Ham Radio Playing a Part in the Egyptian Protests?

There has been some chatter on my ham radio mailing lists about the role ham radio may or may not be playing in the protests against the government in Egypt. The first pointer was to the article “Egypt’s Internet Still Offline,” published on January 27. The first comment exhort Egyptian Internet users to get on hamsphere.com.

The question then is how do they get on hamsphere if Internet service is not available? The answer seems to be that the government turned off the DNS servers, so if users were using DNS servers other than the government-run servers, such as the Google servers, they’d still have some access.

Another ham noted that there seemed to be several groups trying to coordinate efforts to communicate directly with Egyptians. He pointed to this page on reddit.com.

There’s also a post on QRZ.Com that notes that a group called Telecomix, a European group that supports a free and open Internet, was looking for radio operators that might be able to get a message into Egypt.

Another ham cautioned that “hams in most middle-Eastern nations were either members of the ruling government, trusted friend that openly support a ruling government or members of a nations secret police.  With the exception of outsiders visiting a given middle-East nation operating with a visitors license, there are no hams among the citizenry.” He went on to say that if there are communications being heard on the ham bands, they are probably from “freebanders,” and it would be illegal, of course to communicate with them.

Furthermore, you really might not want to support a group just because they’re calling for the overthrow of an arguably dictatorial government. Just look at what happened in Iran. I’m not sure that you can say that the people there are better off than they were before.

The upshot is that ham radio operators should be very careful about getting involved in something like this. Ham radio operators are generally not the most politically informed, and while this may all sound romantic, doing the right thing is not so easy to determine. Let’s not make a bad situation worse.

UPDATE 1/30/11, 2100Z
A story in the Huffington Post reports:

The group says it’s also worked on receiving and decoding amateur radio messages, sent on frequencies recommended by the group of activists. While these groups have only been able to receive a small amount of messages of a short length with an unknown source, the Egyptian people’s use of amateur radio to transmit messages represents an interesting utilization of old-fashioned technology to circumvent government restrictions.

Holy QSO, Batman!

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve worked two special event DX stations, both having a religious theme:

  • PR150PLMPR150PLM is a special event station celebrating the 150th anniversary of the  birthday (January 21, 1861) of  Brazilian’s scientist, inventor and radio pioneer, Priest Landell de Moura. The station is active only until January 31, so if you want to work it you’ll have to hurry. I worked it on 40m CW, but their QRZ.Com page says that they are active on 10, 15, 17, 20, 30, 40 and 80m  SSB,  CW and digital modes. QSL via PR7AYE (pray, get it?), direct or via the bureau.
  • LZ11PGPLZ11PGP is a special callsign created to honor the Bulgarian Saints Gavriil Lesnovski and Prohor Pshinski. Furthermore, the QRZ.Com page goes on to say that contacting LZ11PGP counts toward the  “All Bulgarian Saints” award and 10 points towards “St. Teodosii Tyrnovski” award. To qualify for the award, European stations must contact 10 of the 14 stations using special callsigns commemorating Bulgarian Orthodox Saints. Stations outside Europe need only make five contacts. For a complete list of special callsigns, see the LZ11PGP QRZ.Com page.

Taking My Show on the Road

It’s always flattering when someone asks you advice. That’s how I felt when a ham radio club here in Michigan asked me about the one-day Tech classes that I teach from time to time.

In the course of the discussion, the club’s president asked, “Do you ever take your class on the road? Would you consider doing the class for us here?” I was even more flattered. He went on to say that if I would consider teaching the class, then he would try to get the club to pick up my expenses.

After swapping a couple more e-mails, we agreed on a date and that they would pay my expenses. Sounds like it will be fun.

So much fun that I’ll make this offer to other clubs out there. If your club is willing to pay my expenses, I’ll come and teach a one-day Tech class for your club.

High Frequency Electronics: January 2011

High Frequency Electronics - January 2011There are two articles in the January 2011 issue of High Frequency Electronics that amateur radio operators might find interesting:

  1. The Mathematics of Mixers: Basic Principles. This tutorial walks you through the basics of mixers. Because this article is aimed at engineers, there is math involved, but it’s not overly complicated, and if you stick with it, you’ll gain a better understanding of how the mixer, one of the most basic circuits in amateur radio, works.
  2. Design of Input Matching Networks for Class-E RF Power Amplifiers. The author of this article says, “Little attention is brought to the design of the input matching network and to the device bias conditions, with their effects on the overall circuit performance. This paper attempts to discuss these topics through a systematic design and simulation approach for a typical 5 watt class-E power amplifier operating at 150 MHz.”

Note that the magazine is only available as a single PDF file. To read these articles, you’ll have to download the PDF file first.

NASA Seeks Amateur Radio Operators’ Aid to Listen for Satellite Beacon Signal

From the NASA website:

NanoSail-D Satellite

NanoSail-D satellite during deployment testing. (NASA/MSFC)

On Wednesday, Jan. 19 at 11:30 a.m. EST, engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., confirmed that the NanoSail-D nanosatellite ejected from Fast Affordable Scientific and Technology Satellite, FASTSAT. The ejection event occurred spontaneously and was identified this morning when engineers at the center analyzed onboard FASTSAT telemetry. The ejection of NanoSail-D also has been confirmed by ground-based satellite tracking assets.

The NanoSail-D beacon signal can be found at 437.270 MHz. Amateur ham operators are asked to listen for the signal to verify NanoSail-D is operating. This information should be sent to the NanoSail-D dashboard.

Read complete story

Outgoing Buro Rates Rise

From the ARRL Letter 1/13/11:

Effective January 17, 2011, a new pricing structure will go into effect for the ARRL Outgoing QSL Service. With the new rate structure, amateurs will no longer need to count outgoing cards and then guess as to what to pay based upon a half-pound rate; a simple weighing of the cards is all that is necessary to determine what amount to send to the Bureau. This new structure also accommodates a small rate increase in response to recent postage, shipping and handling costs.

The last rate revision for the Outgoing QSL Service was in January 2007. Even though international shipping costs have remained flat over the last 4 years, domestic shipping costs have risen more than 16 percent since 2007, while material and handling costs continue to climb 1 to 2 percent each year.

The new rate will be:

  • $2 for 10 or fewer cards in one envelope.
  • $3 for 11-20 cards in one envelope, or
  • 75 cents per ounce, for packages with 21 or more cards. For example, a package containing 1.5 pounds — 24 ounces, or about 225 cards — of cards will cost $18.

If you have any questions concerning the ARRL Outgoing QSL Service or the rates to use the service, please send them via e-mail to buro@arrl.org.

Now Hear This: The ARRL PIO Audio Blog

ARRLThe ARRL website has a new section—the PIO (Public Information Officer)Audio Blog. The page has a collection of ARRL officials speaking on various topics. The latest is a short description of the ARRL board of directors and its functions by Harold Kramer, WJ1B, the ARRL CEO. Other talks include:

  • Allen Pitts, W1AGP, the ARRL Public Relations Manager, talking about the Board meeting, the new Community Service brochure, and coming video;
  • C.E.O. Dave Sumner, K1ZZ, talking about what he sees as growth opportunities in Amateur Radio in 2011;
  • Bob Allison, WB1GCM, discussing the current video contest, and
  • President Kay Craigie, N3KN, talks about advocacy and a coming video you will want to use.

Wire Glue: Expensive, But Cool

Wire GlueOn the fpqrp-l mailing list, a guy posted a link to Wire Glue, a product that purportedly uses “the latest advances in microcarbon technology” to conduct electricity.

Sounds like a cool product, doesn’t it?

Digging into this a bit, it appears to have gotten mixed reviews on Amazon. Five reviewers gave it five stars, six reviewers gave it only one star. One “five-star” reviewer said:

I purchased this item to use for “soldering” electrical connections where true soldering was prohibitive due to the heat associated with it. This product is basically 100% carbon powder suspended in a glue product. It must be stirred up very well before each use. It’s disappointing that the glue product is SO fluid; it flows like crazy and can make a heck of a mess if you’re not careful. It takes at least 24 hours for the glue to dry completely, but by golly it’s conductive!! For connections that are apt to be stressed due to movement, I advise finally sealing the connection with epoxy.

Haven’t found a better product for “heatless soldering” that is so versatile.

That seems to sum up both the good and bad points of this product.

New Amateur Radio Bill Introduced in Congress

ARRL Bulletin 3 ARLB003
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT January 11, 2011
To all radio amateurs

The Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Enhancement Act, which died at the end of the 111th Congress, has been reintroduced in the 112th Congress as HR 81. The sponsor is Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18). The new bill — which was introduced on January 5—has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Rep Jackson Lee first introduced the bill—HR 2160—in the 111th Congress in April 2009. It gained an additional 41 co-sponsors but did not progress out of the committee of jurisdiction. A similar bill introduced in the Senate—S 1755—made it all the way through that body in December 2009, but likewise was not taken up by the House.

The objective of the bill—which is supported by the ARRL—is for the Secretary of Homeland Security to study the uses and capabilities of Amateur Radio communications in emergencies and disaster relief and to identify and make recommendations regarding impediments to Amateur Radio communications, such as the effects of private land use regulations on residential antenna installations.

“We are hopeful that this early start will lead to success in the new Congress,” commented ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ.

HR 81 can be found on the web in PDF format.

Today in Ham Radio History: Moonbounce

From Frank via the HamRadioHelpGroup mailing list:

Today in 1946, the United States Army Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey successfully conducted Project Diana, bouncing radio waves off the moon and receiving the reflected signals. 65 years later, ham radio operators all over the world conduct moon bounce or EME communications (Earth-Moon-Earth), with relatively inexpensive equipment.