Operating notes: FAT, ragchews, newbies on 2m

FAT. I’ve added yet another station to my collection of QSOs with stations whose callsigns spell words. WA4FAT, who subscribes to my tip-of-the-week mailing list, volunteered to work me and did so on 40m this last week. Now, I’m waiting for the card.

Two nice ragchews. Last night, I had a couple of nice ragchews. The first was with Bill, WB4DB0. I’ve worked him several times, and it’s always been a nice conversation. Last night, I mentioned that I was going to a Civil War re-enactment on Monday, and as it turns out, he used to be a big Civil War buff.

Later on, I worked Steve, KF7YRL in Lame Deer, MT. On his QRZ.Com page, he says, “You may think you’re boring, but I don’t. I want to hear about your family, your career, your military service, your ham-life, your other hobbies, what it’s like where you live, or crazy stuff you’ve lived through. Give me something that helps me remember you.” Now that’s the attitude you should bring to a QSO. Talk about real stuff. Make it memorable.

During the course of our QSO, I mentioned that I’d written some study guides. This morning, I receive an e-mail from him. He says, “Great to meet you.  Got curious about your study guides, so I looked in my folder of ham stuff on my computer, and sure enough, the ones my bro had sent me a couple of years ago were yours.  High five on that effort.  Very nice guides.” It’s nice to make connections like that.

Newbies on 2m. Possibly the silliest situation we have in amateur radio is that nearly all newcomers buy 2m handhelds only to find that they can’t hit that many repeaters, there aren’t that many guys on 2m anymore, and the old farts that are on 2m won’t talk to them, anyway.

We should all try to do something about this. If you have a 2m radio in the shack, turn it on while you’re down there. If you here a guy give his call sign, return the call, even if you don’t recognize the callsign. You could be missing an interesting conversation, and you’re certainly missing a chance to improve amateur radio in your area.

Last night, I did just that. Shortly after turning on the rig, I heard “KD8YQZ listening.” I was putzing around with something and thought about not calling him back, but then decided that whatever it was I was doing, was certainly not important enough to not talk to this guy.

As it turned out, Tom had just passed the test at Dayton last Saturday, and his callsign appeared in the FCC database on Tuesday. How cool is that?

Shortly after we started talking Todd, KD8WPX, broke in and we started a round-robin QSO. These were two younger guys, and not only were they interested in amateur radio, but also in the local “maker” groups. I was able to point them in the right direction on both counts.

It was also an “Elmer” moment. I taught the about the courtesy tone and about round-robin QSOs. I hope that it was as positive an experience for both of those guys as it was for me.

What I want you to take away from this is that you should turn the radio on when you’re in your shack or out in the garage, and monitor the repeaters. Not only that, return the call when you hear someone come on. If you don’t, I don’t want to hear any complaints from you about how there’s no 2m activity anymore or how ham radio is getting to be just a bunch of old guys.

Amateur radio in the news: antenna dispute, Hamvention on TV, new respect for emcomm

This woman is NOT happy that her neighbor, Jeff, W6BYS, has erected this 55-ft. tower.

Neighbors protest radio antenna in historic district. When Napa resident Kathleen Wolf returned to her Randolph Street home in April, following a three-month trip to France, she was surprised to see a newly installed 55-foot-tall radio antenna towering above her fence in a neighbor’s backyard. “That’s the last thing I want to look at,” said Wolf, whose historic home has been in her family for four generations. “What if it falls on me while I’m tending to my tomatoes? I, at least, want  to know that it’s safe.” About six weeks ago, Jeff Hullquist, a Coombs Street resident, erected the amateur, or ham, radio antenna at his home. He grounded the enormous, metal structure in 30,000 pounds of cement and attached it to the side of his house using temporary mounts.

Hamvention in town this weekend. Channel 22 in Dayton ran this nice story on the Hamvention last week.

Ham radio: Old technology gets new respect. Seeking reliable backup communication in a crisis, emergency managers are finding new solutions in an old technology: ham radio. “It’s just another avenue, another opportunity for us to be able to communicate,” said Herb Schraufnagel, public safety captain with Emory University Hospital Midtown.

Happy Ham Radio Week: Do we get cake?

As legislatures do in many states, the Michigan legislature has designated the last week in June as Amateur Radio Week in Michigan. Here’s the text:

Senate Resolution No. 149.

A resolution to recognize and designate June 23-29, 2014, as Amateur Radio Week in the state of Michigan.

Whereas, Amateur radio operators are celebrating over a century of the miracle of the human voice broadcast over the airwaves; and

Whereas, Amateur radio has continued to provide a bridge between people, societies, and countries by creating friendships and the sharing of ideas; and

Whereas, Operators of amateur radio have also provided countless hours of community services both in emergencies and to other local organizations throughout the decades, which are provided wholly uncompensated; and

Whereas, The state of Michigan recognizes the services amateur radio operators also provide to our many civilian emergency response organizations, including the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army; and

Whereas, These same individuals have further demonstrated their value in public assistance by providing free radio communications for local parades, bike-a-thons, walk-a-thons, fairs, and other charitable public events; and

Whereas, The state of Michigan acknowledges and appreciates the diligence of these hams who also serve as weather spotters in the SKYWARN program of the National Weather Service; and

Whereas, Amateur radio once again proved its undisputed relevance in the modern world by providing emergency communications when other systems failed in the wake of Hurricane Irene and the paralyzing October blizzard that hit the Northeast and Atlantic Seaboard; and

Whereas, The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) is the leading organization for amateur radio in the United States; and

Whereas, The ARRL Amateur Radio Field Day exercise will take place on June 28-29, 2014, and is a 24-hour emergency preparedness exercise and demonstration of the radio amateurs’ skills and readiness to provide self-supporting communications without further infrastructure being required; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate, That we hereby recognize and designate June 23-29, 2014, as Amateur Radio Week in the state of Michigan.

My only question is do we get cake?

How do you know that fuse is protecting your circuit?

How do you know that this fuse will protect your rig?

How do you know that this fuse will protect your rig?

I blog for a leading manufacturer of circuit protection devices, so I keep my eye out for articles on fuses, ESD diodes and the like. Recently, I came across the article, “Fuse selection factors critical to circuit design.” Among the factors discussed is:

11. Application testing/verification prior to production.
Request samples for testing in the actual circuit to verify the selection. Before evaluating the samples, make sure the fuse is properly mounted with good electrical connections, using adequately sized wires or traces. The testing should include life tests under normal conditions and overload tests under fault conditions to ensure that the fuse will operate properly in the circuit.

Being a former test engineer, this got me to thinking about how one would actually do this. For example, how would you test that a fuse will actually protect a circuit board? Would you inject faults, i.e. deliberately short-circuit nodes? If so, which ones?

What measurements would you make to ensure that the fuse was working as you hope? Would you measure the time elapsed between the time you injected the fault until the time the fused actually blew? How about measuring the current profile over that period of time? That might be important and/or tell you something about the failure.

What kind of fault analysis should you perform after the fuse has blown? I suppose at the very least you’d want to replace the fuse and ensure that the circuit is functioning again. I would say that you should also run a full performance test to ensure that the fault didn’t adversely affect the board’s performance. Also, I’d think that you’d want to visually inspect the board to ensure that the fault current didn’t damage the board or traces at all.

I’m curious if any of you have had any experience with this kind of development testing. If so, please e-mail me or comment here.

Weird ARRL BOD Meeting Announcement

This just arrived in my inbox:

Special Meeting
ARRL Board of Directors
By Webinar
9:00 PM EDT Thursday, May 22, 2014

  1. Roll call and announcement that the meeting is being recorded
  2. Consideration of the agenda for the meeting
  3. Explanation of procedures for the conduct of the meeting
  4. Review of a recent decision of the Ethics and Elections Committee with regard to the application of the conflict of interest policy
  5. Adjournment

As some of you may know, I ran for Great Lakes Division Vice Director a couple of times, failing both times. The second time around, I was almost disqualified by the Ethics and Election Committee because at one point, although not at the time of the election, I was selling amateur radio books online. I had given up on that because it was just too hard to compete with Amazon and with the ARRL, given that the ARRL was able to advertise freely in QST.

When I demonstrated that the bookstore was no longer active to the committee, they rescinded the disqualification, and I was allowed to run. Unfortunately, it didn’t do any good. I lost that election by 12 votes.

I suspect that the board is going to be reviewing a similar case tonight.

My Dayton purchases

I didn’t buy a lot at Dayton this year, but I did pick up a couple of cool things:

I'm not sure if this cap will actually help me sell more study guides, but it looks cool.

I’m not sure if this cap will actually help me sell more study guides, but it looks cool.


I bought this Tek Model 3 scope cart from a guy in the far reaches of the flea market. Then, I had to roll it through the crumbling asphalt of of the Hara Arena parking lot to get it to my car. As you can see, it was made for a bigger scope, but my 2225 fits nicely on the top shelf, while my bench DMM fits nicely on the shelf that was made to house the plugins. The drawer down below is plenty big for all the DMM and scope probes and accessories that I have. A bonus is a four-outlet power strip on the back of the cart.


From my Twitter feed: Trash Talk, Android antenna analzyer, Oinker

DIYEngineering's avatarDIY Engineering @DIYEngineering
Trash Talk – Trash Talk is a prototype for an inexpensive, mesh-networked, democratic public address system. Each … ow.ly/2Gx8z5


RadioGeek's avatarKKØHF @RadioGeek
Amateur radio more Space Age than Digital Age gaining popularity reviewjournal.com/life/recreatio… pic.twitter.com/sNti1HxhXD


W2MDW's avatarMatthew Williams @W2MDW
Interesting, and fairly cheap antenna analyzer that has Android support. ebay.com/itm/Sark100-HF…


DIYEngineering's avatarDIY Engineering @DIYEngineering
Oinker is Twitter for HAMs – Have you ever wanted to send a quick message to your HAM radio buddies over the … ow.ly/2GDOlL

#HamTwits at Dayton 2014

#hamtwits at Dayton 2014

I won’t attempt to identify all the #HamTwits in this picture. I’m way in the back. I’m the oldest guy in the picture! Click on the photo to get a larger image. Credit: K0KDS.

I mentioned in yesterday’s post about Dayton that this year seemed to be more fun than the last couple of years. One of the reasons for this is this meeting of #HamTwits. On Saturday, a group of us met on the loading dock at 11 am.

There are lots of hams on Twitter, and we’ve become quite a community. From my @kb6nu account, I Tweet only about amateur radio topics and only follow other amateur radio operators or people that Tweet about amateur radio-related topics, such as electronics or software. I have more than 2,000 followers at this point.

Take a good look at the picture. I’m the oldest one in the photo! Who says that amateur radio doesn’t appeal to younger people. I saw lots of young people at Dayton this year.

Dayton 2014: First Impressions

I got back from Dayton last night, and was just too tired to do much of a writeup. Today, I’m kind of short on time, but I’ll jot down a few first impressions. If you were there, please feel free to add your own in the comments section.

  1. I had more fun this year than in the past couple of years. I’m not exactly sure why, but maybe part of it was that I talked to more people.
  2. There wasn’t much in the way of exciting new products—at least I didn’t see any. Please feel free to comment on any that you saw there.
  3. Attendance seemed to be down. Rarely were any of the aisles crowded, and then only when it was raining outside. Perhaps the cool, rainy weather kept people from coming.
  4. There were LOTS of open spaces in the flea market. Again, maybe that was due to the lousy weather.
  5. Even so, there were some good things to be had out there.
  6. In addition to all the old farts, there did seem to be a contingent of young guys. I found that encouraging.
  7. There is a lot of interest in the new technology. The antenna modeling forum was packed, and the Linux&Microcontrollers forum was even more packed. I got to the latter a little bit late, and guys were standing out in the hall peering in.

More later!

Invite a kid to Field Day

Field Day is still six weeks away, but I want you to think about inviting a kid to Field Day this year. Instead of just complaining that kids aren’t interested in amateur radio anymore, do something about it.

Invite them to help you set up antennas.

Show them how you power the rigs with a generator, or even cooler, by charging a battery with a solar panel.

Let them sit in front of the rig, show them how to make contacts, and log for them. To make it easier for them, make up a cheat sheet with the callsign spelled out phonetically and the exchange, also spelled out phonetically.

Let them operate for as long as they’re interested. When they’re done, thank them on contributing to your club’s total score.

Answer every single one of their questions.

This may not win them over immediately, but I can assure you that it will make an impression on them. To increase your chances of success, find a kid that’s already technically inclined. Invite a bunch of them from the high school’s robotics team, for example.

If you don’t have any plans for Field Day, then make some. Then, go find that kid. If you don’t, then you don’t have any right to complain that there are no kids in ham radio.