FCC Looks to Revise, Clarify Vanity Call Sign Rules

ARRL Bulletin 35 ARLB035
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT November 30, 2009
To all radio amateurs

ARLB035 FCC Looks to Revise, Clarify Vanity Call Sign Rules

On Wednesday, November 25, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) — WT Docket No. 09-209 — seeking to amend the Commission’s Amateur Radio Service rules to clarify certain rules and codify existing procedures governing the vanity call sign system, as well as revise certain rules applicable to club stations.

According to the FCC, almost 80,000 licensees have replaced their sequentially issued Amateur Radio call signs with a vanity call sign since the program began in 1996. When the program began, the Commission established what they called “the broad outlines” of the vanity call sign system, concluding that call signs generally should not be available for reassignment for two years following the death of a licensee, or expiration or termination of the license for that call sign. In doing so, the Commission made exceptions for former holders of the call sign, close relatives of a deceased former holder and club stations of which a deceased former holder was a member.

The Commission did not, however, specify all of the procedures governing the vanity call sign system, but indicated that the procedures “would be set out in the Public Notices announcing ‘starting gates’ for the groups receiving initial priority and that the procedures would be adjusted from gate to gate as experience dictated.” The procedures announced in the Public Notices announcing the gates are still in effect, but they are not set forth in the Commission’s Rules.

The NPRM states that the FCC “now believe[s] that certain provisions should be codified in our rules, and others added, so that the vanity call sign system will be fair, equitable and transparent to all amateur service licensees. The Commission also decided in the Vanity Report and Order [issued in 1996] to resume issuing new club station licenses. We believe that certain rule changes to the club station licensing rules may be appropriate.”

Further information can be found on the Web.

New Amateur Radio/Linux Forum

From David, KG4GIY, via the ARRL PR mailing list:

As most of you know I dabble a little with Linux and other Open Source Software. A few of you know I occasionally scramble a few electrons and blog my thoughts on Linux and Open Source for the Linux Journal. What most of you do not know is that for the past month and change, I have been working as the guest editor for the Linux Journal’s January 2010 issue (on newsstands soon) focusing on Open Source and Amateur Radio.

Today, I flung open the doors at the Linux Journal’s virtual ham shack and I wanted to take a moment to invite you all to drop by and share your thoughts and maybe pick up a trick or two.

As anyone working with D-Star repeaters knows, Linux is an integral part of the gateways that connect them but there are many other aspects of the hobby that are also well represented and there are full development streams within the major distributions just for Amateur Radio. And you cannot beat the price.

So take a moment and stop by and leave your thoughts!

Thanks to everyone who has made this possible,


Is Logbook of the World More Trouble Than It’s Worth?

Is it just me, or do you also think that Logbook of the World (LOTW) is more trouble than it’s worth?

Three years ago, I went through the bother of downloading the software, getting the certificates, etc. I used it for a while, uploading all of the QSOs that I’d logged since I got back on the air, and it was interesting to see the QSLs tote up.

Then, I switched to a Mac in my shack. I managed to get LOTW working, but sloughed off on uploading my contacts. It was a bit of a hassle to do it, and the law of diminishing returns kind of took over. By that I mean I wasn’t seeing the rush of new countries that I did when I first started uploading. This was only natural.

Then, my Mac crashed. I had backed up my computer log, but I’d forgotten to back up the LOTW certificates and the .p12 file (whatever the h*ll that is). It got to be such a pain that I just forgot about LOTW altogether.

About a week ago, though, I get an e-mail from the ARRL noting that my certificate was about to expire. After getting a second warning today, I thought I’d give it a whack. I downloaded the latest version the TQSL software, but I’d forgotten that I’d lost my certificates. I logged into the LOTW website, and right on the homepage, it says, “Looking for your certificate? Click Your Account in the menu above.” I did that and downloaded a certificate, but the TQSLCert program didn’t recognize it, so I couldn’t renew it.

So, it was back to step 1. I ran TQSLCert and told it to generate a new certificate request. It created a .tq5 file that I uploaded to the LOTW website. Unfortunately, upon doing so, I got the error message, “Sorry, but you can’t have two certificates whose dates overlap.” This makes sense, but it’s oh so frustrating. So, now I have to wait for someone at the ARRL to sort things out, so that I can start using LOTW again.

Apparently, I’m not alone. According to the LOTW website, the system has only 30,039 users, and many of those are DX stations, I’m sure. Of those 30k, I wonder how many are like me, and rarely use the thing?

I gotta believe that there’s an easier way to do this. All this security is well and good, but we are talking about amateur radio QSLs here, not corporate trade secrets or national defense. I’m a computer person, and if I’m having trouble with it, just think of all the problems that hams with less computer experience than me are having with it. Or, is it just me?


UPDATE 11/30/09
Well, I’ve finally got it all straightened out. Shortly after I wrote this, someone at the ARRL actually did sort things out and sent me a new certificate, and I finally got around to installing it last night.

At first, I was having trouble saving the .p12 file and digitally signing an ADIF file. I even fired off an e-mail to the ARRL asking why my password didn’t work. As it turns out, this was my fault. Apparently, when I requested the new certificate, the caps lock was on, meaning that the alpha characters in the password were all caps. Once I figured that out, everything went smoothly.

I now have 8,928 LOTW QSOs and 1,160 QSLs. This includes 81 different DXCC entities. I haven’t run through my QSL collection yet, but I’d bet that I now have enough countries to get a DXCC certificate.

The Most Unlikely Code Practice I’ve Come Across Yet

If there’s a bigger mismatch than between Shakespeare and amateur radio, then I don’t know about it. Even so, some fine fellow (I was unable to divine either this fellow’s name or callsign) has translated Shakespeare’s sonnets into Morse Code. There are versions at 7 wpm, 13 wpm, and 20 wpm for each of the 152 sonnets. Alas, poor Yorick, I could only make it through one of them.

An Interesting Find

Recently, someone donated an entire TS-820 station to our Ham Radio at the Hands-On Museum project. The equipment included a fully decked-out TS-820, plus a lot of other stuff from that era (the late 1970s), including a Heathkit code practice oscillator, a Handbook, and other assorted books and materials.

I’d looked through this stuff before, but somehow I’d overlooked the Heathkit Amateur Radio Log. Here are a couple of scans I made:


Kinda cool, isn’t it? I’d never seen one of these before.

EE Times Taps Ten Technologies to Watch

The editors at EE Times have compiled a list of 10 emerging technologies to watch in 2010:

  1. Biofeedback or thought-control of electronics could give people with disabilities, the military, and consumers new ways to control user interfaces.
  2. The possibility of rapidly printing multiple conductive, insulating, and semiconductive layers to create electronics could significantly lower the cost of manufacturing electronics.
  3. The development of plastic memory could lead to rewritable, non-volatile memory capable of retaining data for more than 10 years and one million cycles.
  4. Maskless lithography could be a spoiler in the effort to replace immersion lithography with extreme ultraviolet lithography.
  5. Parallel processing will become better understood and more widely used as initiatives such as OpenCL and Cuda expand the understanding of how multiple processors will be programmed and used for increased computational and power efficiency.
  6. Energy harvesting will increasingly be used in devices, such as vibration-powered wireless sensors on machinery or vehicles, or motion-powered mobile phones.
  7. Biology and technology will continue to merge, building off of devices such as under-the-skin tags for pets and heart pacemakers for humans.
  8. Resistive RAM, or the memristor, will continue to evolve.
  9. The depth of the interconnect stack on top of the leading-edge silicon surface could lead to a splitting of front-end fab production into surface and local interconnect.
  10. Battery technologies will emerge to power an increasingly diverse number of devices.

Measure Temperature With the Arduino and the MC9700A

Tim, N9PUZ writes:


A while back you mentioned your club built up some of the bare bones Arduino boards. I’ve been using the Arduino for a while. Recently I needed to measure some temperatures. I discovered the Microchip MCP9700A in a TO-92 package. It’s $0.36 in single pieces from Mouser and will measure -40C to +120C.

I wrote an Arduino library for the MCP9700A sensor that’s released under a GPL license.The library functions will provide either Celsius or Fahrenheit temperatures for as many sensors as you have ADC ports. If anyone is interested they can download a copy from my blog.

There is an installable library, source code, and an example program.


Tim, N9PUZ

Very cool. Thanks, Tim!

More Media Play

2600—The Hacker Quarterly—has an article in the Autumn issue titled, “Post-Apocalyptic Communications.” It reads,

You’ve watched the movies and now you must prepare for the worst. You’re going to need a bunker deep inside a mountain, preferably at high elevation….You will need some form of communication. That pwned [sic] iPhone just won’t do. Sure, it’s unlocked for use on any provider, but on doomsday, it’s more than likely that you won’t be getting any reception. That’s why it’s good to have an amateur radio!

Now, I’m not so sure about the doomsday scenario, but I think it would be a cool thing if more hackers got into ham radio. After all, hams are the hackers of the radio world!

J.P. Armstrong, the author of the piece, has a page devoted to ham radio on his website. I kinda like it because he features my study guides. Thanks, JP!

Another BPL System to Bite the Dust?

Yet another indication that BPL just doesn’t make economic sense….Dan

From InsideNoVA.Com:

City council considers ending Internet service
By Keith Walker
Published: November 18, 2009
Updated: November 19, 2009

If Manassas Councilman Jonathan L. Way had his druthers, he’d shut down the city’s low-cost Internet service as soon as possible, because it’s costing the city more than $100,000 a year.

In 2003, the city introduced broadband over power lines, or BPL, to bring low-cost Internet access to city residents. Since then, the city has spent $1.6 million on the project, Way said.

The service has continued to shed customers while expenses have continued to rise.

“I think we need to get out of BPL forthwith,” Way said Tuesday at a city council special meeting. “It’s not a good product. The whole business is not financially sound and it never has been.”

Forecasts by the utilities commission show that the service is likely to lose between $100,771 and $171,353, or an average of $151,825 each year over the next nine years.

Read the entire article.

ARLX012 NCVEC to Release New Technician Question Pool to Public in January 2010

Special Bulletin 12 ARLX012
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT November 19, 2009
To all radio amateurs

ARLX012 NCVEC to Release New Technician Question Pool to Public in
January 2010

The Question Pool Committee (QPC) of the National Conference of
Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (NCVEC) is due to release the new
Technician class (Element 2) question pool to the 14 VECs on
December 1, 2009; it will be released to the public in January 2010.
Each question pool for the three Amateur Radio license classes —
Technician, General and Amateur Extra — is reviewed on a four-year
rotation. This new Technician class pool will become effective on
July 1, 2010.

According ARRL Assistant VEC Manager Perry Green, WY1O, the QPC
reviews the three question pools every four years to ensure that the
questions are kept current with the latest amateur practice and
technology, as well as addresses information relevant to that
particular license class. “In the case of the Technician pool, the
question set should provide for the new Technician licensee to be
able to establish his station and operate it legally, courteously
and safely. The Technician question pool and exam are intended to be
the beginning of the journey into the Amateur Radio Service. It
prepares the person for the enjoyment of operating, and that of
preparing to learn electronics, the cornerstone of the education
needed to obtain the further enjoyment that can come with the higher
license classes.”

Green is a member of the NCVEC’s Question Pool Committee. Other
members of the QPC include Chairman Roland Anders, K3RA (Laurel
VEC), Larry Pollock, NB5X (W5YI VEC), Jim Wiley, KL7CC (Anchorage
VEC) and Tom Fuszard, KF9PU (Milwaukee VEC).

Green said that earlier this year, the QPC solicited input from
Amateur Radio operators concerning the new question pool, accepting
input for new question topics and new questions, as well as
suggestions for changes or deletions: “The QPC must rely on members
of the Amateur Radio community to suggest questions and answers in a
responsible manner to preserve a high level of legitimacy for our
radio service, so the NCVEC QPC seeks input from the amateur
community concerning a revision.”

The new question pool will become effective for all examinations
administered on or after July 1, 2010, and it will remain valid
until June 30, 2014. The current Technician question pool that
became effective July 1, 2006 will expire June 30, 2010. The new
Technician pool contains approximately 400 questions, from which 35
are selected for an Element 2 examination. This question pool will
contain graphics and diagrams, something new for this element.

The current General class question pool was effective July 1, 2007
and is valid through June 30, 2011. The current Amateur Extra class
pool was effective July 1, 2008 and is valid until June 30, 2012.