From the ARRL Letter 6/27/13: Intruder Watch, 13 Colonies special event

Here are two items from today’s ARRL Letter. I include the first one because you’ll notice that there is no report for Region 2. The ARRL is responsible for the Intruder Watch in Region 2 and seems to be behind our brothers in Regions 1 and 3 when it comes to reporting on intruders. I’ve included the item on the 13 Colonies Special Event because I like working this event and would encourage all of you to do so as well…..Dan

IARU(1)International: Intruder Watch Documents Odd Bursts, Beeps and Buzzes on the Bands
The International Amateur Radio Union Monitoring System (IARUMS) continues to observe and log suspect and apparently unauthorized operations that intrude on Amateur Radio allocations. For example, the

TheMay 2013 IARUMS Region 1 (Europe) Newsletterreports an over-the-horizon (OTH) radar operating in Iran daily on 10 meters (26 to 30 MHz), transmitting bursts with 307 and 870 sweeps per second, 60 kHz wide and often jumping, covering 700 kHz and more. IARUMS Region 3 (Oceania) volunteers also have reported hearing the OTH interference from Iran. Regulatory agencies in Switzerland and Germany have filed complaints without effect.

IARUMS volunteers in Region 1 also report BPSK daily military traffic from Ukraine on 15 meters. German authorities have formally complained. DGØJBJ reports having observed 11 OTH radars on 20 meters, 65 OTH radars on 15 meters and 30 OTH radars on 10 meters — not including the OTH radars from Iran.

IARUMS Region 3 volunteers further report ongoing “illegal use of 10 meters for local short-range communications in a number of Asian countries.” Radio Amateurs in IARU Region 2 (the Americas) may report suspected intruders on exclusive Amateur Radio allocations to the ARRL.

On the Air: 13 Colonies Special Event Set
The annual 13 Colonies Special Event will take place during the first week of July, with participating 13 colonies’ stations on the air from 1300 UTC July 1 until 0400 UTC July 6. Event sponsors say at least two special event stations will operate from each colony state. The theme for 2014 is “Banners of the Revolution,” and the certificate — available to all participants regardless of the number of stations worked — will reflect that theme.

Those working all 13 colonies qualify for a “Clean Sweep” certificate designation, and a special endorsement will be attached for stations working WM3PEN in Philadelphia. The suggested exchange is call sign, name, signal report and state/province/country. The event’s sponsors report that more than 62,000 contacts were logged in last year’s 13 Colonies Special Event.

Amateur radio in the news: new advanced communications center; crazy ants

NISTNIST and NTIA  to Establish New Center for Advanced Communications.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) have announced plans to establish a national Center for Advanced Communications in Boulder, Colo. The two agencies  signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to collaborate on the establishment of the center. The MOU states that the center will leverage the “critical mass of NIST and NTIA research and engineering capabilities concentrated in Boulder” to form a “unique national asset,” and includes the infrastructure and collaborative environment needed to address a wide range of advanced communications challenges. This joint effort will increase the impact of existing efforts already under way in both agencies.

 

“Crazy ants” destroy electronics. Exterminator Mike Matthews got the call because the home’s air-conditioning unit had short-circuited. Why an exterminator for a problem with an appliance? Because of the crazy ants.

Matthews has seen crazy ants disable scores of air-conditioning units near Austin, Texas, where the invasive creatures have been a real headache. The ants swarm inside the units, causing them to short-circuit and preventing them from turning on. Often the switches inside them need to be replaced, thanks to the ants, said Matthews, who works for the Austin-area pest control business The Bug Master.

From my Twitter feed: lighting safety, 40m Moxon, diy lead bender

KI4OZG's avatarTracy A Stephens@KI4OZG
Lightning Safety Week: June 23-29, 2013 “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!” lightningsafety.noaa.gov/index.htm #hamradio #fieldday

This is a little late, but better late than never…….Dan

 

stahlbrandt's avatarBo G. Stahlbrandt @stahlbrandt
This looks interesting, a 40m Mini-MOXON Beam Antenna by W7XA via @dxzone bit.ly/10EI1T6 #hamr #hamradio

 

DIYEngineering's avatarDIY Engineering @DIYEngineering<
Electronic Component Lead Bending Tool – When assembling a circuit it is pretty common to hook up a resistor or ot… ow.ly/2xBzM7

I still have a lead bender I got from making a Heathkit many moons ago…..Dan

Field Day 2013: A low-key, high-Q affair

This year, Field Day was a low-key affair. One of the reasons for this—and I hate to admit this—is that I just wasn’t motivated to put all that much effort into it. So, when Tim, KT8K, suggested a two-man operation, I thought I’d give it a try.

We swapped several e-mails, trying to figure out how exactly to approach this. For example, one question was where to do this, his house or mine? Since Tim’s house is higher up than mine, and he has a better crop of antennas, we decided to do it at his house.

The next question was whether or not we’d run QRP (class 1B) or a more conventional class 1E. To run 1E, Tim would have to get his generator up and running. To operate class 1B QRP, we’d have to find some batteries and figure out a way to charge them with alternative power. (This year, the rules were changed so that to the the 5x multiplier for QRP contacts, you have to use some kind of alternative power.)

Even as late as Friday, we weren’t sure what source of power we were going to use. One of Tim’s co-workers volunteered to see if he could get the generator running. I took the small solar panel that Tim had and tried to charge a gel-cell with it.

I had no success with the small solar panel. If I’d been more motivated, and had thought twice about this, I could have probably found a more suitable solar panel. Indeed, after describing my travails, someone did volunteer a solar panel for next year, should we want it. This year, it was not to be, though.

Fortunately, Tim had more success with the generator. His co-worker cleaned out the gummy generator, and Saturday morning, Tim re-assembled it. The thing ran like a charm, and we were class 1E.

fd-2013-at-kt8k-450x360One order of business for me Saturday morning was to get acquainted with Tim’s Orion. That’s me above getting set up and finding my way around the rig’s controls.

The Orion is waaaay more transceiver than I’m used to operating. For one thing, it has two receivers. It’s a little quirky, too. Tim noted, for example, that the RIT never did work. After Tim’s instructions, I hooked up my Begali Simplex and Winkeyer, and racked up a bunch of QSOs. I was good to go.

For the first five hours, we swapped in and out every hour to hour and a half. About 7pm, I headed home for dinner, and to get some sleep. I returned about 2am to take the night shift, while Tim hit the sack. When he got up around 7:30, he once again took the controls, while I sacked out on his couch for a couple of hours. After that, we switched in and out again.

Overall, we made about 870 QSOs. While that’s pretty good, it was a little bit unsatisfying. We thought that we’d do better. We never really found the sweet spot, though. That is to say, we rarely found a frequency that we could run for very long.

Overall, though, it was a lot of fun, and I learned something about operating a radio with two receivers and the value of having two antennas that you can switch between while operating. It is kind of amazing, but with one antenna, a band can seem dead, while with another, it’s much more lively. Switching between Tim’s inverted vee and his vertical dipole allowed us to choose the better antenna for the operating conditions.

Next year, if we do this again, we really need to do more planning. If we had done a few more things beforehand, instead of just operating, we could have improved both our number of QSOs and our overall score, I think. These include:

  • Make a more concerted effort to charge a set of batteries with solar power. Like I noted above, we’ve already identified a beefier solar panel that we could use.
  • Do a little antenna work to improve the antennas. While the antennas we had worked well, Tim also had a loop antenna that had recently incurred some damage. If we could have gotten that up a little higher, that could have proved a valuable asset.
  • Invite more operators. In addition to Tim and I, Joe, N8OY, stopped over to operate some. He operated for a couple of hours or so, and made about 100 contacts. We would have been fresher, if we’d invited some other guys to join us. Might have had even more fun, too!
  • Work on some of the other bonus point opportunities. We didn’t even copy the fricking ARRL bulletin, for example.

Solar activity: What do the numbers mean?

On the HamRadioHelpGroup mailing list, there’s been a discussion of solar activity and how it affects radio propagation. Several websites were mentioned, and I thought I’d record them here. I really have no personal experience with these sites, except maybe to take a quick look at them if the bands seem particularly dead.

  • SunspotWatch.Com. This site is run by Tomas Hood, NW7US. He is the propagation editor for CQ magazine. Geoff, N7PGN says, “[Hood] as some very good information on his website and his propagation and space weather website, http://hfradio.org.
  • HF Propagation Tools and Solar Data.

    Tiny, AB3RW, says, “I use this website. Thre is a tab at the top labeled using data that will help you out a lot.”

  • W4HM’s Daily MF/HF/6M Frequency Radio Wave Propagation Forecast. This site is run by W4HM, who worked in space and terrestrial level weather forecasting for some private weather forecasting companies and federal government agencies for 31 years before retiring from the business in 2004.

What is the proper CW calling procedure?

Yesterday, I tweeted:

kb6nu's avatar@kb6nu
I’m no longer going to respond to stations that reply to my CQs with only their callsigns, esp if they send it only once.

What brought this on was a very short QSO I had yesterday on 30m. I called CQ on 10115, sending “CQ” four times and my call three times, and someone replied with just his callsign, as if this were a contest. In contest mode, this is an appropriate reply, but not on 30m on a weekday evening.

I should have know better than to acknowledge the call, but I did, giving him a signal report, my name, and QTH. His reply was a curt, “599 73.” What a waste of time that was! This is not the first time this has happened, and it was equally disappointing then, too. As a result, I’ve decided that I’m just not going to reply to stations that answer my CQs with only their callsigns. If you can’t take the time to at least give me a real signal report, your name, and your QTH, don’t bother answering my CQ.

My tweet prompted several replies about what is the proper operating procedure. In my not so  humble opinion, you should, at the very least, send the other station’s callsign at least once and your callsign at least twice:

KB6NU DE W1ABC W1ABC

This lets the other operator know that you’re calling him, and gives him two chances to get your call right. I’ll go even further to say that you should do this only when band conditions are really good, the ham at the other end seems like a skilled operator, and it’s armchair copy both ways.

When band conditions are marginal or noisy, send the other station’s callsign at least twice, and your callsign two or three times. This is not that hard to do, makes things a lot easier for less-skilled operators, and will help you avoid repeats or miscopied calls.

More on the new Heathkit

Heathkit_TM-logo_smallThere’s now a FAQ page on the new Heathkit site. Whoever they are, the new owners sure know how to build up the hype.

Here are a few interesting excerpts:

Big changes, big plans

Q. Is Heathkit back?
A. Yes. We’re back.
Q. So are you really going to make Heathkit® kits?
A. Yes.
Q. Wow! That simple? “Yes?”
A. Yes.
Q. Will Heathkit products include entirely new designs?
A. Yes.
Q. Will you revive any old kit designs?
A. Very likely. Tell us what you’d like – take our survey.
Q. When can I start ordering Heathkit® kits?
A. They’re coming. But it’s a long road, and we need every product we offer to be Heathkit® quality. We will communicate with you, here and elsewhere, as we make progress. Thanks for being patient while we rebuild this great company.
Q. I have great ideas—about products I wish you’d make, and past kits I’d buy if Heathkit brings them back. What should I do?
A. You are our favorite customer. We want to hear from you. Of course, don’t tell us anything proprietary unless you have a non-disclosure agreement signed with us. But if you want to tell us about yourself, your favorite past or future Heathkit product, and what you most hope to see and buy from us: Please—take our survey.

———————————————

Questions about the company

Q. So who are you guys?

A. More on this later. Notwithstanding this FAQ, we’re presently in stealth. But here’s what we want you to know right now: We have enormous respect for the Heathkit® name, and we know you do too. We consider ourselves this decade’s caretakers of the most respected name in do-it-yourself and educational electronics and related products over the past century. It’s a terrific opportunity and a historical responsibility we take seriously, and we want to preserve and grow this opportunity, together with you. We know we need to earn and keep your trust every day. Meanwhile, to whet your appetite: Our new CEO/President, and every member of Heath Company’s Board of Directors, are avid kit-builders and DIYers.  We own and use Heathkit® products ourselves. For those with this interest, it happens we all are licensed amateur radio operators. (Also happy with our team will be: car buffs, pilots, musicians & artists, sports/outdoors enthusiasts, parents, educators, and people who value community service.) Our management team have substantial experience as high-tech executives, in startups and public companies, and in technology and finance. We are carefully growing a team of highly experienced industry advisors. Most importantly, we want you to help and advise us too. Ultimately, it is you, with your excitement and enthusiasm and interest in doing great things with great products, who will make Heathkit a success.

Activity Report: Dayton, General class, Mini Maker Faire, Monroe hamfest

I realized the other day that I haven’t really been reporting on my own amateur radio activities lately. At first, I thought it was because I hadn’t really done much lately, but that’s not really true. So, here’s a report of some recent activity.

U-M ARC celebrates 100 years. The University of Michigan Amateur Radio Club recently celebrated it’s 100th anniversary. I helped them celebrate by operating during their special event on April 14th, 2013. The event was held on the  Central Campus Diag, and recognized the University’s first licensing as station 8XA in June of 1913. It was really cold and rainy that day, and the bands were pretty bad, but they had some hot coffee and donuts, and we had fun anyway.

Dayton 2013

In some ways, Dayton was kind of a washout for me. I came down with some  kind of stomach flu a couple of days before Dayton, and was even considering not going at all, but since I enjoy FDIM, and I was scheduled to speak at the  instructor’s forum on Friday morning, I decided to go.

As usual, FDIM was a blast. There were lots of good ideas being thrown around. I especially enjoyed the talk on receiver design by Rick, KK7B, and the talk on baluns by Rick, W7EL. They were all very good, though. The QRP-ARCI does a very good job lining up speakers.

I even participated in Vendor Night. Between talks, they had asked for volunteers to help set up tables for the vendors. It occurred to me that, if it didn’t cost much, I could show the CD-ROMs that I’d brought with me and pass the word about my free downloads. Well, it turned out that it didn’t cost a thing, so I asked for and they gave me a table.

I didn’t really expect to sell anything, as most of the folks there I’m sure had Extra Class licenses, but I did manage to sell one, and to talk to a lot of people about the study guides. So, overall, it worked out great.

On Friday, the entire morning was taken up, getting my speaker badge and then participating in the instructor’s forum. My talk about conducting one-day Tech classes went pretty well, but the forum didn’t end until noon, leaving me only five hours to peruse the flea market. That’s a fair amount of time, but I still wasn’t 100%, and my heart wasn’t really in it. I ended up buying not a single thing.

Saturday morning, I decided not to go to the Hamvention and just to pack it up and head home. I guess thinking about it, it wasn’t a complete washout, but I certainly didn’t get as much out of Dayton as I have in years past.

General class
I started a teaching a General Class course on Thursday evenings at the Hands-On Museum a couple of weeks ago. It’s a small class, but they’re enthusiastic. I am, of course, using my study guide as the text. Doing this has shown me how I can improve the next edition. I’ll be beefing up the explanations in a few spots and moving some things around.

Mini Maker Faire 2013 a success. This year’s Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire was held about a month ago, and if you ask me, it was a great success. As we have done for the past several years, Dave N8SBE and I anchored the station, and Prem KD8SVR, one of my recent Tech students joined us.

The table they first assigned us was inside, with no clear path for our coax to get outside to the antennas. After some negotiation, we found ourselves relocated outside. Then, once Dave had gotten his K3 gear all set up, they decided to move us again! We finally got settled about 10:45 am.

We got the usual type of visitors:

  • Those who were already hams. They stopped by to ragchew a little.
  • Inactive hams. We tried to get them energized to get back on the air. One of these was KA8ODD. What a great call!
  • Interested people. I passed out my card liberally, pointing them to my free study guide.
  • Not-so-interested people. I at least tried to get them and/or their kids to send their name in Morse Code.

One thing that I found interesting is how some people seem to naturally take to Morse Code while others do not. For those who have a natural fist, I can easily make out their names when they send it by looking up the characters on the code chart. When I do copy a name, I reach out my hand and say, “Hi, John (or Mary or whomever). Nice to meet you.” They seem to be amused that I was able to figure out their name from their sending.

Unfortunately, not everyone is a natural. If I can’t make out the name, I smile and say, “Good job!”

Monroe hamfest
Yesterday morning, I drove town to Monroe for a hamfest. It’s a small hamfest, but fun. Every time I’ve gone, the weather’s cooperated, and this is important because most of the sellers are outside. Yesterday, the temperature was in the upper 60s, and the sky started out overcast, but as the morning progressed, the sky cleared, and it was just beautiful.

I almost bought a Jones paddle for $75, but since I really don’t need another paddle, I put off the purchase until I was about ready to leave. By the time I got back to that seller, he’d already sold it to someone else. I’m more than OK with this. I saved 75 bucks! I did end up buying some PL-259s and some 3.5mm stereo plugs. As Ralph would say, this was the “requisite handful of connectors.”

Amateur radio in the news: Hurricanes, North Korea, advanced communications

hurricane_symbol_blueHam radio still part of hurricane center arsenal. Amid the high-tech computers, satellite dishes and sophisticated equipment at the National Hurricane Center is a HAM radio operator station, somewhat hidden in a back office. It might seem like it’s akin to placing a teletype on a space shuttle. But when hurricanes form, the amateur radio station cranks up and receives weather information from HAM operators in the affected areas. Their observations help the forecasters in Miami-Dade County better judge a storm’s strength or position and issue more precise warnings.

ARRRRGHHHH. Someone please tell this reporter that “ham” is not capitalized!!

Ham radio operators hope to put North Korea on the air. A group of amateur radio operators are hoping to get permission from the North Korean government for a month-long trip to the country during which they’ll set up a ham radio operation. If they manage to pull off the plan, they’ll have succeeded where few have before. North Korea has no amateur radio operators and government-sanctioned transmissions by foreigners in the country are extremely rare. This makes North Korea the rarest country for contacts in the amateur radio world.

Can you imagine what a pileup this operation–if they can get permission–is going to generate?? 

NIST and NTIA announce plans for new advanced communications center. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today announced plans to establish a national Center for Advanced Communications in Boulder, Colo. The new center will implement a key provision of a memorandum President Obama issued earlier today on “Expanding America’s Leadership in Wireless Innovation.”

This sounds like something that the ARRL should keep an eye on.

From my Twitter feed: no code test, Contest U, iPhone sig gen

Jeff K1NSSJeff K1NSS @K1NSS
NO CODE TEST! If that don’t grab ‘em, I argue MIGHT AS WELL! Outreach according to http://www.dashtoons.com  #hamr #qrp pic.twitter.com/vAngtDNmmu

Matt MaszczakMatt Maszczak @rocknrollriter
For the new or newer op looking into contesting: http://www.arrl.org/news/view/dayton-contest-university-videos-available-on-youtube?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=facebook …

Jacob BeningoJacob Beningo @Jacob_Beningo
Turn a Smart Phone into a Signal Generator | EDN http://www.edn.com/electrical-engineer-community/industry-blog/4416138/1/Turn-a-Smart-Phone-into-a-Signal-Generator … via @edncom