From my Twitter feed: Antique wireless, Nuclear Summit special event

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2014 Tech study guide: radio direction finding; radio control; contests; linking over the Internet; grid locators

For some odd reason, the question pool committee deleted the question about special event station callsigns and replaced it with another question about IRLP. Not only that, they added a few more questions about IRLP to this section. I think they should have kept the question about special events and eliminated the gateway question (T8C11) instead…Dan

There are many different ways to have fun with amateur radio. Contesting, for example, is a popular operating activity that involves contacting as many stations as possible during a specified period of time. (T8C03) When contacting another station in a radio contest, a good procedure is to send only the minimum information needed for proper identification and the contest exchange. (T8C04)

In VHF/UHF contests, stations often send each other their grid locators. A grid locator is a letter-number designator assigned to a geographic location. (T8C05)

One fun activity that is very practical is radio direction finding. You would use radio direction finding equipment and skills to participate in a hidden transmitter hunt, sometimes called a “fox hunt.” In addition to participating in this kind of contest, radio direction finding is one of the methods used to locate sources of noise interference or jamming. (T8C01) A directional antenna would be useful for a hidden transmitter hunt. (T8C02)

Some amateurs get licensed because they like to build and operate radio-controlled models, including boats, planes, and automobiles. The maximum power allowed when transmitting telecommand signals to radio controlled models is 1 watt. (T8C07) In place of on-air station identification when sending signals to a radio control model using amateur frequencies, a label indicating the licensee’s name, call sign and address must be affixed to the transmitter.(T8C08)

If the only radios that you have are VHF or UHF radios, you might want to look into EchoLink and the Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP). The Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP) is a technique to connect amateur radio systems, such as repeaters, via the Internet using Voice Over Internet Protocol. (T8C13) Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP),  as used in amateur radio, is a method of delivering voice communications over the Internet using digital techniques. (T8C12)

Stations that connect to EchoLink or IRLP are called nodes. One way to obtain a list of active nodes that use VoIP is from a repeater directory. (T8C09) You access an IRLP node by using DTMF signals. (T8C06) To select a specific IRLP node when using a portable transceiver, use the keypad to transmit the IRLP node ID. (T8C10)

Sometimes nodes are also called gateways. A gateway is the name given to an amateur radio station that is used to connect other amateur stations to the Internet. (T8C11)

2014 Tech study guide: satellite operation

In this section, one question was dropped and another about Keplerian elements was added…Dan

As a Technician Class licensee, you can make contacts via amateur radio satellites. Any amateur whose license privileges allow them to transmit on the satellite uplink frequency may be the control operator of a station communicating through an amateur satellite or space station. (T8B01)

Amateur satellites are basically repeaters in space. As such they have an uplink frequency, which is the frequency on which you transmit and the satellite receives, and a downlink frequency, on which the satellite transmits and you receive. As with other transmissions, the minimum amount of power needed to complete the contact should be used on the uplink frequency of an amateur satellite or space station. (T8B02)

Often, the uplink frequency and downlink frequency are in different amateur bands. For example, when a satellite is operating in “mode U/V,” the satellite uplink is in the 70 cm band and the downlink is in the 2 meter band. (T8B08)

The International Space Station often has amateur radio operators on board. Any amateur holding a Technician or higher class license may make contact with an amateur station on the International Space Station using 2 meter and 70 cm band amateur radio frequencies. (T8B04) Like most amateur satellites, the Space Station is in low earth orbit. When used to describe an amateur satellite, the initials LEO means that the satellite is in a Low Earth Orbit. (T8B10)

Amateur satellites are often equipped with beacons. A satellite beacon is a transmission from a space station that contains information about a satellite. (T8B05) FM Packet is a commonly used method of sending signals to and from a digital satellite. (T8B11)

How do you know when you are able to communicate via an amateur satellite? A satellite tracking program can be used to determine the time period during which an amateur satellite or space station can be accessed. (T8B03) The Keplerian elements are inputs to a satellite tracking program. (T8B06)

Two problems that you must deal with when communicating via satellite is Doppler shift and spin fading. Doppler shift is an observed change in signal frequency caused by relative motion between the satellite and the earth station. (T8B07) Rotation of the satellite and its antennas causes “spin fading” of satellite signals. (T8B09)

2014 Tech study guide: operating procedures

I’m going to lump several sections into this one post. Several questions were added and several updated, but nothing really major was changed….Dan

FM Operation 

Once they get their licenses, most Technicians purchase a VHF/UHF FM transceiver. This type of radio allows them to use repeaters and participate in public-service events.

To use repeaters, you need to know how to set up your radio. Repeaters receive on one frequency and transmit on another. You program your radio so that it receives on the repeater’s transmit frequency and transmits on the repeater’s receive frequency.

The difference between the transmit frequency and receive frequency is called the repeater frequency offset. Plus or minus 600 kHz is the most common repeater frequency offset in the 2 meter band. (T2A01) Plus or minus 5 MHz is a common repeater frequency offset in the 70 cm band. (T2A03)

Repeater operation is called duplex operation because you’re transmitting and receiving on two different frequencies. When the stations can communicate directly without using a repeater, you should consider communicating via simplex rather than a repeater. (T2B12) Simplex communication is the term used to describe an amateur station that is transmitting and receiving on the same frequency. (T2B01)

To help amateurs operating simplex finding one another, frequencies on each band have been set aside as “national calling frequencies.” 446.000 MHz is the national calling frequency for FM simplex operations in the 70 cm band. (T2A02) 146.52 MHz is the national calling frequency for FM simplex operation in the 2 m band.

Because repeaters often operate in environments where there is a lot of interference they are programmed not to operate unless the station they are receiving is also transmitting a sub- audible tone of a specific frequency. These tones are sometimes called PL (short for “private line”) tones or CTCSS tones. CTCSS is the term used to describe the use of a sub-audible tone transmitted with normal voice audio to open the squelch of a receiver. (T2B02) If your radio has not been programmed to transmit the proper sub-audible tone when you transmit, the repeater will not repeat your transmission.

All of these choices are correct when talking about common problems that might cause you to be able to hear but not access a repeater even when transmitting with the proper offset: (T2B04)

• The repeater receiver requires audio tone burst for access
• The repeater receiver requires a CTCSS tone for  access
• The repeater receiver may require a DCS tone sequence for access

One of the controls on a VHF/UHF transceiver is the squelch control. Carrier squelch is the term that describes the muting of receiver audio controlled solely by the presence or absence of an RF signal. (T2B03) You can set this control so that you only get an audio output when receiving a signal.

Microphone gain is also an important control. The reason for this is that the amplitude of the modulating signal determines the amount of deviation of an FM signal. (T2B05) When the deviation of an FM transmitter is increased, its signal occupies more bandwidth. (T2B06) One thing that could cause your FM signal to interfere with stations on nearby frequencies is that you have set your microphone gain too high, causing over-deviation. (T2B07)

In addition to knowing how to set the controls of your radio, you need to know the protocol for making contacts. First, when using a repeater, it is rare to hear stations calling CQ. In place of “CQ,” say your call sign to indicate that you are listening on a repeater. (T2A09) An appropriate way to call another station on a repeater if you know the other station’s call sign is to say the station’s call sign then identify with your call sign. (T2A04)

HF Operation

On the HF bands, when you want to contact another station, you “call CQ.” That is to say, you would say something like, “CQ CQ CQ. This is KB6NU.” The meaning of the procedural signal “CQ” is calling any station. (T2A08) All of these choices are correct when choosing an operating frequency for calling CQ (T2A12):

  • Listen first to be sure that no one else is using the frequency
  • Ask if the frequency is in use
  • Make sure you are in your assigned band

When responding to a call of CQ, you should transmit the other station’s call sign followed by your call sign. (T2A05) For example, if W8JNZ heard my call and wanted to talk to me, he would reply, “KB6NU this is W8JNZ. Over.” Then, I would return the call, and our contact would begin.

It’s important to always identify your station, even when only performing tests. An amateur operator must properly identify the transmitting station when making on-air transmissions to test equipment or antennas. (T2A06) When making a test transmission, station identification is required at least every ten minutes during the test and at the end. (T2A07)

As a technician, you will be able to operate Morse Code on certain portions of the 80 m, 40 m, 15 m, and 10 m bands. To shorten the number of characters sent during a CW contact, amateurs often use three-letter combinations called Q-signals. QRM is the “Q” signal used to indicate that you are receiving interference from other stations. (T2B10) The “Q” signal used to indicate that you are changing frequency is QSY. (T2B11)

General Guidelines

FCC rules specify broadly where amateur radio operators have operating privileges, but are not very detailed. Band plans take this one step further, suggesting where amateurs should use certain modes. While consulting a band plan before operating is a good idea, realize that a band plan is a voluntary guideline for using different modes or activities within an amateur band. (T2A10)

Regarding power levels used in the amateur bands under normal, non-distress circumstances, the FCC rules state that, while not exceeding the maximum power permitted on a given band, use the minimum power necessary to carry out the desired communication. (T2A11) So, while you are authorized to use up to 1,500 W output power on VHF and above (200W on HF), you really should only use that much power when you really need it.

The basics of good operation include keeping your signals clean and avoid interference to other stations. When two stations transmitting on the same frequency interfere with each other, common courtesy should prevail, but no one has absolute right to an amateur frequency. (T2B08)

When identifying your station when using phone, use of a phonetic alphabet is encouraged by the FCC. (T2B09) Most hams around the world understand and use the NATO, or ITU phonetic alphabet. Learn it and use it.

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….