From my Twitter feed: digital TV, vintage computers, 10 GHz

ke9v's avatarJeff Davis @ke9v
DATV-Express digital-ATV project flip.it/GUG5j #hamradio

 

Apple1computer's avatarDavid Larsen KK4WW @Apple1computer
RT @computerhobby: #Vintage #Computers Peek inside the Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum warehouse ow.ly/vAczx #Floyd_VA

I used to work for Jon Titus, one of the founders and owners of the company that published the Bugbooks. Jon’s a ham, too. His call is KZ1G.

 

arrl's avatar

ARRL @arrl
ARRL Asks FCC to Dismiss “Fatally Flawed” Petition for Rule Making Affecting 10 GHz: The ARRL has told the FCC… tinyurl.com/n3948yc

From my Twitter feed: Save the Easter bunny, loop antenna, your own satellite

 

o0ToTOm0o's avatarE22ICQ @o0ToTOm0o
Rescue the Easter Bunny – Ham Radio Fox Hunting for Beginners. youtu.be/tQ8gNHAFXXY fb.me/20HNd9HQh

 

kritikal's avatarAndrew Herron, W8FI@kritikal
Frank’s N4SPP Ham Radio home-built SM0VPO 80 40 20 meters compact spiral loop antenna nonstopsystems.com/radio/frank_ra… via @Delicious

 

UlisK3LU's avatarUlis K3LU @UlisK3LU
Send your own satellite into space for $1000 – smh.com.au/world/science/… via @smh

From my Twitter feed: weather radio, drones, DMR

TAUTIC's avatarJayson Tautic @TAUTIC
Really cool project! “@chasxmd: Project: Si4707 Weather Radio wp.me/p3oePO-7Q

 

XE2K's avatarJ.Héctor García XE2K @XE2K
After so many Drones in the news, Why not an 160m Vertical wire array supported by Drones ? can be the future?

 

VA3XPR's avatarVA3XPR Repeater @VA3XPR
Teach your local radio club all about Digital Mobile Radio at their next mtg. #hamr #hamradio ow.ly/tkdCb pic.twitter.com/v2cDxOoYdz

From my Twitter feed: bypass caps, VHF propagation, SMD rework

dangerousproto's avatarDangerous Prototypes @dangerousproto
app note: properties and application of bypass capacitors goo.gl/YFpqLx

georgesmartuk's avatarGeorge Smart @georgesmartuk
Not sure if everyone has seen @ng0e‘s fantastic VHF Propagation Map from #APRS data. How genius! aprs.mountainlake.k12.mn.us #hamr #hamradio #vhf

DIYEngineering's avatarDIY Engineering @DIYEngineering
app note: Rework method for surface mount MLCCs – Things you might need to know about doing SMT rework on Multi La… ow.ly/2C95Qu

Operating Notes: triple play, 2m loop, W5LJT (SK)

Here are some random recollections of recent QSOs:

Triple play!
At WA2HOM Saturday, I decided to forego the CQWW CW contest and make some phone contacts. After listening to some guys on 20m, I switched to 15m and found that it was open. Tuning around, I heard Alvaro, EA2BY working some guy on the East Coast. Now, I don’t have “BY” in my collection of QSL cards from stations whose callsigns spell words, so I hung around until he was finished with the East Cost QSO and got him in the log on the first call. He was running only 20 W, but had a four-element, 15m quad, so he had a pretty good signal.

After that QSO, I tuned around a bit more, then decided to call CQ. I called CQ three or four times before IW1ARK came back to me. That made two!

Just before I left the museum, I decided to tune around on 20m phone. That’s where I worked Bob, W0ROB, to complete the triple play. Bob and I had a great conversation about amateur radio stations in museums. He used to go to Arizona for the winter and has operated W7ASC, the station at the Arizona Science Center.

2m loop
About a week ago, I was blabbing with a couple of guys from one of my Tech classes on the W8UM repeater (145.23-, 100 Hz tone, W8UM-R on EchoLink) when Ron, NB8Q, broke in. Ron was using a 2m loop antenna that he just built. What made the remarkable is that it was inside his mobile home!  I told him that he should make a reflector, but he said that he didn’t have enough space for it in his mobile home.

W5LJT (SK)
This evening, I got some bad news. Bill, W5LJT, is now an SK.

i always enjoyed talking to Bill. He liked to talk about the Detroit Red Wings. Despite living in the Houston area, he was a long-time hockey fan, going back to his days as a student at Notre Dame in South Bend, IN. He told me that sometimes he would take a train from South Bend to Detroit to catch a Red Wings game at the Olympia Stadium.

My log says that I had 27 QSOs with Bill over the past ten years. I’m sorry that I won’t be having another one.

A quick comparison of the Baofeng UV-5RA and Wouxun KG-UVD1P

About eight months ago, I purchased a Wouxun KG-UVD1P two-band HT. Overall, I’ve been very happy with it. Last week, I purchased a Baofeng UV-5RA. Apparently, Baofeng is coming out with a new model soon, and as a result, are trying to dump these units. I bought mine for $30 from some vendor selling through Amazon, although now it looks like the cheapest price is $33.55.

Wouxun KG-UVD1PBaofeng UV-5RA

It’s been interesting to compare the two units. This is by no means an exhaustive comparison, but just a few things that hit me from playing with the Baofeng for the last couple of days:

  • Programmability. As is commonly noted, the Wouxun is much more easily programmed than the Baofeng. It was relatively easy for me to figure out how to program the memory channels of the Wouxun. So much so that I decided not to purchase the programming cable. I still have not been able to program the memory in the Baofeng. Unlike the Wouxun, you have to separately program the transmit frequency and the receive frequency. I still have not mastered this procedure.
  • User documentation. The user documentation for the Wouxun is much better than the documentation for the Baofeng. The Wouxun comes with both a user manual and a quick reference card. The Baofeng come with a very thin manual that doesn’t seem to include instructions on how to program repeater frequencies into the memory channels.
  • Voice. Both radios can be programmed to announce, in either English or Chinese, things like operating mode and memory channel. The Baofeng voice sounds much more like a computer generated voice. The Wouxun English voice has a notable Chinese accent.
  • Antenna. Since I purchased it, I’ve only been using the  antenna that was supplied with the Wouxun. It seems to perform pretty well. I’m not so impressed with the Baofeng antenna. Not only does it not do a good a job as the Wouxun, it actually gets a little warm when I transmit on high power. I’m going to have to replace it.

All things considered, I’ve decided to do one of two things with the Baofeng. I’m either going to pass it on to one of my Tech class students or hack it like KK6BWA has done. I think that either would be a worthwhile thing.

Tropospheric propagation extends VHF/UHF signals

When I’m down at the Hands-On Museum, talking to the visitors there, I frequently get asked if the weather affects radio propagation. I normally respond that the weather has no effect on propagation at all. That’s true, of course, for HF radio propagation, but I now know that’s most definitely not true for VHF, UHF, and even microwave propagation.

Above 30 MHz, the troposphere, the lowest layer of the Earth’s atmosphere refracts and scatters radio waves. This effect occurs every day and can allow amateurs to make contacts of up to 500 miles, although typically the distance is about half that.

Atmosphere

Normally, air temperatures are warmest near the Earth’s surface and decrease as you go up. Sometimes, though, weather conditions are such that a temperature inversion forms and the atmospheric temperature increase with altitude. When this occurs, a phenomenon called ducting can take place. The duct can act like a waveguide and propagate radio waves for long distances with relatively low losses. If a radio wave of the right frequency enters such a duct, it can propagate up to 900 miles. Sometimes these ducts can exist for days.

For more information on tropospheric scattering, you can read up on it in the ARRL Handbook, or go to the Web page, “Tropospheric DX Modes.” On that website, you’ll also find tropospheric ducting forecasts produced from weather forecasts.

Being an HF guy, I blew off learning about this phenomena. Even when teaching my Tech classes, I wouldn’t attempt to discuss this much. Instead, I’d just recite the answers to the questions and plead ignorance. Now that I understand this more—thanks to a great presentation by Russ, KB8U, at our club meeting on Wednesday—I actually find it kind of interesting.

As if on cue, yesterday while I was fiddling around with the Baofeng UV-5RA that I just purchased (more on that later), I heard a couple of guys from Buffalo, NY access the W8UM repeater EchoLink node. They’d access the link, then identify every minute or so. I thought that was kind of odd, so I called one of them directly. As it turns out, what they were doing is keying repeaters in areas where they thought a ducting path to Buffalo might exist. They would key the repeater via EchoLink and then listen for the repeater with their radios. They weren’t successful with W8UM, but they had been successful with other repeaters that they’d accessed. Very cool stuff.

Lack of standardization holding back amateur digital communications

Via Twitter, I recently found out that Yaesu had introduced a new digital communication system—called System Fusion—at the ARRL/TAPR Digital Communications Conference in Seattle, WA. When I asked KE9V, the guy who posted this announcement to Twitter whether or not Fusion was going to be more than a niche product, he replied, “I think it’s a long-shot at best. ICOM has dumped a lot of cash in D-STAR and now years later it’s just catching on. Tough road.”

Compounding the fact that Yaesu is late to the party is the fact that the radios are probably going to cost an arm and a leg, just like the D-STAR radios. Call me an old fart—and I have been called that and worse—but I just don’t see where the digital features are worth the extra bucks. (I would be happy to be convinced otherwise, though. Please feel free to comment on this below.)

Wouldn’t it have been nice if Yaesu and Icom, and maybe even Kenwood, had gotten together and developed a digital communication standard that both companies could support? Not only would have it made it more palatable to invest in such a radio, I bet those radios and repeaters would cost less than the current D-STAR and Fusion offerings. That’s just what happens when companies adopt standards.

As Bob, K0NR, tweeted, “File this under ‘missed opportunity.’” I agree.

p.s. I wanted to include a picture of the system, but the Yaesu website doesn’t yet have any yet on their website. There is, however, a YouTube video of the DCC meeting at which Yaesu introduced the product.

Operating notes: public service, helping people have fun with amateur radio

Bicycle TourThis past weekend was a big weekend here at KB6NU. On Saturday, I and more than a dozen of my ham radio brethren provided communications for the Ann Arbor Bicycle Touring Society’s One Helluva Ride. There were close to 2,000 riders, and our efforts helped keeped the ride running smoothly.

Of course, it helped that the weather was just perfect. It was sunny and the high temperature for the day was in the low 80s. That helped keep the number of flat tires and exhausted riders to a minimum.

Even so, kudos to Jeff, W8SGZ, the ARROW organizer for the event. He did a great job of organizing the event.

An old friend on the repeater
Yesterday, while walking down to the museum,  I happened to catch an old friend, Chuck, K8HBI, on the ARROW repeater. I hadn’t heard Chuck on the air for quite a while, and I didn’t recognize him at first, partly because he’d changed callsigns. K8HBI used to be his father’s callsign. Chuck was K9HBI.

I don’t know if his father has passed or just let his license expire (although I suspect the former), but Chuck now has his dad’s callsign. Since I talked with him last, Chuck has retired, and now has more time for amateur radio. I was happy to offer my assistance in getting him back on the air.

As we were talking, Chuck happened to mention that his daughter had gotten a tattoo with both callsigns in honor of her father and grandfather. I suggested to Chuck that now his daughter should get her license and then the K9HBI callsign.

New friends
At the museum, I met what I hope will be a new friend – eleven year-old Alex. His mother had e-mailed me, saying that her son had expressed some interest in amateur radio and could they come down to the museum to see our station. Of course, I replied!

Alex and his mother stayed for over an hour. He asked me to make a CW contact, and he seemed at least somewhat interested in learning the code. We also made a phone contact, and he had fun chatting with Bob, N2AF, in New Jersey.

As they were about to leave, his mother leaned over and said to me, “Thanks so much. He rarely sits still for so long. He really must be interested in amateur radio.”

On the way home, I met another new friend on the ARROW repeater. After giving out a call, Fred, WA8LJL, came back to me. Fred’s not a newbie, but he said that he has been off the air for a while. He just purchased a new handheld and was in the process of programming its channels when he heard my call. I was his first contact in many years.

All of this was very enjoyable for me. While I certainly do enjoy the technology, I enjoy helping other people get into the hobby and get more out of the hobby even more.

Amateur Radio in the News; CERT, RFI, “magic band”

San Ramon CERTCERT volutneers, amateur radio operators ‘leap’ into action
The San Ramon Valley Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program along with local amateur radio operators participated in a mock communications drill on Saturday. Volunteers placed hundreds of stuffed “CERT green” frogs placed throughout the community to help simulate victims of a major disaster.

Florida resident cited for ham interference
In an unusual case, the FCC cited Ruben Lopez of Pomona Park, Fla. for harmful interference with amateur radio frequencies. He has 30 days to respond to the Enforcement Bureau or risk being fined up to $16,000 for each violation and having his equipment seized. In this case, the subject of the interference is a well pump, according to the agency.

Sweet sound of ham radio
Timaru (New Zealand) radio enthusiast George Boorer is thrilled with the national switchover to digital television. It means after 40 years he can head back out to his “radio shack” and tap into the six-metre international amateur band, otherwise known as “the magic band”.