EE Times on PCB design

Are you interested in designing your own printed circuit boards (PCBs)? Then EE Times has a couple of things that you’ll be interested in:

  • Webinar: Fundamentals of PCB Design. This free, introductory overview of printed-circuit design treats the main difficulties you will likely meet when planning, designing, and manufacturing printed circuit boards for digital applications. From this lecture you will take away many nuggets of wisdom concerning manufacturing technology, signal integrity, EMI, power quality, thermal analysis, and project management.
  • A Guide to Low-Cost PCB Tools. This short blog post, written by Adam Carlson, Senior Mechanical Design Engineer, Eagle Technologies, lists eight different PCB design tools that are available for free or are low cost.

If you’re already doing your own PCB design, what tools are you using?

From my Twitter feed: dB, SW, SSTV

EDNcom's @EDNcom
Engineers refer to measurements in dB all the time. Here’s a refresher on decibel basics.…


ke9v's avatar

Jeff Davis @ke9v
Radio World: Shortwave Efficacy to Be Pondered at BBG…


AMSAT_UK's avatar

ISS Amateur Radio Slow Scan TV Active #amsat #hamr #iss #sstv

Operating notes: odd behavior

Today, several odd things happened.

First of all, something odd happened with my new shack computer. I wandered down to the shack about 11:30 am, turned on the power supply, turned on the radio, and then booted up the computer. After the computer booted, I loaded the N3FJP logging program.

Right away, the computer gives me some error message about COM3, the port to which the USB CI-V cable connecting my IC-746PRO to the computer is assigned. I also note that the logging program is not recording the rig’s mode and frequency setting. I think to myself that I’ll just ignore that for now and troubleshoot that later.

I tune around a bit, and not hearing anyone, call QRL? At that point, all hell breaks loose. Windows start resizing and the mouse pointer starts jumping around the screen. It was as if the mouse, which showed no signs of RF susceptibility before this, suddenly decided to act wonky.

So, I disconnect the mouse, but I still get this odd behavior. Hmmmmmm, strange. I disconnect the audio in from the microphone jack on the odd chance that was causing the problem, but no, that wasn’t it, either.

At that point, the only other thing it could be is the USB CI-V cable. I unplugged that and the wonky behavior goes away. Not only that, I plug it back in, and the rig and the computer start communicating again. Really weird.

Short skip
The next odd thing to happen is that the skip was really short this morning. The first contact I made was with a ham in Wyandotte, MI, which is about 30 miles directly east of me. The second contact I made was with a ham in Grand Blanc, MI, which is about 45 miles directly north of me. I think that these contacts were both made via sky wave, as a) both stations were S9 and b) ground wave signals would have been much weaker.

On the U-M net tonight, someone mentioned that such odd behavior could have been the result of the high solar flux index. This weekend, the SFI is as high as it’s been in a long time.

Odd transmitter behavior
Another odd thing this morning was the behavior of the Wyandotte ham’s transmitter. Whenever he would begin a transmission, the signal was very weak. As the transmission progressed, however, the signal would get stronger until it reached a peak of S9. It was almost as if a capacitor with a really long time constant was charging up, and as the capacitor charged, the output power increased.


Numbers stations, revisited

I have written about numbers stations before (Uno, Dos, Tres…On the Internet – 11/26/12), but thanks to the guys on the Glowbugs Google Group, I now have some more information:

  • The Numbers Station. Released earlier this year, this movie starts John Cusack. Here is the IMDB description: A disgraced black ops agent is dispatched to a remote CIA broadcast station to protect a code operator. Soon, they find themselves in a life-or-death struggle to stop a deadly plot before it’s too late.

    It’s currently available for streaming on Netflix, and I watched it tonight. It’s kind of violent (lots of people get shot), but it’s a decent thriller.

  • ENIGMA 2000. This group’s website describes the group as “a UK based online group, whose aims are to bring together listeners and enthusiasts who monitor and gather information on ‘Number Stations’ and other related radio transmissions. Through our Yahoo Group monitors can share their logs, discuss frequencies, thoughts and opinions on this most emotive subject.”

    Jim, K6FWT, notes, “These folks are SERIOUS enthusiasts. I have heard that they surpass many intelligence services with their thoroughness. You can get in up to your eyeballs if you  don’t watch it.”

From my inbox: silent Sun, hacker’s paradise, NY Maker Faire

The sun that did not roar. This is the height of the 11-year solar cycle, the so-called solar maximum. The face of the Sun should be pockmarked with sunspots, and cataclysmic explosions of X-rays and particles should be whizzing off every which way. Instead, the Sun has been tranquil, almost spotless.

Guest Rant: Ham Radio — Hackers’ Paradise. Bill Meara of SolderSmoke on why ham radio is a hacker’s paradise.

Maker Faire: When will we make cars and phones at home? The BBC covers the recent New York Maker Faire.




Michigan PRB-1 law update: action needed

This just in from our Section Manager….Dan 

Here is an important update from our State Government Liaison, Ed Hude, WA8QJE on the status of the PRB-1 project here in Michigan.

On September 17, 2013, Senators Rick Jones and David Robinson introduced Senate Bill Number 493.  The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Technology. Currently, Senate Bill 493 has not been acted upon and is still in the Committee on Energy and Technology.

This is where I need your help. I am asking that each and every one of you contact the Committee Chair, Mike Nofs and the Committee Members to encourage them to take action on this bill. The best way for this to happen is by sending an email message to Senator Nofs and to the members of the Energy and Technology Committee.

The following is a suggestion as to what to include in your message. If you deviate from this message, please be respectful and communicate in a professional tone. Here are the email addresses to use and instructions on how to get your message to the Senators of the committee.


Please be sure to carbon copy or “cc:” both myself ( and our Section Manager Larry Camp, WB8R (

You do not need to be a licensed operator to send this message.  Even your spouse can send a message. (Just be sure to not place a call sign in the signature if he/she is not an amateur.) Let’s work together and get this moving forward!!! Thank you.





Senator ___________,

I am asking that you please give consideration to scheduling SB 0493 for review and passage within the Committee of Energy and Technology. Senate Bill 0493 if passed will recognize the Federal Communications Commission pre-emption of PRB-1. This will help all licensed Amateur Radio Operators across the State of Michigan, especially in the times of needed emergency communications.  Your assistance as well as that of the Committee members is urgently needed.


(Name) (Call sign)
(Email Address)

Ham radio in the news: Nobel prize winner, social media (old school), JOTA

Laid groundwork for cholesterol drugs – From ham radios to Nobel Prize for local scientist. A Nobel Laureate recently spoke about “How to win a Nobel Prize” on Sept. 11 at Chestnut Hill College’s 20th anniversary of its Biomedical Lecture Series. Dr. Michael S. Brown, 72, who grew up in Elkins Park, said an amateur radio operating license obtained at the age of 13, while a student at Thomas Williams Junior High School in Wyncote, sparked his passion for science.

Ham radio: it’s social media old school style. Long ago, before Facebook, Twitter and email, ham radio operators were the original social media geeks. And they’re still out there, in greater numbers than ever, chatting and messaging each other all over the world without an Internet connection or even a telephone line.

Scouts learn technology through radio. Local boy and girl scouts came from all over the Southern Tier and beyond to learn about technology at the Kopernik Observatory. Jamboree on the Air taught scouts how to communicate with each other using amateur radios on Saturday. Scouts learned how to send and receive digital pictures and even spoke with other scouts as far away as Florida.

ARRL 2013 Auction starts October 24

The ARRL actually purchases the items that they test and review in QST.  They buy them from the same dealers that you and I get our equipment to avoid the manufacturers sending them a “golden unit.”

So, every year, they have a bunch of gear that they need to sell. They now do this online. In addition, they also dredge up some items that have been hanging around ARRL HQ for years.


ARRL 2013 Auction


If you are receiving this message you are registered at the ARRL On-Line Auction site and the 2013 Auction preview is on right now.

We’ve outdone ourselves this year and you’ll find several hundred items up for bid. Our offerings will include product review gear, prized because it’s already been pre-tested by our ARRL Lab staff; donated items by retailers and manufacturers and a large number of rare books to complete your collection.

Auction will commence on October 24th at 10AM EST and conclude on October 31st. But you can view the items now and browse through the site. Please also take a minute to update your address and credit card information if you’ve made changes since the last Auction.

Be sure to read through the Auction Information area as well. In addition to the conditions of the Auction, you’ll find hints and tips about bidding.

You’ll also be able to retrieve your previous Auction user name and password if you’ve forgotten them since last year. Remember, your regular ARRL user name and password does not work at this site and you created a user name and password here when you registered.

Enjoy the site and enjoy the 8th Annual 2013 ARRL On-Line Auction.


Your ARRL On-Line Auction Crew

From my Twitter feed: Towers, Zen, CW recognition

caspencer's avatarcaspencer @caspencer
for some reason lately I’ve had this fascination with towers (of the RF and/or power variety)……

Now, those are some towers!


ke9v's avatarJeff Davis @ke9v


LA3ZA's avatarSverre Holm, LA3ZA @LA3ZA
Studies on Morse code recognition . – A low pitch frequency is beneficial

ARRL instructor’s newsletter sports new name, look

Radio Waves

It’s been a long time coming—more than two and a half years, in fact—but the ARRL has finally published another issue of the newsletter for  instructors and teachers. It’s now called Radio Waves, and the October 2013 issue contains articles on:

  • teaching amateur radio in elementary school,
  • the new band chart of Tech-only privileges,
  • an exam-prep game modeled on the game show Jeopardy,
  • the upcoming 2014 update to the Technician Class question pool, and
  • 2013 licensing statistics.

Unfortunately, the majority of the issue is devoted to the ARRL’s Education and Technology Program, which sponsors programs for classroom teachers. I may be missing something here, but while I think that these are useful programs, they have little value for instructors teaching amateur radio classes.

At any rate, let’s hope that it doesn’t take the ARRL another two and a half years before they publish another issue of this newsletter.