New General Class Study Guide Released


I’ve just uploaded the 2011 version of the No-Nonsense, General Class Study Guide. Use this version of the study guide if you’re taking the test after July 1, 2011. There isn’t much difference between the old question pool and the new question pool, but the price is right (free!), and by downloading the new one, you’ll be sure to have the right questions. If you’re taking the test before July 1, 2011, download this version, download the 2007 version.

Just like I did with the Tech study guide, I’ll be producing ePub versions for the Kindle and Nook. They should be out by the end of the week.

My Latest Electronic Toy

KindleMy latest electronic toy isn’t a QRP rig, nor is it an antenna analyzer or a new paddle. It’s a Kindle e-reader!

Even though I’ve had a Kindle version of my study guide for about six months now, I never saw how it looked on a Kindle because I didn’t own one. On Easter Sunday, though, my brother brought his to the family gathering, and I was finally able to get a first-hand look not only at my study guide, but at the Kindle itself.

I was duly impressed. Reading on the device is a lot easier than on my iPod due to the e-ink technology. It really does look a lot like an actual book. Shortly after, I bought my own Kindle.

Using it is a breeze, and it really has changed the way I read things. One of the first things I did was to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal. Every morning, the latest issue is downloaded to my Kindle and is ready to read as I eat my breakfast. How cool is that? I’ve since also subscribed to the Detroit Free Press.

One thing I’ve been pleasantly surprised with is the number of free books available for the Kindle. Sure, most of them are old and in the public domain, but many publishers offer their recently-published Kindle books for free for a limited time. For example, I downloaded several free books on investing that were published in 2010. I also snagged several recently published books on writing and publishing for free.

Surfing around the Amazon site this afternoon, I found several free books for ham radio operators–at least ham operators of the early 20th century:

  • Letters of a Radio Engineer to His Son. This book, published in 1922 is written as a series of letters from father to son, each letter explaining some aspect of radio. It goes so far as to even explain how atoms work and how current flows on an atomic scale.
  • Electricity for Boys. This book was published in 1915 is part of the “How-To-Do-It” series. As the name implies, it does concentrate mostly on electricity, but hams should find it interesting, too.
  • The Radio Amateur’s Handbook. No, this isn’t the venerable handbook published by the ARRL. The first edition of the ARRL Handbook was published in 1926, while this book was published around 1915. If you want to build a spark gap transmitter, get this one instead of the ARRL edition. In this book, for example, you will find instructions on how to tune your spark-gap transmitter so that it transmits a 200m signal.

I’m not sure how useful these books are, per se, but they are a lot of fun to read. You get a real feel for the history of amateur radio by reading them. And, while you might actually find a printed copy in some dusty, used-book store, the chances of that happening are very  small. With the Kindle, these books are literally at my fingertips.

WA2HOM: Adding Countries to the Log

I’m usually not one to work the big contests, but there are some advantages to participating, even if you don’t have a lot of time or plan to submit a log. One of the advantages is that there are a lot of countries on, and you can add to total of countries that  you’ve worked.

This weekend was the CQ WPX  CW contest. I only operated for about three hours, the bands were kind of lousy on Saturday, and I only worked 15 meters, but even so, I managed to add eight countries to the WA2HOM log. They include:

  • HK1R – Colombia
  • SZ1A – Greece
  • 6W/RK4FF – Senegal
  • HQ9R – Honduras
  • EF8M – Canary Islands
  • J7A – Dominica
  • J39BS – Grenada
  • HC2SL – Ecuador

It’s nothing real exotic, but new ones nonetheless.

Dayton Hamvention Coverage

For those of you, who, like me, were unable to make it to Dayton this year, here are a few reports on the goings-on there:

  • Dayton Daily Reports (day 1, day 2, day 3). These are reports from the ARRL.
  • Vicarious Dayton Hamvention. W4KAZ has put together a great set of links to other reports on Dayton 2011.  It includes links to videos and written reports from other bloggers.

Part of the excitement was a surprise visit from  Julius Genachowski, the current FCC Chairman. The Hamvention put out this press release:

When Bill Curtice, WA8APB, answered the Hamvention information line phone Saturday morning at Hara Arena, he thought he might have a prank caller.  The voice on the other end said, “I am Julius Genachowski, chairman of the FCC.” Fortunately Bill treated the call as if it was legitimate.  A few minutes later, Chairman Genachowski was entering East Hall of Hara Arena to begin his brief, but welcome, visit to Hamvention. He explained that his plane had been diverted to Dayton Friday night and he was told that it might be difficult to find a motel room because it was Hamvention weekend.

“When I heard that, I knew I had to visit it,” Chairman Genachowski said, “I don’t know a lot about ham radio but I know that it is an important service.” He had a chance to learn a little more as Hamvention Chairman Michael Kalter, W8CI, took him on a brief tour during which he had an opportunity to chat with a number of hams. Unfortunately his rescheduled flight time only provided for about two hours at Hamvention but he described his visit as enjoyable and informative.

Apparently, the flea market got a little “ripe.”  Here’s another bit from a Hamvention press release:

Unfortunately, though rain did not dampen flee market spirits, a different sort of liquid did present a problem for a period Saturday afternoon. A sewer line underneath the center of the flea market broke and its contents bubbled up through the ground. The affected vendors were moved with assistance from Hamvention volunteers and vacuum trucks arrived quickly to clean up the mess. We thank the affected vendors for their patience during the problem and attendees for the cooperation while repairs were made.

Here’s some video. According to a friend of mine, only one restroom was in operation while the sewer line was being fixed. Yikes! They really need to find a better venue.

Fortunately, it appears as if I will be able to make both the bowling tournament and Dayton next year.  The bowling tournament will be moving to the first weekend in May.

Senate “Companion” Bill to HR 607 Avoids Impacting Amateur Spectrum

ARRL Bulletin 14  ARLB014
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT  May 25, 2011

To all radio amateurs

SB QST ARL ARLB014 - ARLB014 Senate “Companion” Bill to HR 607 Avoids Impacting Amateur Spectrum

On Thursday, May 19, Senators Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) and John McCain (R-AZ) introduced S 1040 — The Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011 — in the Senate.  While it has a similar objective to HR 607 — introduced in February by Representative Peter King (R-NY-3) – this Senate bill, unlike HR 607, does not call for auctioning any portions of Amateur Radio spectrum. Both bills call for the allocation of the so-called “D block” of spectrum, 758-763 and 788-793 MHz, to facilitate the development of a public safety broadband network.

On learning in February that a Senate version of HR 607 was being drafted, ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, met with staff members of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee who were working on the bill to share the ARRL’s concerns with regard to HR 607. “They seemed very receptive to our argument and appreciative of the public service contributions of radio amateurs,” Sumner said. “It is gratifying to see that S 1040 avoids impacting our spectrum allocations.”

Sumner explained that while some media reports are referring to S 1040 as “the Senate version of HR 607,” it is important that radio amateurs not oppose S 1040: “There is no reason for us to do so. We support the creation of an interoperable broadband network for first responders. Other than to oppose any method that would impact amateur spectrum use, we do not support one method over another of achieving that objective. We only oppose one aspect of HR 607, not the entire bill.”

S 1040 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce, and Transportation, chaired by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). Senator Rockefeller earlier introduced his own bill, S 28, to address the same general topic. Neither Senate bill would impact amateur spectrum.


Daily Double

Last Wednesday evening, I hit the Daily Double, working two special event stations. The first was N4G, a special event station for the “Cannon County Good Old Days” in Woodbury, TN.

Flag of the Mosquito Nation

The second was H77REX, a special event station commemorating the 350th anniversary of the Mosquito Nation. The Mosquitos are the indigenous people in what is now Nicaragua.

Last night, I also hit the Daily Double, but of a slightly different nature. When I got on last night, I first tuned up on 30m. My first contact was with SE6Y, who answered my CQ.

After QSYing to 40m, I again called CQ. This time, SM6DLY, another Swedish station answered my call, completing my Swedish Daily Double. I love it when DX stations answer my CQ.

I Skipped Dayton This Year

I skipped Dayton this year, even though, with my new General Class Study Guide ready to hit the streets I really should have been there.

The reason I didn’t go is that this year my father convinced me to go to the 65th Slovak Catholic Sokol International Bowling Tournament in Reading, PA. He had been after me to go with him for the past five years or so, but unfortunately, the tournament has always been held on the same weekend as the Dayton Hamvention. In previous years, I chose Dayton, but this year, realizing that neither my dad nor I was getting any younger, I chose to go bowling.

Did I miss Dayton? Well, sure I did, but I had a real blast at the bowling tournament, too.

It all started at 7:30am when our team—me, my dad, my brother-in-law Joe, and my cousin John—piled into a Ford Flex for the nine and a half hour drive. We arrived just in time to change into our bowling shirts, then head over to the local Sokol chapter hall for a nice dinner. After dinner, we drove to the bowling alley for our 8:15 pm start time.

To be honest, we didn’t do all that well in the team event. I had a 595 series, which isn’t too bad, but overall, our scores were quite forgettable. We got back the to hotel about midnight and fell quickly asleep.

Saturday was a different story, however. In the doubles competition, my father and I were paired with another father and son team, Tony and Justin Gober. 23-year-old Justin is carrying a 208 average, and it looked like we were up against some pretty stiff competition. When all was said and done, though, I had a 638 series, while my father had a 476  series.  We didn’t finish in the money, but we made a very nice showing.

The singles competition started immediately after the doubles. At this point, Justin really caught fire, shooting a 758 series! This score would ultimately win the singles title. My score was a respectable 606.

Later that evening, at the banquet, I got quite a surprise. As it turned out, my total score for all nine games—1839 scratch + 144 handicap for a total of 1983—was good enough for the all events title. Not bad for a first-timer.

The next day, we all piled back into the Flex and headed home, this time by way of Gettysburg. No, we didn’t visit the FCC office there, but rather the Civil War battlefield. That was quite an experience, too, and I’m glad that I got to visit it.

Next year, they’re moving the tournament to the first weekend in May. That means I’ll get to go to both the tournament in Cleveland and to the Dayton Hamvention. It’s going to be a busy month.

FCC Fines Ham $4k

In an article on pirate radio broadcasters being fine, Radio World threw in this report about a Philadelphia amateur radio operator also being penalized:

Another fine is in a ham radio case. The commission affirmed a proposed fine of $4,000 against Jose Torres for operating his amateur station on an unauthorized frequency, 26.71 MHz. Torres is the licensee of Amateur Extra Class station N3TX in Philadelphia. The agency says he’d been warned about not operating on that frequency and fined $4,000 in 2009. He asked that the fine be reduced or cancelled, telling agents he wasn’t home during the alleged unauthorized operations in 2008 and submitted cellphone records to support his claim; Torres also submitted three years of federal tax returns to bolster his argument of an inability to pay. The FCC didn’t buy his arguments; field agents say they heard his voice on the unauthorized transmissions and that the cellphone records don’t prove he wasn’t at home, only that he wasn’t using his landline at the time.

I wonder why he was operating on 26.71 MHz. That’s not even in the Citizen’s Band.

Multimeter Links to iPhone or iPad

Redfish iDVMHere’s an interesting new product—the iDVM Multimeter—a product the company claims is the first digital phone-enabled multimeter. As you can see, the instrument itself has no display or controls. All display and control is done through an iPhone or iPad app.

The connection to the iPhone or iPad is a Bluetooth link. The app allows users to acquire, visualize, and share electrical measurement data on their Apple devices. Data can also be exported and e-mailed for further analysis.

The kicker is that the instrument won’t ship until June, and it will cost $220! A Fluke 177 multimeter costs only $240, and undoubtedly has much better analog specs. (The “Technical Specs” page on the Redfish website is currently not available.) It does do some things that the Fluke doesn’t do, such as speak the measurements and use a rechargeable battery, but I’m not sure those features are worth the price.

I like the iDVM concept a lot, but I’m afraid that they’re going to have to reduce the cost of this thing by at least 50% to be successful.

Ham Radio Show to be Broadcast on

TWITThis Week In Technology announces the launch of “HAM Nation,” a weekly HD video webcast about ham radio featuring interesting guests. Hosted by Bob Heil, K9EID, the show will cover many fascinating aspects of amateur radio each week.

The webcast will be broadcast on Tuesday evenings at 8:00 pm CDT (Central) starting May 24. The first episode will have special guests Joe Walsh, WB6ACU and Dave Jennings,  WJ6W.

Presumably, you can view the webcast by going to is also available on Roku, if you have a Roku box.  I do, and will see if I can stream it there.  I think this could be a very cool thing for ham radio.