CARES Grant Proposal

I’ve just finished writing a grant proposal that could fund a community-based amateur radio station in Saline. I’m asking for $5,000 for this project.

The grant would come from the Saline CARES program. Their website says:

In 1999 the Saline Area Schools and the Coalition for a Quality Community (CQC) cosponsored the Saline Community Wide Planning Process in which approximately 150 community members met for 15 months to answer the question: What needs to happen in the Saline area to address growth and improve the quality of life? In September 2000, as a result of the recommendations of the Community Wide Planning Committee, voters passed the CARES Recreation Millage for 0.85 mills for 10 years. The millage will provide annual funding for five specific programs and also create a Discretionary Fund which may be allocated annually through a grant process to meet additional recreation needs.

Writing this proposal was an interesting exercise. I had to ask a lot of questions: How much should I ask for? Is $5,000 too much or too little? How can I make this sound like an attractive proposal?

The proposal, in its current form asks for $5,000. This money would be spent to purchase an HF transceiver, a tower, and antennas. That’s just the physical plant, though. In addition to setting up the station, the proposal also commits ARROW to conducting license classes and other classes related to amateur radio. That’s the real benefit to Saline of this program. The station just serves as a focal point.

I think this project, should it be approved would be a good thing for Saline and for amateur radio in this area. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

How to use an oscilloscope

updated 3/15/12

On the Elecraft mailling list, there was a request for help finding an oscilloscope tutorial. Since this is right up my alley–I’ve written for Test&Measurement World magazine for a zillion years–I thought I’d do a little research.

A Google search turned up a bunch of online tutorials. When I first posted this in 2004, one of the tutorials that I liked was http://www.oscilloscope-tutorials.com. Unfortunately that website is no longer online. Instead, go to YouTube, and have a look at How to use an oscilloscope, a video produced by two young Tektronix engineers that explains the basics of a scope’s vertical and horizontal controls and triggering.

Another tutorial that I liked is an article from the American QRP Club website. Written by Paul Harden, NA5N, this long article explains not only how scopes work, but also how to check and calibrate a scope that you may have purchased at a hamfest. Very useful info.

What Goes Around…

Some say that Morse code is the original digital communications technique. That being the case, isn’t the combination of Morse code and the Internet a natural combination? Some people seem to think so, namely MRX Software of Australia.

They have several different products, include a Morse code trainer and a PC-based spectrum analyzer (or analyser as they spell it there), but perhaps the coolest is the CW Communicator, or CWCom for short. Working somewhat like EchoLink does for voice communication, CWCom enables anyone with a computer to communicate with Morse code over the Internet. And just like EchoLink, CWCom is free.

To use CWCom, you have to first download and install the program. This is a very straightforward process. I have the program running on an old Windows98 laptop. Next, you have to decide how to “key” the computer. CWCom can be configured to receive input from a straight key or paddles using either the joystick port or serial port, or you can use the down arrow of your keyboard as the “key.” You can also type directly to the program, and it will translate the characters you type to Morse code.

I chose to make a cable that allows me to connect either my straight key or my Bencher paddle to my laptop’s serial port. I did try using the down arrow key as a straight key, but that feature didn’t seem to work on my computer.

If you use paddles, you can configure the program to act as if the paddles are connected to an iambic keyer. This feature works very nicely. You perform all of the setup with dialogue boxes, and it’s very straightforward and quick to do.

Once you have your key or paddles connected and the program configured properly, you connect to one of the channels on the CWCom server. There are thousands of channels available, but only once in the past few days have I seen more than two channels occupied. Currently, nearly everyone meets on either channel 1000 or channel 100. To find out who’s on, you simply click one of the function keys, and the program queries the server and displays a table listing the people logged onto the server and the channels they’re on.

Who can you talk to on CWCom? Well, over the past couple of days I’ve had contacts with a half dozen CWCom users. Most of them, obviously, are hams, but there are a few users who do not have a license. Of the hams on CWCom, many are from the UK. I guess it’s the Commonwealth connection.

I hope to use it to help my code class students “get on the air,” so to speak. I figure that once they know the letters and numbers, we can get on one of the CWCom channels and go as slow as we need to. I also think that this would be a great medium for the FISTS Code Buddy program. Using CWCom, anyone who’s volunteered to be a Code Buddy, can be one no matter what kind of radio equipment they have.

If you’re at all interested in operating Morse code, give CWCom a try. We could certainly use more operators, and it’s a lot of fun.

Print your own graph paper

Another bit of information from my colleague Martin Rowe…

“Here’s something useful, a free program (all 150 kB in size) that lets you print graph paper. You can select either or both axes as arithmetic or logrithmic. I tried it and it works.

Too Busy to Blog

I haven’t made an entry here for a while, and I’m sorry about that. The lack of entries here does not mean I haven’t been doing things. They’re just a lot of little things, none deserving of their own entry. Here’s what’s been going on.

  • Flame War! I got involved in a big debate on the Fists mailing list. Being a CW club, they periodically get into complaining that ham radio is going to go to hell when (note that I say “when” not “if”) the FCC eliminates the Morse code test requirement. I’m of the opinion that it’s a foregone conclusion–especially for the General class license–and all the complaining is just a waste of time. Filing petitions is as well. Now that the last World Radio Conference removed the requirement, and many countries have already eliminated the test, it’s only a matter of time here in the U.S.
       Anyway, I got into the argument, and because I’m in favor of removing the requirement, I, of course got flamed. One guy even started insulting me personally. The guy knew he had no logical arguments to make, so he started calling me names. I know better than to let ad hominem attacks distract me.
       What Fists should be doing is working on ways to encourage those currently licensed to become CW operators and improve their skills. The awards and contests they sponsor are great and a lot of fun, but Fists is going to have to be more proactive about getting licensees to be CW operators if they’re truly going to “preserve” Morse code.
  • General class. Another thing I’ve been doing is preparing to teach a General license class. To be honest, I’m going to have re-learn or learn a bunch of stuff before I can teach it properly. For example, I’m going to have to bone up on propagation theory in order to teach it to the students. I’m sure there are also a bunch of regulations that have changed since I last took a test.
       This class is going to include a code class. I know some of the guys who’ve signed up have no-code Tech licenses, and I’m determined to get them on CW. I’m going to be using the G4FON CW Trainer, which uses the Koch method to teach the code. It will be interesting to see how that goes. Last time I taught a code class was many moons ago, and I used the ARRL Code Book. I was actually successful in teaching two guys CW way back when.

I’ve been doing some other stuff, too. I’ll post more later.

Teaching a Ham Class?

This has been sitting in my inbox for a couple of months now. Guess I better go check it out. The General class I’m teaching starts in less than two weeks.

New Resource for Instructors! (Nov 5, 2003)
Field and Educational Services is proud to announce our newest resource for active Volunteer Instructors: The Online Instructor Primer. This new compilation by Linda Mullally, KB1HSV is jam-packed with helpful tips, links, and tutorials sure to help instructors eager to try new ideas and approaches. The web primer is organized so that information can be located in an instant. Just use the handy index, and topics ranging from “Planning” “How to Get Volunteers to Teach” and “Take Advantage of Special Events” are just a key-click away. Quick-links give you full-access to many ARRL services — and becoming a Volunteer Instructor has never been made easier. Go ahead – read why being an Instructor can be so rewarding!

There’s a lot of good information on these pages, but not much about teaching code, unfortunately.

UPDATE 3/15/12: The Online Instructor Primer is no longer online. There are some instructor resources, though, on the Resources for License Instruction page of the ARRL website.