Friday at Dayton Was Forum Day

  • Friday at Dayton was “forum day.” By that I mean that I attended a slew of forums and could have attended several more. That left little time to actually scour the flea market or visit vendor booths.

    I started out in the TAPR forum, but only spent a couple of minutes there. I quickly switched over to the ARRL Public Relations forum. There I got to meet Diana Eng (see previous post). I also:

  • learned about the PR resources on the new ARRL website,
  • received a “Talk on a Disk” CD that includes materials to help you prepare a presentation on ham radio for non-technical groups, and
  • received free materials from Gordon West, including an instructor’s guide for both Tech and General classes, and CD-ROMS with a number audio clips on a variety of topics.
  • En route to the Teacher’s Forum, I passed by the Antenna Forum, which looked to be very popular. There were guys standing out in the hallway trying to hear the presentation.

    The Teacher’s Forum has been moderated by Carole Perry, WB2MGP, for as long as I can remember. She always has good speakers. This year, the lineup included Gordon West and Bob Heil.

    One idea that I picked up is to use a flashing light or LED to demonstrate the idea of duty cycle. By hooking it up to a variable duty cycle oscillator, you could vary the amount of on time versus the amount of off time, and this would make a very good visual demonstration.

    This year’s presenters mostly talked about teaching kids. This fall, I plan to teach a class for seniors. If it goes well, I’m thinking that I could talk about that class at next year’s teacher forum.

    In the afternoon, I attended the Software-Defined Radio Forum. This forum was also packed. We first heard about the new FlexRadio 1500, which is a $650 SDR. Its output is only 5W, but this looks like a real bargain.

    Next up was Lyle, KK7P, from Elecraft. He gave us the Elecraft perspective on what an SDR is and what it’s not. It was interesting, but not very technical.

    After Lyle, the TAPR VP (whose name and call I forget) talked about developments with the SDR projects at TAPR. My initial impression is that while all of these developments are well-done, it’s still much less expensive to simply buy a Flex 1500. I haven’t checked the specs, though, to see if they are comparable.

    Finally, there was a talk on MacHPSDR, a native Mac implementation of a receiver for OpenHPSDR hardware. I wish that I’d been able to stay, as I am a Mac person, but I had to leave. Despite the availability of this software, you really do need to have a PC to run a software-defined radio. I don’t expect this to change in the near future.

    Well, that was certainly enough for one day. On Saturday, there were some equally interesting forums, including forums on RTTY, SSTV, antenna-modeling software, and the AMSAT forum. Despite this, I decided to not attend a single one and walk the fleamarket and visit vendor booths. More about that in the next post.

    A VOIP Contest??

    In my e-mail just now, I got the following:

    Hi , Daniel

    My name is Rick, and my call sign is XXXX. I’ve been a contester since 2004 when I became a ham, and I love it!

    I wanted you to see this information from a friend of mine, Trippy, about a new contest that will be held in March of this year! I will be in it myself, and I hope to work you in it.

    Please tell every contester you know about this new contest. I look forward to working you!

    73,

    Rick, XXXX
    PS, contest letter and announcement from Trippy to you, is below

    There were several problems with this e-mail. First of all, there was no attachment. Second, this was obviously spam. I don’t know Rick or Trippy, nor have I ever worked them on the air. Third, I just can’t excited about a CQ100 contest.

    Here’s my reply:

    Hello, Rick–

    First, there was no attachment.

    Second, as I hope you know, CQ100 isn’t really a new mode. It’s a computer program that simulates amateur radio contacts using the voice over Internet protocol (VOIP).

    I’m not one of those OFs (old farts) who gets all hot and bothered about the use of VOIP in ham radio. I use EchoLink when it’s appropriate and feel that it does have a place in ham radio. Having said that, I just can’t get very excited about a “contest” that takes place over a VOIP network, especially one that you have to pay for! Operating a “contest” over VOIP is like shooting fish in a barrel.

    If you’re having fun with CQ100, more power to you. I think, however, that you’ll have a lot more fun by actually radiating some RF energy of your own.

    73!

    Dan KB6NU

    What do you all think?

    ARROW’s September Construction Project

    Every September, our ham radio club, ARROW, does a construction project. In the past, we’ve done a keyer kit, J-Pole antennas, and other small projects that you can complete in an evening.

    Bare Bones BoarduinoThis year, we’ve decided to build a low-cost version of the Arduino microcontroller called the Bare Bones Boarduino, from Modern Device. This is a pretty good introductory soldering project.

    What’s an Arduino (or Freeduino)? It’s an open source microcontroller board that is cheap ($11), and fairly easy to program from Linux, a Mac, or even Windows. You program it in “C”, and there are libraries other folks have written to let you do things like run servos, blink LEDs, and so on. The Bare Board Boarduinos use the ATmega328Phave processor and have 32k flash memory and 2k of RAM.

    What can you do with an Arduino or Boarduino? Well, you can check out the Arduino website for ideas.

    In addition, the September/October 2009 issue of QEX contains a story on how to use the Boarduino to build a keyer. I don’t really need another keyer, but that article, coupled with an idea gleaned from the Ten-Tec-Omni-VII mailing list has given me an interesting use for the Boarduino, I think.

    The mailing list thread discussing the 610 got my creative juices flowing is the thread discussing the elusive Ten-Tec 610 Remote Keyer. I say “elusive” because if you search the Ten-Tec website for information on this product, all you’ll find is a press release that says it will cost $169 and that it will be available sometime in 2009. There are no product specifications or photos to be found anywhere.

    This dearth of information has, of course, led to a lot of speculation about what it will do and what it won’t do. Carl, N4PY, seems to have the most information on this product. He writes:

    This keyer will interface through a USB port and become an additional keyboard for the computer. Paddles will plug into it and operating the paddles will cause the 610 keyboard to send characters to the application that has the focus just as though the characters were typed on a regular keyboard. There will also be a provision to add the Ten-Tec remote tuning pod to this device. Turning the knob left or right will cause certain special characters to be sent to the application that has the focus. The application will realize a right turning or left turning operation from the 610 keyboard and take appropriate action. So all programming will simply look at the receiving characters to figure out what to do.

    This all sounds very cool, but $169 seems kind of steep. I’m guessing that I could program the Boarduino ($10 hardware cost, plus the cost of some kind of USB port) to interface to my computer so that I could use paddles instead of a keyboard for text input. Wouldn’t that be cool?

    My iMac currently uses a USB keyboard, so I’m guessing (hoping?) that I won’t have to write a driver for the Mac end. Anyone know where I can find interfacing information for the Mac USB port?

    More Sweet Tweets

    Here are some more links to interesting Web pages I found by Twittering:

    • N3OX’s Remote Tuner Control. N3OX has added some servo motors and controls to a manual antenna tuner so that he can move it closer to the antenna, but still control it from inside the shack. Very inexpensive solution.
    • Band Plans for 900 MHz and Above. KB9MWR feels that the future of ham radio is above 900 MHz. I don’t know that I totally agree, but I do think we need to start thinking more about those bands. Give this a read.
    • Morse Code vs. Text Messaging. Chas Sprague, who’s not a ham, ruminates on how Morse Code could make text messaging more efficient. I wholeheartedly agree! Someone get this man his ham ticket.
    • Ham Logging as a Service. There’s been a lot of twittering about this KE9V blog post. I like the idea myself, and if I had more time, I might even take a crack at it. Anyone want to collaborate?
    • Planning a Digital ATV Station. After pondering a digital ATV station for the museum, I opted to go analog. If I’d seen this article first, I might have opted to stick it out and go digital.

    Free EM Simulator Available As Download

    From Microwaves&RF:

    By Jack Browne

    Sonnet Lite Release 12 from Sonnet Software is now available for free download. The no-charge three-dimensional (3D) planar electromagnetic (EM) simulator is an excellent training and learning tool for those new to the analysis capabilities of EM simulation software. It is a fully functional software program based on the company’s full-featured Sonnet Professional Suite of EM analysis and simulation software tools. Sonnet Lite can be used as a stand-alone program or within the Advanced Design System (ADS) environment from Agilent Technologies or the Microwave Office environment from Applied Wave Research (AWR).

    According to Shawn Carpenter, Vice President of Worldwide Marketing and Sales for Sonnet, “We’re proud to provide a leading-edge ‘virtual prototyping’ tool for the student and experimenter in high-frequency planar circuits, packages, and antennas. Sonnet maintains our commitment to students and learners through free access to top-notch high-frequency electromagnetic software.” The planar EM software is ideal for performing transmission-line or discontinuity analysis and is available for free download from the Sonnet Software web site.

    Unfortunately, it won’t run on my Mac.

    Hot Amateur Programs…..To Go!

    WD6CNF has a number of cool-looking programs on his website – hotamateurprograms.com. Most of them are Vista-compatible, and they are all available for free, including:

    • CW Decoder
    • Audio Spectrum Analyzer
    • Audio Generator/Audio Spectrum Analyze
    • Digital Voice Keyer
    • Simple Windows Packet Controller
    • DSP Audio Filter
    • Instrument Tuner
    • Dual Channel Oscilloscope
    • Dual Function Generator

    I plan to download and try out the CW decoder at the museum. It would be nice to have a program that will display what’s being sent and received while I am working CW there.

    If any of you do download and try out some of these programs, please comment below.