Ham radio on the Internet – 11/29/11

Here are some cool things I found on the Net recently:

Radio tutorial – building your first station. This YouTube video tutorial by N7FTP gives some good advice on setting up your first ham shack.

Wi-Fi and the Bad Boys of Radio (review). I haven’t yet read this book, but this review certainly makes me want to do so. The book was written by Alex Hills, who played a part in the development of WiFi technology.  Alex, AL7K, got his start in radio as a ham radio operator. From there, he went on to broadcast engineering, and then to a position with Carnegie Mellon University, where he worked on WiFi technology.

Radio hams pick up Mars rover Curiosity’s signals. This story describes how some German amateurs are working with NASA to receive telemetry from the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, which is heading towards Mars carrying a one-ton nuclear powered robot rover named Curiosity.

So, what ham radio gear do you hope Santa will bring you this year?

This year, I’m asking Santa for an Elecraft K3, but don’t think that’s in the cards. I would, however, be happy to find a Signalink in my stocking. I asked people on Twitter and Google Plus. Here’s what they said:

  • an Icom IC-208H so that I can have a “real” mobile rig in the car;
  • a new toolbox that I intend to fill with electronics stuff;
  • if I believed in Santa, I’d ask for a Kenwood TS-590S;
  • an Icom IC-7200;
  • a new power supply;
  • an FT-857 (but it’s not gonna happen);
  • books and things for my 897, maybe antenna stuff too.
What are you asking Santa for this year?

Power remote devices via your feedline

A couple of weeks ago I came across the article, Combine power feed and data link via cable for remote peripherals, in an email newsletter from EE Times. While this article shows you how to power remote peripherals via the signal lines used to connect them to a computer, this technique can also be used  in an amateur radio station to power say a remote antenna tuner via your coax feedline.

You can, in fact, already buy such devices. MFJ, for example, sells the MFJ-4116 Bias Tee. You can make one for a lot less than the $25 a pop that MFJ wants for one, though. As you can see from the article, the circuit is simply a capacitor and an RF choke. Even with a box, a couple of SO-239s, and a power connector, you can build this for less than ten bucks each.

Another fine article on this topic was written by Jim, K5LAD. To house his circuit, he chose an electrical junction box from Home Depot. The nice thing about using these junction boxes is that they have flanges for mounting the device at both the shack and remote ends.

Ron gives me the NOD

It pays to be persistent. I worked Ron, KB8NOD, quite a while ago, and sent him a QSL card back then. I recently worked him again and mentioned that I never got a card in return. Well, he said that he’d run out of cards, or something like that. I pushed a little, noting that I had quite a collection now of QSL cards from stations whose callsigns spell words, and really would like to get his because I didn’t have any NODs yet. He said he would check again, to see if he had some squirreled away somewhere.

I got this in the mail yesterday. :) He writes, “This is my last one….I hope you like it.” I really do like it. I think hand-drawn cards like this have a lot of character.

KB8NOD QSL

Vote for the next Radio Scouting Emblem

Radio Scouting EmblemAre you involved with Scouting and ham radio?  Then, vote for the next Radio Scouting Emblem. The one at right is my favorite.

Ham Radio on the Net – 11/22/11

A couple of items that have appeared on the Internet have been making news in amateur radio circles.

The first, Ham Radio in the 21st Century, appeared on EDN.Com, the website for EDN magazine. EDN is a trade magazine for electronics engineers. It’s a very nice piece on the state of ham radio, including not only the basics, but also a discussion of some of the high-tech toys we now have. If someone you know wants an intro to ham radio, this might be a good article to point them towards.

The second appeared today on FoxNews.Com. Radio Days Are Back: Ham Radio Licenses at an All-Time High notes that the number of licensed amateur radio operators is at an all-time high, with more than 700,000 licensees registered in the FCC database. That number has increased by more than 40,000 in the last five years alone.

The next time someone tells you, “Gee, I didn’t know that amateur radio still existed,” make sure you tell them that not only is it alive and kicking, but growing.

60m band rule changes coming

The FCC has released a new Report & Order (R&O) that will change rules for the 60m band. An article on the ARRL website summarizes the changes:

  • The frequency 5368.0 kHz (carrier frequency 5366.5 kHz) is withdrawn and a new frequency of 5358.5 kHz (carrier frequency 5357.0 kHz) is authorized.
  • The effective radiated power limit in the 60 meter band is raised by 3 dB, from 50 W PEP to 100 W PEP, relative to a half-wave dipole. If another type of antenna is used, the station licensee must maintain a record of either the antenna manufacturer’s data on the antenna gain or calculations of the antenna gain.
  • Three additional emission types are authorized. Data (emission designator 2K80J2D, for example, PACTOR-III), RTTY (emission designator 60H0J2B, for example, PSK31) and CW (150HA1A, i.e. Morse telegraphy by means of on-off keying). For CW, the carrier frequency must be set to the center frequency. For data and RTTY the requirement to transmit “only on the five center frequencies specified” may be met by using the same practice as on USB, i.e. by setting the suppressed carrier frequency of the USB transmitter used to generate the J2D or J2B emission to the carrier frequency that is 1.5 kHz below the center frequency.

The rules will take effect 30 days after they are published in the Federal Register.

Smart Meters Causing RFI

SmartGridElectronics.Net is reporting that some smart meters are causing RFI. In an article published today, they say:

The smart meters that Central Maine Power Company (CMP) is installing throughout its territory pursuant to Commission approval are causing radio frequency interference with some customers’ electrical appliances, personal computers, and communications devices. To date, over 200 customers have contacted CMP about problems with a variety of appliances and devices including phones (cell, cordless, and landline), answering machines, Internet routers and wifi, personal computers, TVs, garage doors, fire alarms, clocks and even electric pet fences. The most common problem is interference with wireless internet routers, because they use similar radio frequencies. The problems can often be resolved by simply changing a setting on the device. Other concerns include malfunctioning phones, Internet routers crashing or freezing, damage to computer hard drives, static and clicking sounds on communication and computer gear, inability to stream Netflix, failure of TV remote, and other appliance malfunctions.

Fortunately, they’re not using BPL for this project. They’re using some kind of wireless networking in the 2.5 GHz band. Even so, it makes you wonder if anyone ever did any EMI/RFI testing on these devices.

ZDNet Australia has also published an article on this situation.

Sonic Screwdriver Makes a Great Geek Gift

11th Doctor's Sonic ScrewdriverI recently became a Dr. Who fan when I stumbled up the latest several reincarnations of Dr. Who on Netflix. I quickly worked my way through the episodes of the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Doctors.

If you know anything about Dr. Who, you know about his Sonic Screwdriver. On the show, this fine bit of alien technology seals doors, hacks into computers, and may even drive screws.

Now, you can get this replica of the 11th Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, as well as several earlier models, from ThinkGeek. They’ve got a bunch of other Dr. Who stuff, too. Great stuff for the geeks on your holiday shopping list.

Amateur Radio in the News – Obituaries, 11/17/11

This Ham Radio in the News is a little different. Below, find links to three recent SKs.

  • Dr. John Henry Thomas III, W3FAF, of Sellersville, formerly of Mahtomedi, Minn. and Bucks County, Pa., died Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011, at Rockhill Mennonite Community where he was a resident. He was 70.In addition to holding a PhD in physics, Dr. John Thomas was a ham radio operator for more than 50 years. He was an active member of several radio clubs, and was recently honored with the American Radio Relay League’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He was an Official Relay Station for 52 years and an Official Observer for more than 20 years.
  • Kenneth D. Marker, N9KM, age 82, of Richmond, died Friday, November 11, 2011, at Golden Living Center.He was an engineer at NATCO for 38 years, a former member of Earlham Heights Presbyterian Church, a member of the Whitewater Valley Amateur Radio Club, and USA Defenders of Greyhounds.
  • Donald James Wilson, WB8ZOS, of Muskegon died peacefully at his home on Wedneday, November 9, 2011 after a brief illness. He was 88. Don had a long career as an engineer with Sealed Power Corporation and had many hobbies throughout his life, including building and flying model airplanes and helicopters and amateur radio.