A wake-up call for amateur radio?

Yesterday, this letter to the editor was published on the website of The Review of East Liverpool, OH:

Ham radio usage needs fixed

Dear Editor:

Attention amateur radio operators, it is easy to forget where amateur radio is and what we are here for.

First let me give you a story. A man sat in his car out of gas during freezing weather, on January the 29th of this year. He was a Ham operator and he had called several times for assistance. No answer came.

For those of you who know a little about sub-freezing weather, you can go into hypothermia in less than an hour inside a car and it takes 20 minutes outside.

This man never got any help from the radio but his son, knowing he was stranded, walked 5 miles to where he was with a small can of gas that held about a gallon-and- a-half. They made it home safely, no thanks to Amateur radio assistance.

You wonder why I didn’t help that man inside that car … well that man was me. You see, at home I monitor the local repeater, but now I have lost my faith in Ham radio.

People you need to listen up, if were not going to monitor local repeaters of call channels on a 24-hour basis, than Ham radio is not worth saving. Is this the message you want to send to those who are after our frequency?

Amateur radio is for the recognition of emergency communication first, and a privilege to use it as a hobby second -not anything other than that.

Start monitoring those frequencies, and set up a schedule for volunteers on a 24-hour basis. If we are to live up to our name, then we need to listen to those calls of emergency, with your local clubs.

This could have been a bad car accident happening in the early-morning night, with severe bleeding, or worse.

We must not fail those who need us in these times.

I do want to thank the officer who gave my son a ride back with gas, and we did get home safely.

Walter Kernaich
East Liverpool

So, is someone monitoring your repeater?

 

Next VOIP Conference, Friday, May 12, 2012 in Reno, NV

From Kent, W7AOR:

The next VOIP Topical Conference is Friday, May 4, 2012 at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno.

Since 2001 Nevada Amateur Radio Repeaters, Inc. (NARRI) sponsored the Annual VoIP IRLP Conference that is held in the Spring. Prior to 2012 the conference was held in Las Vegas as a separate event. Now it is part of EMCOMMWEST event. Each year the meeting has broadened its scope and now includes all the major VoIP systems in use by the amateur radio community, i.e., IRLP, Echo link, EchoIRLP, All Star, D-Star and DV Dongle. Report on success of the Pacific Division D-Star Emcom Net held on Western Reflector REF014B. See the program for topical speakers.

Here is a summary of details:

  •  Place: Grand Sierra Resort Conference Area
  • The conference area is in the lower level – take elevator down from main floor.
  • Date: Friday May 4, 2012
  • Time: 9 am to Noon and 1 to 4:30 pm
  • Program: elaborates on the various VoIP systems with presentations and demonstrations. See past VoIP conference session at http://www.narri.org/voip_conference.html
  • Venue: 10th Annual Topical VoIP Conference
  • Cost: $25 per person. No one allowed without payment, no exceptions.
  • RSVP: Pre-Registration is Required by April 16, 2012.
  • Registration: Not available at this time. Will begin on February 1st.
  • Hotel Rooms: www.EmcommWest.org/accommodations.html

Please direct your questions to Kent W7AOR,w7aor@narri.org or phone 702-452-4412.

It is the hopes of NV Section leadership that this combo will alternate yearly between Reno and Las Vegas. Look forward to seeing you in Reno for the 10th annual VoIP Conference and EmcommWest.

Yaesu thinks the future of ham radio is digital

A Digital Communications GuideYaesu thinks the future of ham radio is digital, and of course, that amateurs should adopt its digital mode (C4FM) over Icom’s (D-STAR). At least that’s what they say in their latest publication, A Digital Communications Guide for Amateur Radio Operators.

This publication claims several advantages for digital communications techniques, including:

  • reduced bandwidth,
  • digital data transfer,
  • better performance,
  • immunity to interference, and
  • product and system cost reduction.

It talks about some of the theory behind digital communications, explaining in relatively simple terms how the various modulation techniques work. Of course, it slams D-STAR:

Now, this method [GMSK] is considered old fashioned and no longer used by LMR [land mobile radio]. Currently, GMSK is still being used by D-STAR.

One problem I have with this publication is its implicit assumption that digital is better than analog, and that if we want to be “progressive” amateurs, we should all adopt digital communications techniques. I’m not all that convinced, and to its credit, Yaesu does concede that “analog FM can show an advantage over digital radio in some areas.”

I haven’t compared prices, but if the D-STAR radios are any indication, the prices of Yaesu’s digital radios are bound to be more expensive than the analog radios. I just don’t see that the added functionality is worth the extra cost.

What do you think? Do you think D-STAR or Yaesu’s C4FM will gain widespread acceptance anytime soon? Do you currently own a digital radio? If not, what would convince you to buy a digital radio?

 

T32C in the log at WA2HOM

I didn’t make many contacts today down at WA2HOM, but I had a great time.

First off, I had planned to put PL-259s on the feedlines for the dipole and the VHF antenna, but when I went to do so, I found that it had already been done! That was very cool.

Next, I hooked up the Icom IC-V8000 to see what repeaters we could hit. First, I tried keying up the ARROW repeater. Nothing. Hmmmmm, I thought, maybe it’s just down. Next, I tried the U-M repeater, which is less than a mile away as the crow flies. I was able to key it, but the S-meter showed only a couple of S units. Something was wrong.

I swapped feedlines, and voila! Everything worked as I’d hoped. Somehow, we’d mis-labelled the feedlines. Not only that, there’s still nothing connected to the end of the dipole feedline, so I was actually able to key up the U-M repeater without an antenna!

Anyway, after connecting the right feedline to the radio, I chatted a bit with both Ralph, AA8RK, and Pat, W8LNO. Talking to Pat was fortuitous because he’s involved with Scouting, and when I mentioned that we planned to operate the Jamboree on the Air next weekend, he volunteered to come down and help out. That means we will be able to operate two radios, the HF station on 20m and the VHF station through the U-M repeater to EchoLink.

T32C DXpeditionAfter that conversation, I turned the HF rig back on, and thought I’d see what was on 15 m. Tuning around, I found a small pileup on 21.017. I called up DXWatch and determined that the pileup was for T32C, the DXpedition to Chrismas Island. I accessed their record on QRZ.Com, found the bearing, swung the beam around to 260 degrees, and heard them quite well. After setting the transmit incremental tuning to about 2 kHz, I worked them on the second call! I just love that beam!

Got Advice for a New Ham?

In the discussion section of the LinkedIn ARRL Ham Radio Operators Group, a new ham asked, “It’s been about 3 weeks since I got my license and I’m nervous of making a gaffe on air. So tell me, what horrible mistakes should I avoid?”

Of course, everyone and his brother jumped in with advice. Here are some of the best ones:

  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. We were all beginners once, and we learn by trial and error.
  • Hams are a forgiving bunch, especially when you’re first getting started! (Unfortunately, not all the time….Dan)
  • Listen to what others are doing. Copy what’s good and avoid what doesn’t sound good to you. Ask questions.
  • Check out the local ham radio clubs in your area. You can find them on the ARRL website. Find one that is fun and active with young people like yourself. (Are there any that have active young people? :) …Dan )
  • Best practice is to get on the air and talk to folks. Personally, I’ve found the HT crowd to be a bit cliquish so don’t be surprised if you run into that. It isn’t that they are unfriendly, just shy.
  • It would be a MISTAKE if you didn’t work a FM satellite or two with your new license! (grin) Complete, up-to-date info at … http://www.work-sat.com – you do NOT need 100W nor multiple Yagi antennas.
  • Here’s a tongue in cheek article on what not to do on the radio. It’s since been quoted and reprinted all over the internet. You might want to read it to see what to avoid.

Anyone else have some advice for our new ham?

Robots Allowed on 440 MHz Band

Recon Scout

ReconRobotics Inc.'s Recon Scout

Government Technology, a trade magazine covering state and local government issues, reports that the FCC will allow a robot used to transmit live video during rescue operations to transmit in the 430 – 448 MHz band, ending a legal battle between amateur radio operators and law enforcement over the device. The report says:

Called the Recon Scout Throwbot, the robot transmits over the 430-448 MHz portion of the 420-450 MHz frequency band, which is primarily used by the federal radiolocation service. The spectrum is also utilized by amateur radio enthusiasts. The latter group, spearheaded by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), opposed a waiver request filed with the FCC by Recon Scout maker ReconRobotics Inc. to use the band.

The ARRL argued that ReconRobotics’ claims that the device would be useful in public safety and anti-terrorism operations didn’t prove that a waiver to use the frequency bands was in the public interest. The FCC admitted, in its order approving the waiver, that while some interference in the frequency bands may occur, it isn’t a reason to prohibit the use of the Recon Scout.

The ARRL spin on this is that this is a partial victory for amateur radio. They correctly note that the FCC granted their request for changes in the labeling and instruction manual requirements to ensure that users of the device are aware of its limitations, with regard to interference:

Recon Scout transmitters delivered after April 15, 2011 must carry the following label: “This device may not interfere with Federal or non-federal stations operating in the 420-450 MHz band and must accept any interference received.” The instruction manual must also include the following: “Although this transmitter has been approved by the Federal Communications Commission, it must accept any interference received from Federal or non-federal stations, including interference that may cause undesired operation.”

Identify Digital Voice Modes Using Analog FM Receivers

In the SF Bay Area there has been a recent flurry of activity about digital transmitters on various VHF frequencies which has led some to falsely presume that the signals were D*Star. As it turns out, the signals were from an amateur MotoTRBO repeater. Due to the inability of the local hams to identify the signal type, the trustee of the D*Star system was falsely accused of generating QRM on frequencies 25 kHz away from his repeater.

Identifying digital voice modes without digital equipment, by listening with 5 kHz analog FM receivers, isn’t easy but there are some things you can listen for. D*Star has a fairly unique sound in that every transmission begins with a short 2400 Hz tone burst; if you hear a very short “beep” at the beginning you’re hearing D*Star. MotoTRBO (which is the Motorola branded variant of ETSI DMR Tier 2) is a TDMA mode and as such it has a “sputtering” or “machine gun” sound on 5 kHz analog FM gear. Then there’s P25 Phase 1, P25 Phase 2, NDXN, etc etc. (Note: I don’t know of any amateur NXDN or P25 Phase 2 systems on the air – yet.)

To help clarify some of the current confusion, I’ve dedicated some time this weekend to generating audio recordings of various digital audio modes as received by a 5 kHz analog FM receiver. I’ve also generated spectrum plots for these modes.

Please download and play “How to Identify Digital Phone Modes on VHF/UHF” (PowerPoint 2003 format) from:

http://www.bay-net.org/articles.html

Best,

…dtw

 

High Frequency Electronics: January 2011

High Frequency Electronics - January 2011There are two articles in the January 2011 issue of High Frequency Electronics that amateur radio operators might find interesting:

  1. The Mathematics of Mixers: Basic Principles. This tutorial walks you through the basics of mixers. Because this article is aimed at engineers, there is math involved, but it’s not overly complicated, and if you stick with it, you’ll gain a better understanding of how the mixer, one of the most basic circuits in amateur radio, works.
  2. Design of Input Matching Networks for Class-E RF Power Amplifiers. The author of this article says, “Little attention is brought to the design of the input matching network and to the device bias conditions, with their effects on the overall circuit performance. This paper attempts to discuss these topics through a systematic design and simulation approach for a typical 5 watt class-E power amplifier operating at 150 MHz.”

Note that the magazine is only available as a single PDF file. To read these articles, you’ll have to download the PDF file first.

NASA TV Features NA1SS Aboard the Space Station

A video released on November 23, 2011 features ISS Expedition 25 commander Col. Doug Wheelock, KF5BOC, oeprating NA1SS aboard the space station. This is a really great video. Not only do you get a view of the ham radio station in action, you also get a mini-tour of the space station.

One the things I found amusing about the first part of the video is that you can see Wheelock floating around while he’s explaining how he works the pileups. When he actually does start operating, you can hear how many calls they get up there. They really have be good operators to pull the stations out of all the QRM.

FCC’s Spectrum Dashboard

Many hams feel that they “own” the ham bands. Nothing could be further from the truth, though. In the UHF and microwave regions, we share those bands with other services.

Don’t believe me? Try out the FCC Spectrum Dashboard. According to this website,

The Spectrum Dashboard allows new ways for citizens to search spectrum in the United States. Use the dashboard to find out how spectrum is being used, who owns spectrum licenses around the country, and what spectrum is available in your county.

It covers the frequency range 225 MHz – 3.7 GHz, which are the frequencies generally deemed the best for wireless broadband service, and therefore, the frequencies most sought after right now.

You can do all kinds of searches, including:

  • search by frequency band,
  • search by service,
  • search by location, and
  • browse through the spectrum.

I just did a search for frequencies used by the amateur radio service and discovered that we share the 420 – 450 MHz band with the following services:

  • Industrial/Business Radio Service
  • Public Safety Radio Service
  • Radiolocation Service

This is a great tool for any ham interested in spectrum issues.