From the Twittersphere

The Twittersphere is kind of like the ionosphere. It helps you make contact with other hams and brings you news from far and wide. Here are a few interesting links that I found on Twitter in the last day or so:

Global Pirate HF Weekend 14-15.1.2012.  This station lists pirate SW radio stations that it expects to be on the air this weekend. They include one using the callsign WEMP. Look for it between 15.005 – 15.095 MHz. They’ll be broadcasting with 100 W to Europe: 12.00 – 16.00 UTC – (check 15.010 or 15.040 or 15.090 MHz).

The Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories Zener Diode Tutorial. Confused about zener diodes and how they work? Read this.

Monitor your Ham Radio transmitter with an oscilloscope. In this video, Alan, W2AEW builds a little adapter that lets you connect your transmitter output to a scope input so that you can see how clean its output is.

Ham Radio Finally Jumps on the Maker Bandwagon

Over three years ago, I wrote that ham radio should do more to associate itself with the Maker movement. Well, it finally looks like it is going to do just that.

Just before the first of the year, the ARRL unveiled its DIY campaign. It mostly consists of the video below, but there’s also a flier designed to be a hand-out to go along with the video. A PowerPoint presentation and speaker’s notes also are available, as well as ‘Ask Why I DIY with Ham Radio’ buttons.

CQ  magazine is also jumping on the bandwagon. They recently annnounced that they will run a quarterly “Maker” column, written by Matt Stultz, KB3TAN. Stultz is the founder of “HackPittsburgh,” a “hackerspace” or community workshop for makers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has been a ham since 2009 and has integrated amateur radio into many of HackPittsburgh’s activities.

Stultz’s first column, titled “We Are Makers,” will appear in the March issue of CQ. It provides a general introduction to the maker/hacker community for hams, as well as a description of a high-altitude balloon project that brought the two groups together in Pittsburgh.

WA2HOM: Championship Contest Station?

In the mail today, I received something totally unexpected—a certificate proclaiming WA2HOM to be the first place finisher in the multi-operator, single-transmitter category of the 2011 CQ World Wide WPX contest.

CQ WPX Certificate

With such a low score, I don’t supposed that we had many competitors in that category, but it’s still pretty cool.

Get a Google grant for your ham club website

On the ARRL PR mailing list, Allen, W1AGP, the ARRL’s Media and PR Manager, posted this:

Does your ham group have a website?  Is it a non-profit? [Then, sign up for] Google Grants for Nonprofit Group Advertising.

Steve, W5SMP, spotted this option.  While I can’t use it with the main ARRL website (due to advertising – “Your website cannot display revenue generating ads, such as Google AdSense or affiliate advertising links, while participating in Google Grants.”)  many of the section and divisions have their own sites that should fit the requirements.

Being listed high up and getting free ads on Google is a definite plus.

You should have your Public Information Officer (PIO) look into this. It takes some work, but  this program is free, so why not take advantage of it?

And, finally, if your club doesn’t have a PIO, you should appoint one. Not having one limits you. The ARRL has many resources for PIOs, making the job easier.

Yaesu thinks the future of ham radio is digital

A Digital Communications GuideYaesu thinks the future of ham radio is digital, and of course, that amateurs should adopt its digital mode (CMF4) over Icom’s (D-STAR). At least that’s what they say in their latest publication, A Digital Communications Guide for Amateur Radio Operators.

This publication claims several advantages for digital communications techniques, including:

  • reduced bandwidth,
  • digital data transfer,
  • better performance,
  • immunity to interference, and
  • product and system cost reduction.

It talks about some of the theory behind digital communications, explaining in relatively simple terms how the various modulation techniques work. Of course, it slams D-STAR:

Now, this method [GMSK] is considered old fashioned and no longer used by LMR [land mobile radio]. Currently, GMSK is still being used by D-STAR.

One problem I have with this publication is its implicit assumption that digital is better than analog, and that if we want to be “progressive” amateurs, we should all adopt digital communications techniques. I’m not all that convinced, and to its credit, Yaesu does concede that “analog FM can show an advantage over digital radio in some areas.”

I haven’t compared prices, but if the D-STAR radios are any indication, the prices of Yaesu’s digital radios are bound to be more expensive than the analog radios. I just don’t see that the added functionality is worth the extra cost.

What do you think? Do you think D-STAR or Yaesu’s CMF4 will gain widespread acceptance anytime soon? Do you currently own a digital radio? If not, what would convince you to buy a digital radio?

 

Agenda for the ARRL Board 2012 Annual Meeting, January 13-14, 2012

Here’s the agenda for the upcoming ARRL Board of Director’s meeting. Contact your director if you’d like more information or express an opinion.  If you’re an ARRL member, you can have the agendas and minutes sent to you via e-mail…….Dan

  1. Roll Call (Friday, January 13, 9:00 A.M.) and announcement that meeting is being recorded
  2. Moment of Silence
  3. Courtesies
    1. Introduction and welcome of first-time participants and guests
    2. Remarks/greetings from IARU Secretary Rod Stafford, W6ROD
    3. Remarks/greetings from Radio Amateurs of Canada President Geoff Bawden, VE4BAW
    4. Remarks/greetings from ARRL Foundation President Frenaye
  4. Consideration of the agenda of the meeting
  5. Elections
    1. Officers
    2. ExecutiveCommittee
    3. ARRL Foundation Directors
  6. Receipt and consideration of financial reports
    1. Treasurer’s report, Mr. McCobb
    2. Chief Financial Officer’s report, Mr. Shelley
    3. Chief Development Officer’s report, Ms. Hobart
  7. Motion to Adopt Consent Agenda (Any Board member may request that any item on the Consent Agenda be removed and discussed separately. Otherwise, the listed items will be considered as a whole without debate or amendment. Receipt of a report does not include approval of any recommendations contained in the report. Consideration of such recommendations comes later on in the agenda. Listed reports that are not received and distributed prior to the meeting will be removed from the Consent Agenda.)
    1. Receipt of other officers’ reports
      1. President Craigie
      2. First Vice President Roderick
      3. Vice President Frahm
      4. International Affairs Vice President Bellows
      5. Chief Executive Officer Sumner
      6. Chief Operating Officer Kramer
      7. Chief Technology Officer Price
    2. Receipt of General Counsel’s report, Mr. Imlay
    3. Receipt of Legislative Relations report, Mr. Chwat
    4. Receipt of committee and coordinator reports
      1. Executive Committee, Mrs. Craigie, Chairman
      2. Administration & Finance Committee, Mr. Ahrens, Chairman
      3. Programs & Services Committee, Mr. Edgar, Chairman
      4. Ethics & Elections Committee, Mr. Frenaye, Chairman
      5. Amateur Radio Legal Defense & Assistance Committee, Mr. Ahrens, Chairman
      6. RF Safety Committee, Mr. Blocksome, Liaison
      7. EMC Committee, Mr. Carlson, Chairman
      8. Public Relations Committee, Dr. Boehner, Liaison
      9. Historical Committee, Mrs. Birmingham, Chairman
      10. Ad Hoc Band Planning Committee, Mr. Frahm, Chairman
      11. National Broadband Plan Committee, Mr. Bellows, Chairman
      12. Centennial Celebration Committee, Mrs. Craigie, Chairman
      13. Ad Hoc Committee on Youth in the Second Century, Mr. Mileshosky, Chairman
      14. UHF/Microwave Band Plan Committee, Mr. Roderick, Chairman
      15. ARDF Coordinator Joe Moell, K0OV
      16. Contest Advisory Committee
      17. DX Advisory Committee
      18. VHF-UHF Advisory Committee
      19. Emergency Communications Advisory Committee
  8. Consideration of items removed from Consent Agenda
  9. Consider recommendations of the Standing Committees (Additional recommendations as contained in the reports will be added to this agenda item as the reports are received.)
    1. Executive Committee
    2. Administration and Finance Committee
    3. Programs and Services Committee
  10. Consider additional recommendations as contained in reports (to be added to this agenda item as the reports are received)
  11. Proposals for amendments to Articles of Association and Bylaws
    1. Amendments to implement electronic voting
  12. Directors’ motions:
    1. Mr. Sarratt, Southeastern Division
    2. Mr. Norton, Southwestern Division
    3. Dr. Woolweaver, West Gulf Division
    4. Mr. Edgar, Atlantic Division
    5. Mr. Isely, Central Division
    6. Mr. Widin, Dakota Division
    7. Mr. Norris, Delta Division
    8. Dr. Weaver, Great Lakes Division
    9. Mrs. Birmingham, Hudson Division
    10. Mr. Ahrens, Midwest Division
    11. Mr. Frenaye, New England Division
    12. Mr. Fenstermaker, Northwestern Division
    13. Mr. Vallio, Pacific Division
    14. Mr. Bodson, Roanoke Division
    15. Mr. Mileshosky, Rocky Mountain Division
  13. Any other business
  14. Adjournment

Ham radio and Boy’s Life

Click on the image to see all the detail.

The magazine cover at right is from the January 1959 issue of Boy’s Life, a magazine send to all Boy Scouts. Dave, W9OCM, shared this with members of the Glowbugs mailing list, a mailing for hams who enjoy working with vacuum tube circuits.

Of course, this unleashed a flood of memories and comments. Dave himself comments:

In February 1959, I was 13 and just beginning to figure out radio.  In some ways, I’m still trying to figure out radio….just not 13.  I wouldn’t be licensed until 2 years later 04/61 as KNØHSD.

Tom, N0JMY says,

If you go to http://tinyurl.com/7oqrezk you can read the article  by W1UED (click on the appropriate line in the contents).  Also, there’s a National ad on the contents page. [[All the ads are interesting to read.....Dan]]  I was alive then, but it wasn’t until the late winter of ’67-68 that I picked up a Boy’s Life mag out of boredom and stumbled onto an article called “Hamming it Up”.  And the rest is, as they say, “hay-seedery.”

Jon, K1NV, comments,

I’m getting a little teary, seeing a copy of “Boys Life” for the first time in about 50+ years. There was a ton of practical info to satisfy any American boy’s interests.  I was torn between stamp collecting, astronomy, model airplanes, and, yes, radio.   My stack of “Boys Life” magazines fed these interests.

We couldn’t afford the shortwave set kit  but the official Boy Scout crystal set got things going for me until I graduated to the Philco console with two shortwave bands in the mid-fifties. After learning code with flags and flashlights as a Boy Scout, the novice ticket arrived early in 1959.

Bill, KU8H, says,

My experience with Boy’s Life is from the late 50s and early 60s. They did help set the hook for my interest in electronics in general – ham radio in particular. The oatmeal box with home made capacitor and a crystal detector was from Boy’s Life. I don’t remember which issue(s). That was more than two weeks ago! <evil grin>.

They also fed my interest in the outdoor life in the woods. When people want a campfire or a fireplace lit to this day…I’m their go-to man. One paper match no matter the wind. No gasoline, kerosene, nor other artificial accelerants.

People are sometimes critical of Boy Scouts, and I often joke about my very short career as a Scout, but you have to hand it to them in many respects. They exposed boys to a wide range of activities, many of which stick with them for a lifetime.

Preppers getting into ham radio

People get involved in amateur radio for many different reasons. Some of us enjoy experimenting with radio, others are interested in public service. Still others see amateur radio as part of their preparation for a catastrophic event. These latter folks are sometimes know as “preppers.”

I became aware of them several years ago, when one of the students in my Tech class told me that he was a Mormon. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are encouraging many of their members to get amateur radio licenses.

I recently decided to do a little more digging when an “amateur radio” Google Alert that I get contained a link to the article, “The Skinny on Ham Radio” on the blog The Survival Mom. This is a very good introduction to our hobby.

Here are some more links:

  • Radio Survivalist. This site contains links to many different online amateur radio resources for preppers, including information about rigs and antennas.
  • Catastrophe Network. This site claims to be the creator of the Standardized Amateur Radio Communication Plan. This plan is downloadable from this site.
  • The American Radio Preparedness Net (TAPRN). These folks are the co-creators of the Standardized Amateur Radio Communication Plan. In addition to a number of pages to help preppers set up and operate amateur radio stations, TAPRN conducts several regularly-scheduled on-air nets.

According to the Catastrophe Network website, the plan “outlines a standard set of frequencies that should be used by all preppers following a catastrophic disaster. These frequencies will serve as a meeting point where information about the event can be shared and actions between like minded preppers can be communicated.”

Googling will undoubtedly point you towards more websites, but this should get you started if you’re interested in this aspect of ham radio.

A tale about ham radio, Mitt Romney, Google+, and Twitter

Yesterday, on Google+, I saw a post with a link to a post on the Eastern MA (EMA) Section website that reported that presidential candidate Mitt Romney had “dissed” ham radio. Since I’m not a big fan of Mitt Romney, I immediately sent out a tweet on this. Almost immediately, Brian, N1FIY, replied, asking if I had noticed that this post was more than six years old.

Ooops. I hadn’t noticed that. My bad.

We swapped a few tweets about this, and he noted that not only was this old news, “Within a week, he did a followup that reversed his stance.” Now, I felt really bad about this, especially as other hams had already begun to “re-tweet” my original message.

I suggested that we both contact the EMA Section Manager, Phil Temples, K9HI, and we did. I told K9HI that I thought that leaving this post online was unfair without also posting Romney’s reply. Here’s how K9HI replied:

I can appreciate your point of view. Nevertheless I don’t believe the story should be removed. Romney did say those damning things, and it wasn’t until his office was confronted by the Eastern MA ARES leadership that one of his representatives apologized on Romney’s behalf.

We went though this retraction business with Alan Pitts, W1AGP at ARRL Hq. during the last presidential election/primary. Alan said he was fielding lots of phone calls and inquiries about it. I pointed out to Alan that even *if* I were to remove the story it’s been archived by all of the major search engines like Google and Yahoo and reprinted by many other non-Amateur Radio web sites already.

73,

Phil, K9HI

p.s. — There was a very long reply comment/discussion thread that accompanied the original story. It probably *did* mention the “retraction” by his staffer. But the rhetoric was so heated that a decision was made to remove the entire discussion thread.

In my opinion, that’s really not a very satisfactory answer. I am not a Romney supporter by any stretch, but it’s really not fair to leave that story up on the EMA website without also printing the retraction/apology.

That’s the story from my point of view. My apologies again for being so quick to tweet old news. I will certainly be a lot more cautious about this next time. This was certainly  a lesson for me on how Tweets can take on a life of their own.

Another interesting thing to consider is what impact this flap will really have on the campaign. It did generate a little controversy in the ham radio community, but did it really hurt Romney at all? My guess is no. Those that jumped on this story would probably not have voted for Romney anyway. Even so, I do feel bad about making this mistake, and promise not to do it again.

 

Hams obey Ohm’s Law

Hams Obey Ohm's Law

I’ve had a donation box on my blog (www.kb6nu.com) for a year or so now.  Every once in a while, I actually do get a donation. Yesterday, for example, someone sent me $20 via PayPal.

This got me thinking that I should find some way to thank these donors. Now, I’m a big NPR fan, so my first thought was to give them a tote bag or a coffee mug. Tote bags and coffee mugs are expensive, though. That’s why you only get them for something like a $100 donation to an NPR station.

Instead, I’m going to send this sticker to anyone who donates $5 or more. They measure 4.25-in. high and 5.75-in. wide and would be perfect for the bumper next to your ham radio license plate or the bulletin board in your shack.