ARRL to sign MOA with FEMA, PRB-1 to extend to HOAs?

In addition to the news about a new director for the Great Lakes Division, this week’s ARRL Letter also had two other items of interest:

FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate, KK4INZ

FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate, KK4INZ

ARRL, FEMA to Sign Memorandum of Agreement at National Centennial Convention
The ARRL and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) at the ARRL National Centennial Convention, taking place July 17-19 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. ARRL President Kay Craigie, N3KN, will join FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, on Friday, July 18, at 4:15 PM, in signing the MOA, which is aimed at fostering greater cooperation between the League and FEMA in the area of disaster communication and support. Fugate will speak at the Centennial Banquet later that evening, and more than 850 are expected to attend.

I’ll be very interested in reading this MOA…Dan

Grassroots Campaign Underway to Promote Co-Sponsorship of “Amateur Radio Parity Act”
A grassroots effort is underway to encourage radio amateurs to promote co-sponsorship of HR.4969, the Amateur Radio Parity Act. The measure, introduced in the US House with bipartisan support on June 25, calls on the FCC to apply the “reasonable accommodation” three-part test of the PRB-1 federal pre-emption policy to private land-use restrictions regarding antennas. The bill’s primary sponsor is Rep Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), and it has initial co-sponsorship from Rep Joe Courtney (D-CT). With Congress going on its August recess in a few weeks, the campaign is focusing on contacting Members of Congress or their staffers at or through their district offices during the break. Getting additional lawmakers to sign on as HR.4969 co-sponsors is considered essential to the bill’s success.

“This is the ideal time for you to develop small teams of constituents to approach members of Congress in their district offices,” said ARRL Hudson Division Director Mike Lisenco, N2YBB, a principal proponent of HR.4969. “Ideally, you’d want no more than three members to go to a meeting with a Member of Congress or top staff members. These need to be active, articulate individuals who present themselves well.” Individual radio amateurs or clubs also may wish to e-mail or write their representatives to urge them to cosponsor the bill.

The primary point to convey is that the greatest threat to Amateur Radio volunteer emergency and public service communication is restrictions that prohibit the installation of outdoor antenna systems. Nearly 30 years ago the FCC, in adopting its PRB-1 policy, acknowledged a “strong federal interest” in supporting effective Amateur Radio communication. In the intervening years, PRB-1 has helped many amateurs to overcome zoning ordinances that unreasonably restricted Amateur Radio antennas in residential areas. The 11-page PRB-1 FCC Memorandum Opinion and Order is codified at § 97.15(b) in the FCC Amateur Service rules, giving the regulation the same effect as a federal statute.

After the Telecommunications Act of 1996 ordered the FCC to enact regulations preempting municipal and private land-use regulation over small satellite dishes and broadcast TV antennas, the FCC further acknowledged that it has jurisdiction to preempt private land-use regulations that conflict with federal policy. At this point, PRB-1 only applies to state and local zoning laws and ordinances. The Commission has indicated that it won’t extend the policy to private land-use regulation unless Congress instructs it to do so.

If HR.4969 passes the 113th Congress, it would compel the FCC, within 120 days of the Bill’s passage, to amend the Part 97 Amateur Service rules to apply PRB-1 coverage to include homeowners’ association regulations and deed restrictions, often referred to as “covenants, conditions, and restrictions” (CC&Rs). HR.4969 has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Rep Greg Walden, W7EQI (R-OR), chairs that panel’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee, which will consider the measure.

Among other tips, Lisenco advises groups setting up in-person visits with representatives to pick a leader, listen carefully, and leave behind information [see below] that supports your primary points, plus a business card. “Business cards are a big thing in DC,” he pointed out. “Make certain to take them when going to DC or a district office.”

“This isn’t rocket science, but it does take planning and the ability to state your case succinctly in no more than 15 minutes,” Lisenco advised. He said delegations should follow up with a thank you note within a day and a telephone call a week later.

An information sheet on HR.4969, a list of “talking points,” and a sample constituent letter to a Member of Congress will be available soon.

 

ARRL Great Lakes Division Leadership Changes

Here’s an interesting item from Thursday’s ARRL Letter. I know Dale fairly well, and served as his Affiliated Club Coordinator for a few years when he was the Michigan Section Manager. I would encourage all of you to bombard him with your concerns about the ARRL and amateur radio. I’ve already communicated with him about some of my concerns about the ARRL’s support for clubs….Dan

Dale Williams, WA8EFK

Dale Williams, WA8EFK

The leadership of the ARRL Great Lakes Division has changed. Director Jim Weaver, K8JE, announced his retirement from the ARRL Board of Directors, effective on July 7. Vice Director Dale Williams, WA8EFK, of Dundee, Michigan, has succeeded him as Director. The Great Lakes Division is made up of Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky.

Weaver, of Mason, Ohio, had served as the League’s Great Lakes Division Director since January 2003. He was a member of the Programs & Services and CEO Candidate Screening committees. He continues to hold several Field Organization appointments in Ohio.ARRL President Kay Craigie, N3KN, appointed W. Thomas “Tom” Delaney, W8WTD, of Cincinnati, Ohio, to fill the resulting Vice Director vacancy. Both Williams and Delaney will attend the ARRL National Centennial Convention and the July ARRL Board of Directors’ meeting following the convention in Hartford, Connecticut.

Williams had been Great Lakes Division Vice Director since January 2012. He previously served as ARRL Michigan Section Manager — from 1992 until 1997, and from 2003 until 2011.

Vice Director Delaney was a Public Information Officer for about a decade. He is active with the Queen City Emergency Net and belongs to several clubs in Cincinnati. Delaney also is the volunteer chairman of the Communications Committee for Disaster Services at the Cincinnati Area Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Amateur radio in the news: WRTC 2014, clubs

kl9aBozeman resident to compete in world radio competition. There is an old saying among the licensed amateur radio operators that says, “When all else fails, ham radio goes through.” And this month, Chris Hurlbut, KL9A, will go through with the 2014 World Radio Sport Team Championship.

Amateur radio club attracts tech experts. The Pacific digital amateur radio club is turning the city into a high-tech mecca, attracting a stream of technology experts and computer gurus, who also are hams, to use the club’s digital repeater, which is still in the process of being installed. Until recently, amateur radio operators, or hams, used analog radios and self-installed towers and repeaters to access radio waves. Now, digital amateur radio allows hams to reach the radio waves through their laptop and desktop computers using new, sophisticated digital technology that some hams are scrambling to learn.

Steady frequency: McKinney Amateur Radio Club tests service, gains youth. For Mike Baker, an 18-year member of the McKinney Amateur Radio Club (MARC), the importance of constant communication is simple. “Got to keep the Morse code up, because if we get invaded by aliens, that’s what we’ve got to have,” said Baker, an engineer with the Department of Homeland Security.

Night of Nights XV: July 12, 2014

From the Point Reyes National park website:

rca-radio-operatr-285x190

July 12th every year
from 3 pm to midnight
at the Historic RCA Coast Station KPH

In the annual “Night of Nights”, historic Morse code radio station KPH returns to the air in commemoration of the closing of commercial Morse operation in the USA.

Frequency and reception report information for all stations appear at the Maritime Radio Historical Society website.

KPH, the ex-RCA coast station located north of San Francisco, returns to the air for commemorative broadcasts every year on July 12 at 5:01 pm PDT (13 July at 0001 GMT). On July 12, 1999, the last commercial Morse transmission in the U.S. was thought to have been broadcast at 5 pm PDT (13 July at 0000 GMT). Now the Maritime Radio Historical Society’s own KSM carries on the tradition of commercial Morse. Transmissions are expected to continue until at least midnight PDT (0700 GMT).

Members of the public are invited to visit the receiving station for this event. The station will be open to visitors beginning at 3 pm PDT. The station is located at 17400 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and is on the route to the Point Reyes lighthouse. Watch for a cypress lined driveway on the right about a mile past the entry to Coast Guard station NMC.
Directions to Bear Valley Visitor Center
Directions from Bear Valley Visitor Center to Historic RCA Coast Station KPH

From the trade magazines: free design tools, DSP, education

Top Free DIY Tools Ever Engineer Needs. We’re seeing a relative explosion in free tools for engineering electronics. Some of those online tools prove to be worthless, and it’s back to blind searching or some paid tool. To help sort out the nonsense from the useful online tools, check out this list.

What Do You Know About DSP? Louis Frenzel, who is a ham by the way, reminisces about his experience with digital signal processing (DSP) and recommends a new book for those just learning about DSP.

Outrageous! Experience is no qualification to teach EEs. This is another column by Louis Frenzel. He writes:

It is obvious that the colleges do not value industry experience when it comes to hiring professors….It seems to me that professors with real world experience could teach the fundamentals in context and to explain what is really important and what is simply nice to know. Experienced teachers would be able to teach students things they ordinarily do not teach in school. They could tell their design war stories and explain that troubleshooting is just as important to know as design. I think that an MSEE with ten good years of experience is more qualified to teach than a no-experience PhD.

Broadband-Hamnet adds Ubiquiti, 5.8 GHz support

broadband-hamnet-logo

BROADBAND-HAMNET™
July 7 2014
Austin, TX/San Diego, CA

Broadband-Hamnet is proud to announce a new firmware release, an update to the original Linksys WRT54G/GL/GS gear, and for the Ubiquiti firmware originally released for the 2.4GHz Ham band this past February.
With this release, Broadband-Hamnet now supports the Ubiquiti M5-series hardware, giving Hams use of the 5.8 GHz band for mesh networking.

Among the release’s many new features are the ability to easily connect collocated nodes into clusters and to span the mesh across both ham bands.

About Broadband-Hamnet™
Broadband-Hamnet™ (formerly called HSMM-Mesh™)  is a high speed, self discovering, self configuring, fault-tolerant, wireless computer network. It uses special firmware that transforms consumer wireless gear to a specialized amateur radio network. For more information and to download the firmware, please visit the Broadband-Hamnet website.

Operating Notes: 7/3/14 – 7/6/14

I’ve had an enjoyable Fourth of July weekend from an operating point of view and thought I’d share it with you.

Thursday, 7/3:
Thursday evening, after considerable internal debate, I got over my laziness and walked down to the Hands-On Museum to work WA2HOM. As it turns out, I was glad I did.

Thursday evenings are usually pretty slow there, meaning that the ambient noise level is such that I can actually hear myself think. I rarely get visitors in shack, but this week, I had two families visit with me for a while.

The first was a complete family: father, mother, two daughters (ages 10 and 12, I’m guessing), and grandma! I don’t know if they were just being polite, or were actually interested, but they endured about 15 mins of my babbling on about amateur radio. I tried to find someone calling CQ, and actually called CQ myself a couple of times, but was unable to make a contact to get the kids on the air. I gave them a WA2HOM QSL card, and they seemed pretty happy about the visit in spite of not being able to talk to someone.

After they left, I struck up a CW QSO with a fellow in Findlay, OH. In the middle of the contact, an older women poked her head over the railing and asked, “Are you talking to someone in outer space?” I told her no, but that we had indeed talked to someone in outer space before and pointed out our QSL card from the International Space Station.

About that time, she was joined by three people that I’m guessing were here daughter and two grandsons, Michael and Vernon, who are eleven-year-old twins. They seemed a little interested in what I was telling them about ham radio, and how I could actually copy Morse Code (I was copying on paper for their benefit), so I told them to come around into the shack.

The ham I was in contact with said hello to the twins, and they seemed pleased by that. When the contact ended, I sent them away with the paper that I used to copy the code on. Both of these encounters were a lot of fun, even though I wasn’t able to get any kids on the air.

Saturday, 7/5:
On Saturday, I once again headed down to the museum. Around 10:30 am, Ed, KD8OQG, joined me for a bit. He mentioned that he’d been playing around with a website he’d discovered that lets users communicate with one another by Morse Code – morsecode.me.

When you access the website, you’re assigned a random, four-character “callsign.” You can then send code to other users online by using the “.” key or the mouse button as a straight key.  It takes a while to get used to sending, and it’s a bit slow at about 15 wpm, but it’s amusing, and if it gets people interested in Morse Code, I’m all for it.

After we quit playing around with MorseCode.me, we got on 15m, where we heard ER4DX booming in. I put Ed in front of the microphone, and we worked him. It was like working someone local, and after looking at his QRZ.Com page, you’ll see why. He has a serious antenna farm!

This is the ER4DX antenna farm. No wonder he sounded like a local here.

Sunday 7/6:
Sunday, we had guests over for dinner, but after they left, I headed down to the shack to get on the University of Michigan Amateur Radio Club Net. It meets every Sunday at 8pm Eastern time on the 145.23 repeater. You can also check in via W8UM-R on Echolink.

I guess our usual net control, Chris, KA8WFC, was enjoying some holiday festivities, so in his absence I took over as net control. Despite it being a holiday, we had a pretty good turnout, with checkins from KD8OQG, N8PMG, WS8U, W8SRC, WD8DPA, KD8PIJ, WD0BCF, and WA4CJX. Larry, WD0BCF was checking in from Houston, while Bruce, WA4CJX  checked in from Honolulu. Topics of discussion included the 6m opening that day and the upcoming UMARC fox hunt.

After the net, I fired up the HF rig and had some fun on 30m and 40m. I hadn’t been trying to work the Original Thirteen Colonies Special Event this weekend, but nevertheless, I managed to work  K2J, K2C, and K2H in quick succession on 40m CW.

Then, I moved up to 30m. My first contact there was with SN0LOT, a special event station commemorating the flight of two Lithuanian airmen, Steponas Darius and Stasys Gir?nas. They crashed after flying 6,411 kilometers from New York, only 650 km short of their destination, Kaunas. At the time, it was the second longest flight over Atlantic Ocean without landing. 

After that contact, I called CQ and got a reply from W1DIG. How about that? Two QSOs with stations whose callsigns spell words in a row! Not only that, I have neither “LOT” or “DIG” in my collection. That was a great way to end the weekend.

FCC Invokes “Red Light Rule” in K1MAN Situation

fcc-sealFrom the June 3, 2014 issue of The ARRL Letter:

The curious Amateur Radio enforcement case of Glenn Baxter, now ex-K1MAN, of Belgrade Lakes, Maine, may be at an end. The FCC dismissed Baxter’s long-standing license renewal application on June 23, invoking its “Red Light Rule,” which gives the Commission authority to turn down a pending application if the applicant has an unpaid fine on the books. His Amateur Extra class license is now shown as “canceled” in the FCC’s Universal Licensing System (ULS). Baxter was liable for a $10,000 FCC forfeiture stemming from violations over a period extending back several years.

“Anyone filing an application [who] is found to be delinquent in debt owed to the FCC and who fails to pay the debt in full or make other satisfactory arrangements in a timely manner will have their application dismissed,” said the Notice of Dismissal appended to Baxter’s ULS file. “Because you have failed to resolve this matter timely, your application is hereby dismissed.”

The FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau dismissed Baxter’s 2005 renewal application “without prejudice,” which means that if Baxter wants to be licensed again, he must file a new application — and the FCC could again invoke its Red Light Rule. Baxter’s license expired in October 2005, but FCC rules gave him the authority to continue operating while his renewal application was pending. He lost that privilege, effective June 23.

“If you are currently operating under authority provided by the Commission’s rules based on your submission of [a renewal] application, you must immediately cease operation until such time as you come into compliance with the rules,” the dismissal letter said.

The legal history in the case is extensive. In 2011, the FCC issued a Hearing Designation Order to determine, among other things, if Baxter’s Amateur Radio license should be renewed. According to the Order, “Baxter has apparently willfully and repeatedly engaged in unlawful Commission-related activities, including causing interference to ongoing communications of other amateur stations, transmitting communications in which he had a pecuniary interest, failing to file requested information pursuant to an Enforcement Bureau directive, engaging in broadcasting without communicating with any particular station, and failing to exercise control of his station.”

Read more.

More QSLS: WA6YOU, WA1HEW

More QSLs for my collection of QSLs from stations whose callsigns spell words. These are the first “YOU” and “HEW” cards.

wa6you-qsl

To hew is to “chop or cut (something, esp. wood) with an ax, pick, or other tool,” according to dictionary on my Mac. A second definition is “(hew to) conform or adhere to: some artists took photographs that hewed to more traditional ideas of art.”

wa1hew-qsl

Use VLF to detect lightning

Yesterday, my friend Ed, KD8OQG tweeeted:

vielmetti's avatarEdward Vielmetti @vielmetti
a lightning detector, picking up lightning signals on VLF (!) blitzortung.org/Documents/TOA_… @kb6nu @hoopycat #hamr

Ed is a bit of a severe weather geek, and is often Tweeting when severe weather rolls through the Ann Arbor area. So, it’s only natural that he would be interested in the Blitzortung project. The Blitzortung website describes the project this way:

Blitzortung.org is a lightning detection network for the location of electromagnetic discharges in the atmosphere (lightning discharges) based on the time of arrival (TOA) and time of group arrival (TOGA) method. It consists of several lightning receivers and one central processing server. The stations transmit their data in short time intervals over the Internet to our server. Every data sentence contains the precise time of arrival of the received lightning discharge impulse (“sferic”) and the exact geographic position of the receiver. With this information from all stations the exact positions of the discharges are computed. The aim of the project is to establish a low budget lightning location network with a high number of stations. The price for the hardware used is less than 200 Euro. The sferic positions are free accessible in raw format to all stations that transmit their data to our server. The station owner can use the raw data for all non-commercial purposes. The lightning activity of the last two hours is additionally displayed on several public maps recomputed every minute.

Blitzortung.org is a community of station operators who transmit their data to the central server, programmers who develop and/or implement algorithms for the location or visualization of sferic positions, and people who assist anyway to keep the system running. There is no restriction on membership. All people who keep the network in operation are volunteers. There is no fee and no contract. If a station stops pooling its data, the server stops providing the access to the archive of sferics positions for the user of that station. A detailed description about how to participate to the network and how to setup an own receiver can be found in the following document.

The website doesn’t say how much a setup costs, but does says, “If you are interested to setup an own station then you can get the latest printed circuit boards and the programmed micro controller from us. If you are not from Germany, Austria, or Switzerland you can even get a complete controller kit, a complete amplifier kit, ferrite rod antennas, and a GPS module for cost price, if desired.”

The Cloud is an interactive lamp and speaker system, designed to mimic a thundercloud in both appearance and entertainment. Using motion sensors the cloud detects a user's presence and creates a unique lightning and thunder show dictated by their movement.

The Cloud is an interactive lamp and speaker system, designed to mimic a thundercloud in both appearance and entertainment. Using motion sensors the cloud detects a user’s presence and creates a unique lightning and thunder show dictated by their movement.

Ryan Burns, one of Ed’s followers and head of A2 Geeks, suggested that he get a Cloud and hook it to the detector. According to the Cloud’s website, “The Cloud is an interactive lamp and speaker system, designed to mimic a thundercloud in both appearance and entertainment. Using motion sensors the cloud detects a user’s presence and creates a unique lightning and thunder show dictated by their movement.” We would, of course, have to get a version without the motion sensors so that we could interface our lightning detector.

I volunteered that we could mount the detector’s antenna to the tower at the Hands-On Museum. Ironically, I think that we’d have to use a lightning arrestor on the feedline should we actually mount it outside.