. "It is important for radio amateurs to get the facts across to the White House as well as to our Congressional representatives and senators."
The ARRL Web site provides an information package. It explains how members can contact the White House and members of Congress to express their views on BPL deployment.
"Do it now!" Sumner urged. "We need thousands of responses from all parts of the country, right away, if we are to make an impression."
Editor -> Now is the time for all amateurs, regardless of license or interest to join in writing President Bush on BPL. I've done it, have you?
ZKA ( I AM NET CONTROL ) ZKB ( YOU MUST OBTAIN MY PERMISSION PRIOR TO PASSING TRAFFIC ON THIS FREQUENCY.
Wow, those Operating Signals (OPSIGs) bring back a lot of somewhat unpleasant memories. While operating a state-of-the-art HF 100 Word Per Minute (WPM) teletype circuit, also known as TGO (Task Group Orestes - Navy Battle Task Group and Orestes being the mythological designator of the cryptographic devices used on the circuit), you did everything you could to prevent the Net Control Station (NCS) from directing those two OPSIGs at you.
Even at a screaming 100 WPM, brevity was essential. When acknowledging receipt of a message, we would do so by typing "R 001/14" instead of "QSL 001/14". Why? It's a shorter transmission, if even by just two characters. The rule was to use PROSIGNs first (R = Roger, K = Over, AR = Out, AS = Wait, and a few others) then OPSIGs (Q and Z signals), and then plain language. Not much different than passing traffic on Amateur Radio networks. I'm here to tell you, after getting yelled at a couple of times by the Chief or even worse, having NCS send you ZBM2 (Put a qualified operator on this frequency.), most operators used plain language ONLY after a very exhaustive search of ACP 131, the Q & Z OPSIG publication.
I hope I didn't bore anyone one too much to get to this point in my little essay. And what is the point? As the title suggests, it's Circuit Discipline. Let's call it CD from now on. CD applies to everyone on a frequency, net, or channel: the Net Control Station and all logged in stations. There is no better teacher to CD and becoming a good operator and NCS, than just by LISTENING. The neat part about this learning process is that you don't always need to learn from a good NCS. You can learn from even a new NCS or one with just a little experience. By LISTENING, you can hear what works and what doesn't. Does this NCS take charge? Does NCS need to take charge or is the somewhat informal procedures being used adequate for the time? Is the NCS too restrictive or not strict enough?
I have found a great place to learn good NCS techniques. Kern County Fire Dispatcher on 453.450MHz. Listen to them for a while. Besides being entertaining, the dispatchers can help us learn to be better NCSs. When there are only a few "events" going on, most of the stations are assigned to the ORANGE channel. However, once the dispatcher feels there is or might result in too much traffic on the ORANGE, stations are moved to other channels or frequencies. We should do the same regarding Ham Radio NCS duties. If the Net can support being tied up for a few minutes while traffic is being passed, then it can be a judgment call of the NCS to either keep everyone on the same frequency or to move the two stations to another frequency to pass their traffic.
How else can we learn from the KC Dispatchers? How about keeping transmissions short. Keep It Short and Simple. If you are the NCS and you received the report or traffic but you missed the sending station's call sign, all you need to do is retransmit a part of the traffic or report you received and ask for the call sign only. Something like "FIRST RIDER THROUGH AT 0915, ID ONLY."
Another problem we have in some of the events we support on this side of the Sierra's is that all stations cannot always communicate with all other stations on the event. This requires NCS to be a little more active in their duties. If a station is going to be sending any type of traffic, regardless of precedence, the NCS should consider transmitting something like: "ALL STATIONS STANDBY, THE FREQUENCY IS IN USE. KK6PA SEND YOUR TRAFFIC." After the traffic has been passed, NCS can announce that the frequency is clear.
Speak English. Slang is ok at times when the net is slow and casual. Go ahead and use ROG or the elongated RAAAW GER, to acknowledge that a station is going to be off the air for a few minutes. That is fine for most of the Nets we operate each year. However, when you have just reported that a rider / runner / walker / horse requires assistance and NCS is reading back essential information for confirmation, a much better response is, "THAT IS CORRECT." When important information needs to be acted on, hearing THAT IS CORRECT as confirmation should leave no doubt in anyone's mind.
Till next time, 73......de Hal/KM6JM
THE DIGITAL OPERATOR
Not so long ago in a valley not to far away.....
Back in the late 80's and early 90's, there was a very large base of packet operators here in the Indian Wells Valley and surrounding areas. 2 meters abounded with packet activity and there was even some effort to get the valley onto the new 9600 baud 70cm backbone that was maturing at a very fast past.
Then along came the Internet and packet seemed to hit the brakes. Activity dwindled to a mere trickle. I also got caught up in the Internet wave and all but abandoned my packet endeavors. My packet gear sat unused for several years. I upgraded my PCs to the faster Windows based machines that seem to be coming off the drawing board faster than I could save up to buy them. Email, once a mainstay for packet operators, moved to the Internet where it was moved at lightspeed compared to the speed at which the store and forward packet BBS network system could send it. A few diehard operators still used the packet email system and held daily keyboard chats with other ops but all in all packet died on the vine.
In the last few years, with the advent of soundcard interfaces' replacing bulky specialized hardware interface boxes, there has been a flurry of renewed interest in the digital modes. Packet is seeing a resurrection, even in the IWV. PSK31 has taken the amateur radio world by storm and is garnering more converts every day. APRS is seeing a lot of older packet stations being fired back up.
By using soundcard interfaces, new and existing digital modes are easier to setup and operate than in the past. Today, almost every shack has a PC in it today. These are used for electronic logging, Internet callsign look-up, satellite tracking, band opening monitoring utilities and email to list a few. One nice thing about using soundcard interfaces for digital ham radio operations is that it doesn't take the latest PC technology to run software to interface the soundcard to the ham radio. Almost any PC made in the last 10 years can be pressed into service to drive a soundcard interface.
This article is a first in a series of planned articles to introduce the digital modes to the newer ham (or older ham who has been stuck using voice or CW only).
Laying a foundation.........
Let's start with some points to observe when setting up a digital amateur radio station. These are by no means a complete list. Rather these are some ideas that come to mind when thinking about the help that is usually requested from the newer user. Some of these are self-defining while others may seem trivial, are often overlooked in the desire to 'get on the air'.
STUDY THE DESIRED MODE. There is no magic pill that you can take to be an expert on operating in any digital mode. The more you read on the subject, the more ideas and hints you get to make your operating a success. Don't expect someone to be able to give you the 'fix-all' answer to your problem. But you will find that more likely than not, someone else has had your same problem and figured out a cure. Check the ARRL book list for manuals on your target mode(s). Maybe someone locally has a copy for you to read. The Internet is chocked full of information. Searching on keywords usually does the trick.
READ REVIEWS of possible commercial hardware and software. Nothing will tell you more about the quality and ease of use of commercial equipment than user remarks and reviews. However use the 'grain of salt' approach. If 25 people comment about a product and 2 have a problem and the rest like it, most likely it is a worthy product to consider. If 25 review it, and 20 don't like it, it's probably something to avoid. Check www.eHam.net or www.qrz.com. Both have product review areas.
VISIT THE WEBSITE OF THE VENDOR, Browse the website. If possible, download the user manual, etc. to see if this product is something you are going to be able to understand and use. What comes with the product? What kind of warranty? Customer service is where most small companies suffer due to small number of employees, etc. How's theirs rated?
IS YOUR LICENSE CLASS valid for your desired frequency and mode? If not, UPGRADE! With the new regulations concerning HF code requirements, it should be a no-brainer to upgrade to gain HF privileges. The HF bands are where a bulk of the digital modes (other than packet) are largely used and you'll want to be able to get into the fray and have a go at it.
REVIEW YOUR CURRENT STATION CAPABILITIES. For example, ensure your current HF radio is capable of RTTY if you are planning to try and operate HF RTTY. Check the possible connection methods, i.e. do you have a rear apron connection for AFSK or will you be required to connect via the microphone connector? Do you have antenna(s) for selected band(s). If not, this will add to the effort and cost of setup. Don't plan on working HF in an apartment setup as well as you would with a tower and beam. Consider operating portable if you can or need to. I worked 80M - 10M QRP while attending college using a Ten-Tec Argonaut (5w) and a set of Hustler mobile coils on a second story balcony. Worked over 50 countries in a 2-year period operating only a few minutes now and then.
WHAT COMPUTER RESOURCES are needed to run the target software? Do you need Windows or just DOS? Most older PC's will be able to handle soundcard software easily but may require some additional memory, etc.
IF YOU DECIDE TO 'ROLL YOUR OWN', check out the Internet and ARRL pubs for circuit designs for interfacing to your existing soundcard or hardware TNC/interface. There is a plethora of circuit designs available using simple components that you may already have in your shack.
ASK IF SOMEONE IN THE CLUB IS USING THE SAME EQUIPMENT as you intend on buying or building. If so, arrange to visit that shack and see the equipment in operation. Ask questions about use and maintenance.
CONSTRUCTING from a kit or homebrew requires some additional skills. How's your soldering and construction techniques? Most vendors will not warranty a circuit board with damage that looks like it came from an arc welder. Do you have the required tools? If not, count the additional costs into the final for the project. Simple designs allow you to practice up on kit-building skills to tackle bigger projects later.
CHECK FOR USED EQUIPMENT on www.ebay.com, www.eham.net, or www.qrz.com. There is a lot of good used amateur radio gear on these sites for reasonably low cost if you decide you need to replace or add to your shack inventory.
REMEMBER TO HAVE FUN with whichever mode(s) you chose. It might be beneficial to others if you jot down notes on setup procedures and if you do encounter problems, how did you solve them. Someday you may maybe the ELMER. Write an article for the club newsletter on your experiences. Others could be considering doing the same project and could benefit from yours.
Next time we'll start looking at the individual modes. I'll try and cover some of the software packages available from the Internet for the mode being discussed. We'll also look at some basic circuits for employing a soundcard interface to operate the digital modes. Until next time 73 and good DX.
Looking for News!
I'm always looking for local news for and about the IWV amateur
radio community. Also, if you have something for sale or are looking
for something else, drop me a line and I'll put it in the Airwaves.
SARC Newletter via Email
The SARC newsletter is now available via email in TWO formats, Adobe Acrobat PDF and in plain text. The PDF version is complete, and in color, but you will need Acrobat Reader to view it. Most have it and it is available free to both PC and Mac users. The plain text version can be read by just about anything! ...but you lose the graphics.
If you want the newsletter via Email make sure you check the proper
box on the membership form, add your email address and the version
you want. If you have already renewed and want to convert to email,
or have changed your email address, drop the secretary, Tom Ingram,
WB6EPD , (375-7950) a note, as he is keeping the email address
Kenwood TM-231 50w 2mtr mobile rig plus manual $75 Bill WA6QYR 375-8566
And from Phelps, W6PTH...
Well, every 30 years or so it is time again to clean out the attic, so to speak. Trash and treasures alike get piled in the old Ford pick up, in the off chance some may magically just disappear before the truck drives off to the recycler. The junque' consists mostly of legacy test equipment, radios and some computer stuff "of age", as they say. The truck will be parked outside the gate and the "pick and pack it off" site is at my QTH at 560 N. Primavera, and will be fully stocked the second week of May. Come ye all lovers of the old and improbable, and unburden the land fill (anything the recycler doesn't want). The price is definitely right.
Updated Sat May 8 11:53:21 PDT 2004