2014 Tech study guide: station setup

There were two question changes in this section. Question T4A02 was changed from a question about headphones to a question about using computers in the shack. Question T4A05 was changed from a question about band-reject filters to one about using an SWR meter. I’ve added that question to the appropriate section…Dan

When setting up an amateur radio station, choosing the radio itself is the most important consideration, but you must also choose a wide range of accessories, such as power supplies and microphones. In addition, how you set up the station is important for it to operate efficiently.

One accessory that you’ll definitely need is a power supply to provide the DC voltage and current that your radio needs. A good reason to use a regulated power supply for communications equipment is that it prevents voltage fluctuations from reaching sensitive circuits. (T4A03) When choosing a supply, check the voltage and current ratings of the supply and be sure to choose one capable of supplying a high enough voltage and enough current to power your radio.

If you are going to operate with one of the voice modes, you’ll need a microphone. When considering the microphone connectors on amateur transceivers, note that some connectors include push-to-talk and voltages for powering the microphone. (T4A01)

A computer has become a very common accessory in an amateur radio “shack.” All of these choices are correct when talking about how a computer be used as part of an amateur radio station (T4A02):

  • For logging contacts and contact information
  • For sending and/or receiving CW
  • generating and decoding digital signals

If you plan to operate packet radio, you will need a computer and a terminal controller, or TNC, in addition to the radio. A terminal node controller would be connected between a transceiver and computer in a packet radio station. (T4A06) The TNC converts the ones and zeroes sent by the computer into tones sent over the air.

A more modern way to operate digital modes, such as RTTY or PSK-31, is to use a computer equipped with a sound card. When conducting digital communications using a computer, the sound card provides audio to the microphone input and converts received audio to digital form. (T4A07) The sound card may be connected directly to the radio, but it’s usually better to connect it through a device that isolates the radio from the computer. This prevents ground loops from causing the signal to be noisy.

Audio and power supply cables in a amateur radio station sometimes pick up stray RF. At minimum, this RF can cause the audio to be noisy. At worst, it can cause a radio or accessory to malfunction. To reduce RF current flowing on the shield of an audio cable (or in a power supply cable), you would use a ferrite choke. (T4A09)

Modern radio equipment is very well-designed, and harmonic radiation is rarely a problem these days. Even so, there may be times when it does become a problem, and you’ll have to take steps to attenuate the harmonics. To reduce harmonic emissions, a filter must be installed between the transmitter and the antenna. (T4A04)

Good grounding techniques can help you avoid interference problems. When grounding your equipment, you should connect the various pieces of equipment to a single point, keep leads short, and use a heavy conductor to connect to ground. Flat strap is the type of conductor that is best to use for RF grounding. (T4A08)

If you plan to install a radio in your car and operate mobile, you have a different set of challenges. One is connecting the radio to the car’s power system. Some amateurs connect their radio with a cigarette lighter plug, but this plug is not designed for high currents. Instead, a mobile transceiver’s power negative connection should be made at the battery or engine block ground strap. (T4A11) The positive connection can also be made at the battery or through an unused position of the vehicle’s fuse block.

Another challenge is noise generated by the car itself. One thing that could be happening if another operator reports a variable high-pitched whine on the audio from your mobile transmitter is that noise on the vehicle’s electrical system is being transmitted along with your speech audio. (T4A12)

The alternator is often the culprit.  The alternator is the source of a high-pitched whine that varies with engine speed in a mobile transceiver’s receive audio. (T4A10) Should this be a problem, there are filters that you can install to mitigate the alternator whine. One thing that would reduce ignition interference to a receiver is to turn on the noise blanker. (T4B05)

From my Twitter feed: deep-space signals, making PCBs, SWL skeds

VoiceOfHamRadio's avatarVoice of Ham Radio @VoiceOfHamRadio
Radio Amateurs Receive Rosetta Spacecraft Signals from Deep Space zite.to/1nxMq2L via @Zite

 

hackaday's avatar

hackaday @hackaday
New post: [CNLohr] Demos His Photoetch PCB Process bit.ly/1a8TQpm

 

QSLRptMT's avatarGayle Van Horn @QSLRptMT
Still looking for winter shortwave schedules to compliment your listening ? Details at: mt-shortwave.blogspot.com

2014 Tech study guide: modulation modes, signal bandwidth

The only change to this section i s that the answer to question T8A09 was changed from “between 5 and 10 kHz” to “between 10 and 15 kHz.”

When you get your Technician license, chances are FM is the type of modulation that you’ll use first. Frequency modulation, or FM, is the type of modulation most commonly used for VHF and UHF voice repeaters. (T8A04) FM is also the type of modulation most commonly used for VHF packet radio transmissions. (T8A02)

Single sideband, or SSB, is the type of voice modulation most often used for long-distance or weak signal contacts on the VHF and UHF bands. (T8A03) Single sideband is a form of amplitude modulation. (T8A01) A single-sideband signal may be upper- or lower-sideband. Upper sideband is normally used for 10 meter HF, VHF and UHF single-sideband communications. (T8A06)

The primary advantage of single sideband over FM for voice transmissions is that SSB signals have narrower bandwidth. (T8A07) The approximate bandwidth of a single sideband voice signal is 3 kHz. (T8A08) The approximate bandwidth of a VHF repeater FM phone signal is between 10 and 15 kHz. (T8A09)

Morse Code, or CW, is the type of emission that has the narrowest bandwidth. (T8A05) The approximate maximum bandwidth required to transmit a CW signal is 150 Hz. (T8A11) International Morse is the code used when sending CW in the amateur bands. (T8D09) All of these choices are correct when talking about instruments used to transmit CW in the amateur bands (T8D10):

  • Straight Key
  • Electronic Keyer
  • Computer Keyboard

Some modes have very wide bandwidths. The typical bandwidth of analog fast-scan TV transmissions on the 70 cm band, for example, is about 6 MHz. (T8A10) The type of transmission indicated by the term NTSC is an analog fast scan color TV signal. (T8D04)

What’s up at KB6NU? Tech class, W1AW/x

On Saturday, I taught yet another one-day Tech class. It was supposed to be the biggest one yet. I generally like to limit the number of students to 20, so that the test session doesn’t last forever, but the response was so good that I enrolled 22, and then put several on a waiting list.

22 signed up for Saturday's one-day Tech class, but due to the weather, six were unable to attend.

22 signed up for Saturday’s one-day Tech class, but due to the weather, six were unable to attend.

Unfortunately, the weather here, like in many parts of the Midwest has just been crazy, and Friday night was no exception. We got about three or four inches of snow overnight, and six of the students were unable to make it. A couple of them tried, but I-94, the freeway they needed to take to get to Ann Arbor was closed in a couple of spots due to accidents. They got stuck in all that traffic.

One thing you might notice about this class is that the average age of the students is lower than the average age of the ham population. Most of the students in this class were in their 20s or 30s. Some were from the local hacker community. Some were college students. Who says that amateur radio doesn’t appeal to younger people?

There was a group of five or six guys who were all friends. One of their buddies who already had his ham license paid for all five of them. That was pretty cool.

When all was said and done, fifteen of the sixteen who attended passed the test. And, the one who failed missed it by only one question. So, overall, a pretty successful class this time.

After the test, three of the students went up to the shack at the museum to take pictures. Ovide, K8EV, was up there operating the station, and put them on the air. I caught up with them as we all were leaving, and they were all pretty geeked about making their first HF contact.

From left to right, the three VEs at Saturday's Tech class were George, K9TRV; Jeff, W8SGZ; and Mark, W8FSA. Thanks, guys!

From left to right, the three VEs at Saturday’s Tech class were George, K9TRV; Jeff, W8SGZ; and Mark, W8FSA. Thanks, guys!

11 Qs on a snowy Sunday

Sunday’s weather was not much better. That made it a good day to stay indoors and operate my own station. I made 11 contacts overall on Sunday, including:

  • a couple of South Americans on 10m,
  • W1AW/2 and W1AW/5, and
  • a couple more DX contacts on 40m in the evening.

The W1AW contacts were kind of amusing. I heard W1AW/2 calling CQ on 10108 kHz, listening up. Except that he wasn’t listening up. He was S9 here in Michigan, so I knew that he should be able to hear me, but after several CQs, it was apparent that he wasn’t hearing anyone. So, guessing that he wasn’t really listening up, I called him on the transmit frequency, and sure enough, he came back to me. He seemed a bit embarrassed that he had forgotten to turn on split operation.

A bit later, I ran into W1AW/5 on 30m and worked him. After tuning around a bit after that contact, I switched to 40m, and guess who was my first contact on 40? W1AW/5, of course! They’re in the log right next to one another.

Operating Notes: SKN, LOTW, 10m

Here are a few comments on my latest operations:

Bunnel #9

I used a Bunnel #9 key like this one on Straight Key Night.

SKN. I worked SKN this year, making eight contacts overall. I used my Bunnel #9 key the whole time. I was going to pull out the J37 with leg clamp, but then remembered how much it hurt, so passed on it.

The eight contacts include a couple of Europeans on 10m: F6HLQ and IZ0CHC. I’m not sure that they were really working SKN, but I’m going to count them. F6HLQ was using a straight key for sure.

My first contact was K1PUB, a station whose callsign spells a word. This is not the first time that I’ve worked him, but it doesn’t look like I requested a QSL from him the previous two times.

New LOTW stats. Prompted by a Tweet by @jilly, who gave her LOTW stats, I decided to upload my QSOs. I hadn’t uploaded them since 11/18/13, and had nearly 300 to upload. The upload and QSL processing went very fast.

I now have 14, 234 QSOs records and 2,735 QSL records for a QSL percentage of 19.2%. My overall DXCC count is 132, with 130 on CW. The band that I’m closest to working 100 countries on is 30m, where I have 98 countries confirmed. I’m thinking that once I hit 100 on 30m, I’ll apply for the DXCC award.

10 meters. 10m has been in great shape lately. The band was in good shape for the 10m contest a couple of weeks ago, and yesterday morning it was gangbusters to Europe, too.

Later in the day, it was open to South America. I copied an LU calling CQ, but unfortunately he couldn’t hear me. A little later, I worked CX1JJ, a very good YL operator in Uruguay.

Amateur radio in the news: Hong Kong, Wales, young hams, and more

Lots of ham radio items in the news lately, so this post is longer than usual….Dan

hong-kong-amateurs

Hong Kong’s ham radio enthusiasts lend a helping hand. More than just a hobby and a way to socialise, amateur radio provides vital communications to ensure the safe running of Hong Kong’s charity events.

Gwent radio hams ready to help in emergency. They are helping to guard the public in the event of a disaster, but you may not have even heard of them. Gwent’s RAYNET group – a bunch of licensed amateur radio enthusiasts who help the emergency services in the event of a communications meltdown – is part of a national organisation celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.

Lake amateur radio operator gets top marks. Lake County amateur radio operators, often called hams, brought home the bacon in a national Field Day event held earlier this year, it was announced Thursday.

young-hamsYoung hams make the grade.  Surrounded by radio gear, Gene Clark sat in his chair and listened intently as his two sixth grade proteges were interviewed by a reporter recently. Dalton Duggers, 11, and Jordan Sirmans, 12, recently earned their radio technician’s licenses, making them two of the youngest licensed ham radio operators in Georgia. The two friends are are members of the Albany Amateur Radio Club (AARC) and are in the Gifted Program at Merry Acres Middle School.

Okanogan Amateur Radio Club recognizes first concrete pouring at Grand Coulee Dam. Dec. 6th, 1935, was the first “ceremonious pour” of concrete at Grand Coulee Dam. It was the first of a total of 12 million yards, which is enough to pour a sidewalk around the world at the equator twice. The Okanogan County Amateur Radio Club W7ORC sponsored a special event to celebrate the anniversary of the that pouring. Club members used their home radio stations, commonly referred to as “HAM SHACKS,” starting at 4 p.m. Dec 6, and ended at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec 8.

Family saved by ham radio and Good Samaritan after car accident. On a cold, bitter night earlier this month, the actions of a Good Samaritan and a ham radio probably saved the lives of a family. It began at about 7 p.m. Dec. 6 when Cody Fowler and his wife, Tina, and their two sons, Jacob and Timmy, were on their way home from Pueblo. Because of the bitter cold temperatures and the icy roads, Cody turned around and drove back down the road, where he discovered that a red SUV had slid off into a ditch. The five people in the car had climbed back onto the road….

Take a break from DXing and contests with these two operating events

I'll be using a Bunnel #9 key like this one on Straight Key Night.

I’ll be using a Bunnel #9 key like this one on Straight Key Night.

There are two operating events coming up in the next couple of weeks that I’d like to suggest that you participate in – Straight Key Night (January 1) and Kid’s Day (January 5). Straight Key Night, or SKN, runs from 0000Z – 2359Z on January 1. First started to promote the use of straight keys, its charter has been expanded to include the use of bugs and vintage radio gear.

As you probably know, I’m not a big fan of straight keys, but in the spirit of the day, I’ll be using one on January 1, probably my Bunnel Nr. 9, shown at right. When I purchased it, it did not have a knob, but thanks to the machining skills of Lake, AL7N, it’s now back in service. There’s not much on the Internet about this key, but the Bunnell Company history page notes that the #9 key was made by several different companies.

I like using it more than any other straight key that I own. It has a nice light feel to it.

Kid’s Day
The winter version of Kids Day, sponsored by the ARRL and The Boring (Oregon) Amateur Radio Club (which, oddly enough, doesn’t seem to have a website), will be Sunday, January 5, from 1800 to 2359 UTC. The suggested HF frequencies are 28.350 to 28.400 MHz, 24.960 to 24.980 MHz, 21.360 to 21.400 MHz, 18.140 to 18.145 MHz, 14.270 to 14.300 MHz, 7.270 to 7.290 MHz, and 3.740 to 3.940 MHz. Of course, you can operate the repeaters or even EchoLink, whatever it takes to give kids a taste of amateur radio.

I will, of course, be operating this event from WA2HOM, our club station at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. We’ll probably operate mostly on 20m phone, but you can look for us via EchoLink, too, via W8UM-R, the University of Michigan Amateur Radio Club’s repeater.

We’d be happy to set up a sked with you, if you’d like. E-mail me and we can arrange this. Unfortunately, we will only be operating until 2200Z, as that’s when the museum closes.

From my Twitter feed: bad soldering, tequila,

hackaday's avatarhackaday @hackaday
New post: Impersonating FBI Agents And People Who Can Solder bit.ly/JQRKil

2e0sql's avatarPeter Goodhall @2e0sql
Interesting talk on using NodeJS and websockets within Amateur Radio specially when using hardware.- youtu.be/r0svcHERWrM #hamr

NS0D's avatarPete NSØD @NS0D
The #Arrl Centennial QSO party starts 1-Jan-2014 – should be a real marathon with a few different awards available arrl.org/centennial-qso…

This isn’t related to ham radio, but I do like a nip of tequila from time time….Dan

Gizmodo's avatarGizmodo @Gizmodo
How tequila geniuses made the best-tasting spirit I’ve ever had: gizmo.do/qo176k0 pic.twitter.com/XAoQTSrcCz

Say “HI” to Juno recap

On October 9, thousands of amateurs said “HI to Juno. Now, there are stories about the event on websites all over. I think the best is this video produced by NASA:

AMSAT-UK also ran a story about Say HI to Juno. I like this story because it includes a waterfall display of the 10m band showing all the signals.

Physics.Org ran the story, “Juno spacecraft hears amateur radio operators say ‘Hi.’”  This story features a photo of a smiling Tony Rogers, the president of the University of Iowa ham radio club, as he mans the equipment used to send the message to the Juno spacecraft.

 

10m Contest log analyzed

So, this weekend, I played around in the ARRL 10m Contest. Like most contests I enter, I didn’t try to compete seriously, but it was fun. It all started on Friday night when one of the people I follow on Twitter tweeted, “Getting ready for the 10m contest.” I thought to myself, “Hey…I haven’t hooked up the 10m loop for ages.”

I tweeted back, “Good idea. Think I’ll head outside and connect up the 10m loop.”

The contest started at 0000Z, but I didn’t get on until 0126Z. Since it gets dark here about 2230Z, I didn’t think that I’d hear much. I surprised myself, though, I made 11 contacts in about 40 minutes. The signals weren’t strong, but strong enough. The stations I worked were all domestic: OH, MI, NJ, VA, MA, WI, and TX.

I really wasn’t planning to operate much the next day, but it was snowing like crazy outside, and Dave, N8SBE, sent out an e-mail to our club’s mailing list that the band was open. So, after making some buttermilk pancakes from scratch for the XYL and me, I headed back down to the shack at about 1400Z.

Europe was booming in, and I racked up a bunch of countries, including at least one (Northern Ireland) that I hadn’t worked before. Also, since the loop is directional north and south in the haphazard way that I threw it up, I worked a couple of South American and Caribbean stations.

I operated until about 1800Z. One thing that I found interesting is the way the propagation changed. Early in the morning, the Europeans were strong. As the day wore on, they disappeared, but the West Coast stations took their place. You could almost feel how the ionosphere was changing by the stations being worked.

Sunday morning was much the same, except that I got on an hour later and had already worked many of the stations I was hearing. Nevertheless, I managed to work several new multipliers, including NS,  Bermuda, Guernsey, and the Dominican Republic.

Adding those multipliers really boosted my score, but my attention was flagging. I decided that I would quit at noon or when I reached 50,000 points, whichever came first. At 11:55 am (1655Z), I had 49,128 points (178 Qs x 4 points/Q x 69 multipliers). I was just about to give up when I  worked VY2TT at 1658Z. That put me over the top. I finished with 50,120 points (179 Qs x 4 points/Q x 70 mults).

I just uploaded my log to QScope, It reports that I operated for 7  hours, 26 minutes, yielding an overall QSO rate of 24.08 Qs/hr. My best rate for a 10-minute period was 48/hr on Saturday morning. Not terrific, but I had a good time doing it.