From my Twitter feed: Field Day, HackRF, intruders

N5NTG
AMATEUR RADIO FIELD DAY – GET OUT AND OPERATE: Field Day Is Just Around The Corner – Plan Now …http://t.co/crdHOFKEno

Chris_Diemoz
Who’s intruding #hamradio bands (and how)? The answer is blowing in the April @IARU_R1Monitoring System newsletter!http://t.co/Afp6XUScxH

n0rc
Giving Away HackRF #sdrhttp://t.co/zxXnOyg4q2 #hamr #diy#electronics

Amateur radio in the news: Purdue club

Geoffrey Stewart, son of Andy Stewart of Chelmsford, operates his ham radio. His call sign is KB1USE. COURTESY PHOTO

Ham radio: the original social network
Andy Stewart and his friends could be considered revolutionary. “The jokes that I hear are that ham radio was the original social network,” he said.

Purdue’s ham radio club turns 100.
During open house, members can spend their time however they want. Most of the time, members learn more about ham radio, make new contacts from around the world and fix radios. One time, a few members even made a credit card scanner just for fun.

Volunteers vital to Weather Service during severe storms
With the forecast calling for possible severe weather Thursday, the National Weather Service expects to call on its team of weather spotters. They include Roane County ham radio operator Phil Newman. For 16 years, Newman has communicated to fellow operators around the region and the world….

Upcoming amateur radio events

KB6NU teaching the Jan. 14, 2012 One-Day Tech Class

Me making a point (apparently about SWR) at a recent One-Day Tech Class

Here are some upcoming amateur radio events here in Ann Arbor, MI:

  1. VE Testing. ARROW, the club here in Ann Arbor, conducts an amateur radio license test session ever second Saturday of the month at the Washtenaw County Red Cross, 4624 Packard Rd., Ann Arbor (map).

    Preregistration is recommended but walkins are welcome. Contact Mark Goodwin – W8FSA (734-944-0730) mrkgoodwin@comcast.net, Beverley Stoner – K8ZJU (734-424-9446), or Ralph Katz – AA8RK (734-663-1288) aa8rk@arrl.net, for more information, and to register for the test.

  2. University of Michigan Amateur Radio Club’s 100th Anniversary Special Event Station. The University of Michigan Amateur Radio Club is celebrating its 100th anniversary by operating a special event station on Sunday, April 14 on the Diag on central campus. Setup is going to start around 1300Z. We’re hoping to start operating around 1400Z and continue until around 2200Z. If you’re in or near Ann Arbor, please come down and operate with us. If not, listen for us on the bands.
  3. One-Day Tech Class, Saturday, April 27. I’ll be conducting the next one-day Tech Class on Saturday, April 27, at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. Go to wa2hom.org for more details.

U-M ARC needs antenna ideas

W8UM

The University of Michigan Amateur Radio Club is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. The recently reinvigorated club has a great station, W8UM, in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Building on U-M’s North Campus.

The University of Michigan Amateur Radio Club is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. To celebrate, they’re planning to operate a special event station from the Diag, an open space in the heart of the campus.

The problem they’re having are all the rules for such an event. For example, the event can’t be too noisy, even though it’s outside.

The biggest problem they’re having though is trying to come up with an antenna setup that the powers that be will approve. They can’t, for example, drive any stakes into the ground. Supposedly, that will damage the lawns. That rules out the 40m/20m inverted-V setup supported by the surplus fiberglass masts that we often use for these kind of temporary operations.

There’s also a rule that whatever structure is erected be no higher than eight feet tall. That also rules out the use of the fiberglass mast.

There are some trees near where they want to set up the station, but the grounds department have concerns about ropes in trees. That kind of rules out dipoles.

This morning, it occurred to me that we probably could use BuddiPoles and/or BuddiSticks. We could easily keep them under eight feet, and if operated vertically, they could be decent antennas. Using an insulated wire for the counterpoise should be safe enough.

I’d like to hear what you think, though. What kind of antennas have you used for this type of operation? Do they meet the restrictions these guys must meet?

How well is your amateur radio club’s website working?

When I stepped down as our club’s president a couple of years ago, I also gave up responsibility for the club website. At that time, it was decided to move the website from the web hosting company I was using to a server connected to the network at a local community college, where one of our members taught part-time. The rationale was that since there would be no web hosting fees, the club would save money.

Unfortunately, this has proven to be a case of being “penny wise, but pound foolish.” About every six months, the site seems to go down for a week or so. The first time this happened, there was a problem was with the community college’s network, and because this use of the network wasn’t a high priority for the college’s IT staff, the site was down for quite a while.

The most recent outage was due to memory failure. The failure was first reported a week ago, and as I’m writing this, the site has yet to be fully restored. The timing of this was unfortunate, as our monthly meeting was held on Wednesday, March 13, and since the website was down, there was really no way for anyone to get details.

My intent here is not to disparage the volunteers running the website. Having done it myself for a couple of years, I know it’s a thankless job, and I thank them for their service. Even so, I think website hosting is one of those things best not left volunteers, especially when suitable web hosting services can be had for less than $100/year.

The website is, after all, your club’s biggest PR piece, and if it’s not working, or if the information is out of date, or if the design is lousy, you’re not making a very good good case for your club. Seriously, would you consider patronizing a business whose website was out of date or that you couldn’t access at all?

Several members got their hackles up over this last outage, and it’s looking like we’ll be moving the site back to a web hosting service again. Not only that, several members, including me, have offered to help out in some way with the website. So, over all, I think this latest outage has proven to be a good thing. If we do it right, we might even have several people submitting content.

I’ll update this post in about six months and keep you apprised of our progress. Of course, you could just go to the website and see for yourself.

HamRadioWebsites.Net
Coincidentally, a fellow posted a link to HamRadioWebsites.Net in a message to the AmateurRadioLeadership Yahoo Group. This looks like a relatively new service that helps clubs set up websites and produces e-mail newsletters for clubs.

While I think this is an interesting idea, I have several questions about taking this approach:

  1. Can a service like this really be effective if those that are creating the website and newsletter are not part of the club? After all, someone still has to come up with the club-related content.
  2. If there aren’t some members engaged enough to do these kinds of things (we call them “club service” in Rotary), are they going to be engaged enough to do anything at all?

What do you think? Will HamRadioWebsites.Net be successful? How does your club handle its website and newsletter needs?

Minutes of the January 2013 ARRL Board Meeting

ARRLThe annual meeting of the ARRL Board of Directors was held January 18-19, 2013 in New Orleans, and the minutes of the meeting were recently published. You can download and read the entire minutes yourself, but here are a few items that I found particular interesting:

  • #16. Mr. Kramer presented the report of the Chief Operating Officer. Finding appropriate ways to support the growth and activities of ARRL-affiliated clubs was an issue highlighted during discussion of the report. As chairman of the Programs and Services Committee, Mr. Norris advised the Board that the committee has established a subcommittee to address the issue.
  • #21. Mr. Carlson, as chairman, presented the report of the EMC Committee and entertained questions. There was a discussion of how to stimulate electric utilities to resolve cases of power line interference to amateur stations.
  • #25. The board adopted seven legislative objectives for the 113th Congress. To read them all, download the minutes, but in addition to the usual items such as, keeping and defending our frequencies, #6 aims at ensuring that two-way radio communications be exempt from distracted driver laws, and #7 supports legislation authorizing the FCC to appoint an electrical engineer to their staffs to provide technical expertise.
  • #28. The ARRL has created “the ARRL Amateur Radio Service to Scouting Award, to be administered consistent with the Community Organization Award program of BSA.”
  • #32 The board will appoint an ad hoc committee to look into the recent Logbook of the World problems and provide some recommendations at the July 2013 meeting.
  • #37. Lucy Ann Lance, a local broadcaster here in Ann Arbor, MI was awarded the “Bill Leonard, W2SKE, Professional Media Award, developed to honor professional journalists whose outstanding work best reflects the enjoyment, importance and public service value of the Amateur Radio Service.”

As I was club president here in Ann Arbor for several years, and for several years served as the Michigan Section Affiliated Club Coordinator, I’m especially interested in #16. I’ve e-mailed my director and vice-director to get their takes on it, and I would encourage all of you to do likewise for any of the items that are of interest to you.

Amateur Radio in the News: Michigan, Kansas, Colorado

Central Middle School radio club students work on projects
The future of amateur radio in Midland was in room 127 of Central Middle School on Wednesday afternoon.Bill Albe brought kits to build the FET crystal radios he designed, along with tools sure to excite middle schoolers — drills, solder, means to measure electrical resistance across their bodies — plus ample adult supervision.

I’m trying to find out more about this project so that I can do something similar at the Hands-On Museum….Dan

Back to the Future — amateur radio enthusiasts bring transmitter back to life
The wait – four weeks short term and 40 years and counting long term – was well worth it when the 75-year-old transmitter built by amateur radio pioneer Marshall Ensor was reactivated Saturday evening at Ensor Park and Museum south of Olathe.

Ham radio alive and well in Boulder County
This is a nice profile of the Boulder Amateur Radio Club (BARC). BARC Juniors is a program of the club, which encourages kids to get involved in amateur radio. Great club, great program.

Newsletters that run my column

For several years now, I’ve been sending out a (mostly) monthly column to amateur radio newsletter editors all around the U.S.A. I also send out a few to Canada and a couple of other English-speaking countries. Sometimes, it’s a version of something I’ve posted here on my blog. Sometimes, it’s original material.

Quite often, especially if the newsletter is published electronically, the editor will send me a copy. I like getting these newsletters because it keeps me informed about what’s going on in amateur radio around the country. Below, are links to three newsletters in which my column appear.

This beautiful key was made by Ed, AD7GR.

Ozark QRP BannerThis publication of the Four States QRP Group includes articles on home-made keys, a a dipole made with paper clips, and a portable QRP station using the NC40A transceiver from Wilderness Radio.

The Kennehoochee Amateur Radio Club (KARC) Hooch. The big news from the November 2012 issue of the Hoochis that they made more than 2,800 contacts from K4D, their special-event station. Their chairman, Joe, WD4FTB, writes, “Everything was great except the last day there was a big storm and we broke 2 antennas. But to sum it all up I loved it and I think everyone should try it once, no experience necessary.”

Muskegon Area Amateur Radio Council Flashovers. The New Ham Corner in the November 2012 issue of Flashovers is a short piece on how to determine if a piece of coax is any good. This issue also includes an article on their hamfest (it was a “rousing success”) and QSLing DX stations, specifically TT8TT.

There are currently more than 300 clubs getting my column each month. If you are a club newsletter editor, I would love to add you to the list.

Field Day Report

Field Day 2012I was holding off on reporting on my Field Day activities this year because I thought I would do a comprehensive report on the entire Field Day. Well, that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, so here’s a report on the operating activities.

Unlike last year, I  operated with ARROW, our club here in Ann Arbor, MI. I was the main operator of the 40m CW station. We had 866 total QSOs. I made 540, KD8LWR had 197, N8OY made 109, and N8SBE pounded out 19. Here are the top runs as reported by N1MM:

  • 2012-06-23 1806 – 1849Z,    7022 kHz, 51 Qs, 70.5/hr KB6NU
  • 2012-06-23 1903 – 2245Z,    7021 kHz, 214 Qs, 58.1/hr KD8LWR
  • 2012-06-23 2245 – 2311Z,    7021 kHz, 25 Qs, 59.4/hr KD8LWR
  • 2012-06-23 2313 – 0040Z,    7017 kHz, 87 Qs, 60.1/hr KD8LWR
  • 2012-06-24 0051 – 0124Z,    7013 kHz, 37 Qs, 66.5/hr KD8LWR
  • 2012-06-24 0633 – 0655Z,    7023 kHz, 17 Qs, 46.6/hr KB6NU
  • 2012-06-24 0705 – 0909Z,    7035 kHz, 102 Qs, 49.4/hr KB6NU
  • 2012-06-24 0923 – 0938Z,    7023 kHz, 12 Qs, 49.2/hr KB6NU
  • 2012-06-24 0946 – 1033Z,    7036 kHz, 35 Qs, 44.8/hr KB6NU
  • 2012-06-24 1103 – 1211Z,    7030 kHz, 53 Qs, 47.0/hr N8OY

These are the top runs that included more than 10 QSOs.  I don’t know if you can ask it to give you 10-min. or 1-hr. rates, but that would have been interesting to see.

Unfortunately, this station did not operate for about three hours from 11:30pm – 2:30am, when I got back to the FD site. Next year, we’re going to have to find more CW ops and schedule better. It might have been possible to hit 1,000 Qs if it had been operated all 24 hours.

21 Things to Do: Go to Field Day

Field Day, held on the last full weekend in June, is the quintessential amateur radio event. It includes elements of just about everything that makes amateur radio the great hobby that it is, and you should make every effort to participate in Field Day the first year that you’re licensed.

Field Day got its start in 1933 as an emergency-communication exercise. Ham radio operators dragged their equipment out into a field somewhere and operated using emergency power sources. The aim was to see how prepared amateur radio operators were to respond to an emergency and to learn how to do it better.

2008 OMARC Field Day

Tents often serve as shelters for Field Day stations. Photo courtesy of Ken Barber, W2DTC.

Emergency communications preparedness is still the primary purpose of Field Day. Amateur radio operators tune up their gasoline-powered generators and test their solar panels to ensure that they will be ready in case of an emergency. And, by hauling out into the field all manner of radio equipment, we find out what radios will work best in that operating environment.

Of course, the only way to tell how well your equipment will work is to actually operate it. That’s where the contest part of Field Day comes in. Stations score points by making contacts with other stations, and those with the most points win. Other things being equal, the stations that work the best will make the most contacts and score high in the contest.

Many Field Day stations have multiple transmitters, and when you have multiple transmitters, you need multiple antennas. Setting up a multiple-transmitter operation can be a lot of work. That’s why Field Day is often a club activity. For some clubs, it’s the biggest event of the year. In addition to all the technical activities, clubs use Field Day as a social event. There’s food and drink and reminiscing about Field Days gone by. For some hams, that’s more fun than actually operating.

Finally, because Field Day is such a big event, the ARRL encourages us all to use the event to reach out to the public, elected officials, and served agencies, such as county emergency management and the Red Cross, and educate them about amateur radio. Unlike many contests, where you only score points when you make contacts, you score Field Day points for holding your operation in a public place, handing out brochures to interested parties, and having the mayor come and visit your Field Day site.

How to participate
By participating in Field Day, you’ll learn more about amateur radio in a single day than you will doing just about anything else. If you’re a club member, ask how you can help out organizing  your club’s Field Day event. That’s sure to win you points, and it will make your Field Day experience that much more fun and educational.

If you’re not a club member, or if you’ll be out of town that particular weekend, you can find a Field Day site closeby, by going to the ARRL Field Day Locator. The clubs that are listed there are sure to welcome you, especially if you arrive early and help them set up.

I hope I’ve persuaded you to participate in the next Field Day. You’ll not only learn a lot, but you’ll have a lot of fun. Don’t forget to take some sun screen and mosquito repellent!