Help With the Next General Class Question Pool

The item below is from the June 2009 issue of the ARRL’s e-newsletter for registered instructors:

As part of its scheduled review of the General Class question pool, the Question Pool Committee of the National Conference of Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (NCVEC) is accepting suggestions for changes or deletions to the current pool of questions used for the FCC amateur radio General License Class exam. New questions are also being entertained. Members of the QPC shape the pool of questions to fit some basic objectives of preparing licensees to operate within the rules, safely and appropriately for the license class. They also view the 3 levels of amateur radio licensing as an opportunity to prepare licensees with an underpinning in electronics and radio science that starts with a very basic foundation at the Technician level and increases in complexity with each level of license achievement. Each question pool is reviewed on a regular cycle to include any changes in FCC rules and operating privileges and also to align question pool content with current operating activities and technologies. Roland Anders K3RA, QPC Chairman, requests that any changes or new questions be submitted to the QPC mailbox at before October 1 to allow time for consideration. Please be sure to include an explanation of the reason the change/addition is being requested.

Contest Aims to Measure Interference Caused by Home-Networking Devices

The Electromagnetic Compatibility Industry Association (EMCIA) is a British trade group comprising “companies involved in supplying, designing, testing and manufacturing EMC products.” The EMCIA has been a big critic of BPL in the U.K.

They recently announced a contest to identify the interference range of Power Line Telecommunications – otherwise known as PLC or BPL. These devices aren’t BPL devices as we know them here in the U.S., but rather home networking devices that use a home’s power wiring to network computer devices.

The objectives of the contest are:

  • To conduct EMC testing of Power-Line Adaptors in their installed configuration at a statistically-significant number of sites so as to help determine interference probability as defined in CISPR16-4-1; 2003.
  • To provide EMC test data from a single emission source that is relevant both to such a single source and by extrapolation to the cumulative effect of many such sources, so as to facilitate the analysis and presentation of information about the interference probability of installations of PLT equipment. (PLT is elsewhere known as PLC or BPL).

The contest rules also includes this statement: “For the convenient measurement of interference emission without the use of laboratory-grade equipment these objectives are to be met by exploration of the distance of detection of the interference emissions from a single installation of Power Line Adaptors (PLAs).

This is a strictly UK contest. The rules say that the devices under test must be available to the UK consumer, and they must be installed in a UK residence. That being the case, I hope some of our UK brethren accept the challenge and do a bang-up job on it.

You Get What You Pay For

At the Maker Faire on Saturday, I pulled out my $2 Harbor Freight DMM to check the continuity of the light bulb in my “visualize RF” demo. Bad news. The “low battery” indicator was on, and apparently it couldn’t supply enough current to make the measurement. On top of that, as I was fooling around with it, the wire came off one of the probes.

Well, yesterday, I tried to fix things. I re-soldered the probe wire and replaced the 9 V battery, but the meter’s still non-functional. The display comes on, but I’m not able to make any measurements.

I guess the moral of the story is that you get what you pay for. I now have another cheap $2 Harbor Freight DMM in my tool chest. We’ll see how long this one lasts.

If a Nine-Year-Old Girl Can Do It….

….shouldn’t all of you?

Thanks to Jim, W8JPM, for sending me a link to this YouTube video of RZ9UMA working the recent WPX CW contest:

More Morse
And, while we’re on the subject of Morse Code, here’s another video that I found while surfing around YouTube. It’s a video of how to use a simple microcontroller to decode Morse Code. I will grant that since the input to the microcontroller in this example is a pushbutton switch, the practicality of this example is somewhat limited, but it should get you started on making your own Morse decoder, if you’d like to give it a try.

A2 Mini-Maker Faire Was a Blast…..But Tiring

Yesterday, was the second annual A2 Mini-Maker Faire. It was a blast, but man, was I beat afterwards.

One reason I was so tired, is that I stayed up kind of late Friday night working on my display. The thing I brought was an updated version of the code practice oscillator that I’ve been hauling around for the last couple of years.

Instead of the No-Solder Code Practice Oscillator that I had been using for this demo, I built a touch paddle and connected that to my WinKeyer. Since the sidetone on the WinKeyer is just a wimpy, little piezo transducer, I added an audio output to the keyer and plugged in the amplified speaker that I use with my KX-1. When I was finished with that, I had enough amplitude to compete with pretty much anything at the Faire.

I got there just a little after 8am to set up, but that was way too early. It didn’t open to the public until 10am, and way before 9am, I had my Morse Code demo set up, the literature out, and my QSL cards displayed. Dave, N8SBE, arrived about 10:45 am with his K3 and panadapter and set up a nice display on his half of the table. He ran a coax cable out to the screwdriver antenna on his car, which he parked just outside the door we were next to.

Racking Up Some Points
At one point, I just couldn’t help myself. Dave was tuning through the CW portion of the 20m band and ran across the Alabama QSO Party. This made a good demonstration of the panadapater as there were quite a few signals in a relatively small bandwidth.

I told Dave that he should work some of those stations. Instead, he invited me to sit down and work them, which I proceeded to do. I made about ten contacts before I quit. It was kind of amusing trying to explain to people about contesting, and about the Alabama QSO Party in particular, but hey, that’s what we do. :)

More Than Worthwhile
Overall, I was kind of surprised at the level of interest, to be honest. I wasn’t able to attend last year’s event, so the only point of comparison I have is the folks who come to the Hands-On Museum. At the museum, we occasionally get someone to show some interest, and even more occasionally, someone who’s really interested.

Yesterday, was a completely different experience. Just about everyone who came up to our table yesterday had a real interest, and it was a pleasure to tell them about ham radio, demonstrate the touch keyer and K3, and talk to them about our classes and station at the museum. I’m sure that as a result, we’ll have a couple more folks—including several kids—getting their licenses. I’d been kind of dubious about participating earlier in the day, but I’ve changed my mind completely on this. It was more than worthwhile.

By the time 4pm rolled around, I was pretty tired. So, even thought the Faire was supposed to be open until 5, I packed up and headed home. Dave stuck around, though, and even though the crowd had noticeably thinned, he told me this morning that our booth attracted a fair number of visitors during that last hour.

New Version of Tech Study Guide Released

I’m happy to announce that release 1.0 of my No-Nonsense, Technician-Class Study Guide for the latest question pool is now available. The question pool that this study guide covers will take effect on July 1, 2010, so if you’re planning to take the test, or know of someone who’s planning to take the test, after this date, then you’ll want to get this new version of the study guide.

As I noted earlier, this question pool is a little more technical than the previous question pool. There are, for example, questions on components and their functions and schematic symbols that were not on the previous test.

I want to thank the hams who helped me produce this study guide by proofreading the draft and offering some helpful comments. They are: K2MUN, KD8IXP, KC8ZTJ, N6QXA, N5IUT, N6KZW, AK5Z, and KE4KPC.

Finally, I’d like to note that I plan to add an appendix to the study guide with links to websites that cover the different topics. If you have a favorite site that covers Ohm’s Law, schematic symbols, contesting, satellite operation, antennas, or any of the other topics for which there are questions, please e-mail me the URL so that I can include them in the appendix.


Download the new study guide.

I Was Hacked!

Yesterday, about 2 pm, I got an e-mail from my web hosting company that my site was hacked. Unfortunately, this means that I’ve lost about two weeks worth of postings and comments, as the latest backup he had was from 5/22/10. So, if you’ve added a comment in the past two weeks, and you’d like to see that comment restored, please comment again.

Aside from posting the May column that I send out to newsletter editors, I don’t really recall what posts I made. I will be restoring that column, though.

Sorry for any inconvenience.