KC4AAA on the air from the South Pole

In the Amateur Radio Enthusiast LinkedIn group, Joe, W5FJG says:

KC4AAA – Amundsen – Scott South Pole station has begun digital operations. We are up on JT65, PSK-31 and RTTY. We have completed testing and have worked a hand full of stations. We tend to operate now, from 0200 to 0300UTC, as it seems to be the best time for propagation into North America. I have been up around 1500 UTC, working into Europe. Look me up on QRZ and follow KC4AAA on Facebook. We intend to give more info on operating times and freqs. We also operate CW.

DX Advisory Committee wants to put the screws to remote operation

In July, the DX Advisory Committee Report recommended several rules changes for the DXCC program. Among them, was a recommendation that rule I.9 be changed such that a QSO is acceptable for DXCC credit only when the remote station and the operator’s home station location are no more than 200 km apart.

As with any rule change, this precipitated a lot of comment in the amateur radio community. A thread on the eHam.Net forum got quite a few comments. N7NG had a nice blog post on this controversy.

Perhaps the most strident post on this topic was written by WW1X. He called these recommendations “uninformed, misguided, and detrimental to the future of our hobby.” Detrimental to the future of our hobby? Seriously?

Of course, WW1X has a vested interest in this debate. He’s the lead developer for RemoteHamRadio.Com (RHR), a company that charges other hams to use the “super stations” that they’ve set up around the world.

Note that the DX Advisory Committee is not saying that amateur radio operators should not use and enjoy these remote stations. All they’re saying is that the QSOs made with them, unless they are located less than 200 km from an amateur’s home station, are not eligible for DXCC credit. I’m sure that if you asked any of the members of the committee they would agree with WW1X that the remote stations serve a very useful purpose for amateurs who are not able to set up their own home stations.

WW1X prattles on about how “DXCC is not a contest. It’s not a competition. There are no winners or losers. It’s a personal achievement award, plain and simple.” This is just silly. Of course it’s a competition. As N7NG rightly points out if it’s not a competition, why publish the DXCC Honor Roll?

What I think is detrimental to the hobby are hams who use RemoteHamRadio.Com to simply add to their DXCC scores. I see no sense in doing so, and furthermore, where’s the personal achievement? Anyone who can afford to pay what they charge—and it’s not a small sum of money—can work the rarest DX with one of those stations.

A friend of mine, Mark, W8MP, is an RHR customer. He loves being able to work DX from his home in a development where no outside antennas are allowed. He does this for the pure love of talking to other hams in far-away places. I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think he’s trying to pad his DXCC score, and even if he did, I’m sure that doing so is a very low priority for him.

If you ask me, that’s what RHR should be all about. Instead of complaining about the DXCC rules that might affect their bottom line, they should be taking the high road and talking up how their service promotes the “continuation and extension of the amateur’s unique ability to enhance international goodwill.” If your not sure where that came from, have a look at Part 97.1(e) of the FCC rules that govern amateur radio.

Amateur radio in the news: Lighthouse/Lightship Weekend

Here are a couple of reports of ham clubs taking part in International Lighthouse/Lightship Weekend. I actually worked W2GSB this weekend, but unfortunately didn’t work the Irish lighthouse…Dan

Ham radio operators participate in International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend.
As part of International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend, amateur radio operators were at Robert Moses State Park teaching visitors the history behind lighthouse communication. The radio operators, part of the Great South Bay Amateur Radio Club, say ham radio is still an important means of communication. (video)

Unravelling the Loop Head Code. A group of amateur ham radio operators will wind back the clock at Loop Head Lighthouse this weekend when they attempt to communicate via radio and Morse Code with hundreds of radio clubs thought the world. The Limerick Radio Club, which features members from Clare, Kerry, Limerick, and Tipperary, will broadcast non-stop for 48 hours from the West Clare lighthouse as part of the 17th International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend (ILLW).

Operating Notes: Fun down at WA2HOM

The bands have been pretty good lately. I was down at WA2HOM this morning from 10am to noon and really had a blast.

When I first got there, I tuned around a bit on 20m. 20m sounded to be in pretty good shape, so I decided to see if 15m was open. I pointed the beam at Europe, tuned around a bit, and was disappointed not to be hearing much. Nevertheless, I set up on 21035 kHz and started calling CQ. In short order, I worked R1DX (who had a true 599 signal), OH8MBN, and IZ5RKC.

After that, I QSYed back down to 20m and started looking for stations working the International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend operating event. Since the band was in such good shape, I worked lighthouses/lightships all over the country, including:

  • W1SYE, Newport, RI. Goat Island Lighthouse
  • K2VN, Long Island, NY. Horton Point Lighthouse
  • K6PV, near Los Angeles, CA. Point Vicente Lighthouse
  • W3LRS, Lewes, DE. Overfalls Lightship
  • W6A, San Pedro, CA. Point Fermin Lighthouse

The QSO with K6PV was fun because as it turned out, Bob, the operator there, is a graduate of the University of Michigan, and we had a nice chat about Ann Arbor, our QTH and the home of U-M. Also, as it turned out, Bob’s own call is W6HIP, which fits nicely into my collection of QSL cards from stations whose call signs spell words. I’ll be sending off two cards to him, one from WA2HOM and one from KB6NU, tomorrow.

Amateur radio in the news: London ARC, Skywarn


London ARC members activate the Blackfriars Bridge for Bridges on the Air.

London ARC members activate the Blackfriars Bridge for Bridges on the Air.

London hams bridge communciations gap. Since 1920, members of the London Amateur Radio Club (LARC) have filled the airwaves with banter both about the hobby itself, and about emergency preparedness. On July 19, a handful of LARC members put their talents on display at the Blackfriars Bridge in London.

SKYWARN WARRIORS: Local ham radio buffs work front lines for National Weather Service. The National Weather Service has radar, satellites, Doppler, and double Doppler. But even with all of that high technology, it still needs boots on the ground to know how the weather is affecting people. So when the power is out, many of its 6,500 Skywarn weather watchers in southern New England go the traditional route, using ham radio to file reports.

Hospital has SPARC of security. Beaumont is ready for any kind of natural disaster: the city and the San Gorgonio Pass Amateur Radio Club (SPARC) have partnered to provide ham radio operations at City Hall in the event of a disaster that could interrupt communications between cities and residents. The service is now in place in the Emergency Services Department office at the civic center. Rick Cook, emergency services coordinator, said he is very pleased to be working with the amateur radio club.

Next year, let’s do a “maker” Field Day

A couple of minutes ago, I got an e-mail from John, KD8MKE, who wrote:

I had this crazy idea that you could use a quad copter to hold up a dipole antenna AND power the quad from the ground (to save the battery weight).  Ed pointed out that the cable would weigh quite a bit, which is a good point.  Modern quads are remarkably steady when they are in loiter mode.

I wondered if you had heard of someone doing something like this at a Field day?  Seems like it would be handy if you didn’t have a tree or other structure to use as a peak.

I replied:

I haven’t heard about the use of copters for actually supporting the antennas, but there has been talk about using them for getting ropes into trees.

In the past, people have used balloons to support vertical antennas. With a vertical, you’d need only support the wire itself, not the feedline. A 160m vertical would be about 133 ft. long. How far up can these things go? How long do you think they would stay in the air?

I thought about this for a bit, and it occurred to me that next year we should do a Maker Field Day. The idea would be to incorporate as many “maker” projects as we can think of into it. Copters are a big maker thing, so that certainly qualifies. Another idea that I had for a maker ham radio project is to use 3D printing to make a “cootie key” or a paddle.

What are some others?

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.

Broadband-Hamnet adds Ubiquiti, 5.8 GHz support


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.

Field Day 2014: Smaller, but funner

This year, the two local clubs, ARROW and the University of Michigan ARC, once again joined forces to do Field Day. It was smaller than Field Days we’ve done in the past—we were 2A this year instead of 4A or 5A—but it was a lot of fun, nonetheless.

Our club banner hanging on the public information tent at the entrance to our Field Day site.

Our club banner hanging on the public information tent at the entrance to our Field Day site.

For a while there, it almost looked as though Field Day wasn’t going to get off the ground. One of the reasons was that we had to find a new venue. For some reason, which I never quite understood, and to be honest, didn’t want to get too involved in, our old venue didn’t want us back.

An alternate site was suggested, and seemed like a good idea, until someone pointed out the controversial nature of the conservative political views of the owner, the local chapter of a national nonprofit organization. After some heated debate on the club mailing list, this choice was nixed.

Finally, someone suggested the Ann Arbor Airport. In addition to hangars and runways for the local general aviation crowd, it’s home to a couple of soccer fields, and since the soccer season is over here, they were available for our use.

The administrators were at first somewhat hesitant to give their permission, thinking that our operations might cause interference to the airport’s radio communications. Dave, N8SBE, this year’s Field Day coordinator, allayed their fears, however, by working with their technical people. They sent Dave a spreadsheet that they use for evaluating the possibility that a radio system will cause interference to their radio system.

Dave took that spreadsheet, and by plugging in numbers from the data sheets of the radios that we were planning to use and making some assumptions regarding the antenna layouts, he was able to show them that interference wasn’t going to be a problem. He even went so far as to make some spurious emission measurements on the IC-746PRO that we used for the GOTA station. Overall, it was quite an interesting exercise, worthy of its own blog post.

2A, plus GOTA
We operated 2A, with one SSB station, one CW station, and the GOTA station. Going to 2A, instead of trying to operate 4A, meant that we could man each of the stations continuously for the entire 24 hours.

The CW was captained by Tim KT8K. The other operators included Stuart W8SRC, Arun W8ARU, and yours truly. I’m not sure if we set a club record or not, but we easily surpassed 1,000 QSOs.

The SSB station captain was Jim, WD8RWI. I won’t try to list all of the operators that worked that station, but stalwarts included Jameson, KD8PIJ, our lone University of Michigan ARC participant and Mark, W8FSA. I think that they made over 600 QSOs this year.

That's me on the right coaching the first of eight newcomers in the GOTA station.

That’s me on the right coaching the first of eight newcomers in the GOTA station.
Photo: Dinesh, AB3DC.

I captained the GOTA station. While we only managed about 30 QSOs this year, I was quite happy with the turnout. I was able to get eight newbies on the air, including one fellow who showed up Sunday morning. After making a couple of contacts, he said that he had to try to get his son to come out and try it.

It took some cajoling, but eventually he did. The son wasn’t quite so thrilled as the father, though, once he got in front of the radio, and he shortly took off to walk their dog. The father stuck with it right up until 2 pm. I even got him to call CQ FD and run a frequency. We weren’t real successful doing this, but we did manage to get one station to reply to our CQ.

Burgers and hotdogs
The food was handled this year by John, WA8TON. He did a fine job, serving up hot dogs and hamburgers for lunch and dinners and bagels, donuts and coffee for breakfast on Sunday. For dinner on Saturday, we asked everyone to bring a salad or dessert, and that worked out pretty well, too. Certainly no one left hungry.

I’ve left out a lot, but there aren’t really any stories that stand out like in year’s past. We didn’t get a hotshot kid CW operator to show up like we did five years ago, nor did I run over any laptops like I did seven years ago. It was just a lot of fun.

Field Day media hits

Here are some Field Day “media hits,” i.e. coverage of Field Day from different media around the country as reported on the ARRL Public Relations mailing list.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Radio operators can be a big help in a serious emergency. This weekend, HAM radio operators showed just how much of an impact they can have when disaster strikes. The Austin Amateur Radio club held a field day this weekend at the Central Texas American Red Cross, training people how to get emergency messages out when cell phones are down and power is out.

WISCONSIN RAPIDS (WSAW) Wisconsin Rapids HAMS are ready to prove, once again, they’re prepared for a national emergency. Today, the Amateur Radio Relay League sponsored the annual U.S. and Canada Amateur Radio Field Day Contest.

When all else fails, we rely on ham radio. “Amateur radio operators don’t need an infrastructure because we have antennas,” said Mary Joseph, a member of the Ak-Sar-Ben Amateur Radio Club. “If everyone picks up the phone at the same time, the cell towers are overwhelmed and you cannot communicate, but we can.” Joseph and her husband, Pat, were among about 25 club members participating Sunday in the annual American Radio Relay League Field Day. They joined thousands of ham radio enthusiasts all across North America in attempting to contact as many other operators as possible.