[handiham-world] Handiham World for 29 February 2012

Courage Center Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 29
February 2012

This is a free weekly news & information update from Courage Center
Handiham System. Our contact information is at the end, or simply email
handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx for changes in subscriptions or to comment. You
can listen to this news online.

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------------------------------
Welcome to Handiham World.

Ice!  Are you ready?

[image: Ice on center insulator and dipole antenna]*
Photo:  Ice and snow cling to the dipole at the WA0TDA station in
Minnesota.  The 450 Ohm feedline and the antenna wire are carrying a
coating of heavy ice, as are the nearby tree branches.*

[image: icy branches pulling on antenna wire]
*Photo: Iced birch tree branches pull the antenna wire down.  *

[image: ice on 450 ohm feedline]
*Photo:  Heavy ice coats the 450 Ohm ladder line in this close-up.*

Here it comes: The annual Spring severe weather season is here in North
America.  Tornadic winds hit in the southern Midwest states of Missouri and
Kansas last night, while the same huge weather system brought Minnesota
freezing rain and snow.  The transition from winter to summer often means
that we will be visited by bad weather that can take down antennas and put
stations off the air at the very time their communications capability may
be needed.  This storm was well-forecast because it was being watched even
as it approached the west coast from the Pacific.  Computer modeling lends
a new degree of confidence in such forecasts, so it is perhaps a bit easier
than ever to be ready.

The problem for any given amateur radio operator is that forecasts cannot
predict exact weather circumstances in a small geographic area. In this
particular storm, heavy snow fell north and west of my location but we only
got about 3 inches worth.  Our snow was preceded by rain - freezing rain -
which coalesced around antenna wires and tree branches.  When the snow
came, it added to the mass already collecting on the branches and wires.
This was a prescription for power outages because tree branches would
inevitably begin to break under the weight of the ice and fall across power
lines. The power lines themselves, if in the clear, seldom collect enough
ice to fall on their own. Sure enough, this morning almost 15,000 customers
were without power here in the Twin Cities. Since the storm was more severe
in the northwest part of the urban area, that was the place with the most
power outages. Even so, in my town there were over 400 customers without
power. Our power never failed or even flickered, probably partly because of
just plain luck and good switching at the power company to keep failed
power lines from bringing down the entire system. One thing I looked for
specifically when purchasing my property was underground power lines. I
have lived in too many neighborhoods where tree branches fell across lines
and cut the power in almost every severe storm.

So what can you do to keep your own antenna systems from failing under the
weight of snow and ice?

Wire antennas should be installed so that they have some "give" to them.
That means that if the wire should be stressed by the extra weight of ice,
the antenna will be able to bend with the weight enough to avoid outright
failure. There are various methods of making a wire antenna a bit more
flexible. The obvious one is to make sure that when the antenna is
installed that the wire is not pulled up tight. Sometimes ingenious methods
can be designed to allow an antenna anchored in a tree to move freely as
the tree moves in the wind. Usually unless the tree is exceptionally
flexible it will be enough to simply allow enough slack in the antenna wire
to make for reasonable movement.

Rigid metal antennas are another story. Most amateur radio beam antennas
are made of aluminum tubing. Some types of aluminum tubing are "aircraft
grade" and may flex more than standard tubing before breaking. No matter
what kind of aluminum tubing is used, it is not immune to severe damage
from ice loading. If the weight of the ice itself bending the aluminum
doesn't break it directly, wind that comes up after the ice is coated onto
the elements may very well finish the job and bring the entire structure
down in pieces. I am not sure that there is any practical way to prevent
this kind of damage in a beam antenna system, but perhaps someone with
experience can weigh in on the matter and let us know. Few amateur radio
operators have tilt over towers that can perhaps be used to bring the whole
antenna down close to the ground with the elements 90° to the surface of
the earth so that water will run off of them. But what happens to the
horizontal portion of the tower that will then be collecting ice? It's hard
to figure out how to prevent ice damage on a beam antenna system, so keep
your insurance paid up.

An antenna that is coated with ice and snow will not necessarily tune
correctly. When I tried using the LDG auto tuner this morning to tune my
200 foot wire antenna on a frequency that had been previously "memorized"
by the tuner, it behaved exactly as if it were visiting that 75 m frequency
for the very first time. The tuner cranked away for a while before finally
settling on what had to be a very different combination of capacitance and
inductance to allow for a reasonable standing wave ratio. Once the ice
melts off the wire, the auto tuner will have to search again for a new
combination as things return to normal. One thing to consider is that not
all automatic tuners will be able to match an antenna that is heavily
loaded with ice and snow. The operator must be aware of this and be careful
not to operate with a high standing wave ratio.

The antenna wire itself is not the only thing affected by ice and snow. If
you are using open wire feed line as I am, you can expect ice loading on
the feed line to contribute to changes in how the antenna behaves on the
air. If you use coaxial cable, your only real concern is weight of the ice
on the cable itself. Any place feed line comes into the house it should
have a "drip loop" so that water can drip off the bottom of the loop of
feed line as the ice melts. This prevents the water from following the
cable through the wall of the house and into the ham shack.

Your antenna system will be more robust if you use good quality materials
to construct it in the first place. Good antenna wire may be more expensive
initially, but it will be more likely to stay up under ice loading than
some bargain wire. As the old saying goes, "a chain is only as strong as
its weakest link". In terms of a wire antenna system, this means that a
cheap insulator could easily be a failure point no matter what kind of
expensive wire and feed line you use. Needless to say, you should always
take the time to secure wires properly to center and end insulators so that
it will not work loose under pressure as ice pulls on the wire.

Following a weather event such as high wind or icing, you should plan to
inspect your antenna systems for any possible damage or tree limbs that
might've fallen against the antenna wire. Any kind of antenna system should
always be located well away from power lines so that a failure in either
the power line or the antenna will not make one of them come in contact
with the other.

Tomorrow it will be March, and that is the month that I usually think of as
being the start of this severe weather transition season. Maybe it's time
to take a look at that go-kit and make sure that you are ready.

For Handiham World, I'm...
Patrick Tice, wa0tda@xxxxxxxx
Handiham Manager
------------------------------
Last call about the new handiham.org!

We are now running on a new server, where we expect excellent service and
reliability. There are likely going to be a few glitches, so bear with us
while we get everything up and running. The old website is now available
with somewhat less maintenance at www.handiham.net.  Please report problems
to wa0tda@xxxxxxxxx   If your log in credentials don't work on the new
website, you need to create an account. Please use your callsign as
username (or whatever username you had for the old website if you are not
yet licensed.) Here is the Create Account Link:
http://www.handiham.org/user/register
------------------------------
Letters

[image: Cartoon rabbit postal carrier with letters]

*Ken, KB3LLA, sent this:*

Baltimore, Maryland (February 28, 2012): The American Action Fund for Blind
Children and Adults (AAF) is making its free Braille books for blind
children available online as downloadable BRF files.
Read more at the AAF website:
http://www.actionfund.org  <http://www.actionfund.org%20/>

*Dick, WA0CAF, passed along a note *from The RAIN Report entitled:
"Panasonic Announces Line of Televisions with Text-to-speech
Capabilities".  It came originally from something called "Blindbargains"
email, but there was no URL and no information as to whether the TV sets
would be available in North America. There were several sources in the
story so it is unclear where it originated.  As we usually say, "Google
it".

*Avery, K0HLA, likes a link:  *Say, if you have not already tried it check
this out....NASA's 3rd Rock station / web site:
http://www.rfcmedia.com/thirdrockradio/
------------------------------

*Free MIT Course in Introductory Circuits*
    [image: Cartoon kid studying and working math problems]

*6.002x (Circuits and Electronics) is an experimental on-line adaptation of
MIT’s first undergraduate analog design course: 6.002. This course will
run, free of charge, for students worldwide from March 5, 2012 through June
8, 2012.*

There are some significant prerequisites, such as a working knowledge of
differential equations and linear algebra. A certificate is available upon
completion of the course. This could be an ideal opportunity for people
with disabilities to study from home at no extra cost for the course.

More at the MIT website:
https://6002x.mitx.mit.edu/
    ------------------------------
Troubleshooting 101

[image: Cartoon guy with toolkit]

*Bob, KC3FI, had an amusing (but unfortunately expensive) anecdote about
liquids spilled onto electronic gear:*

Thanks for the summary of methods for preventing liquids from getting into
your equipment. I follow all of those but here's one I couldn't anticipate,
therefore not prevent and one you may not want to publish but is likely to
make you at least smile.

About 6 weeks ago, one of my wife's show cat kittens peed on the coffee
table where I had left my $1400 Braille Plus. It didn't seem that any got
in the computer as it was in its case which is pretty much a protection. I
did clean the case and wiped the surface of the unit with barely damp
bacterial hand soap. Then I held it under my wife's hair dryer at very low
heat setting.

The unit got my e-mail and started to read it, then announced system
failure disk drive must be reformatted. I still had a valid service
agreement. APH worked on the BP but couldn't restore function so called
Levelstar. They said they would not honor the agreement because it was due
to customer error. I understand that. A new hard drive and circuit board
will cost $800 or more and they can't guarantee total restoration so I am
looking at a restored older unit for $500.

Way too much detail, right?

73: Bob Martin KC3FI

Bob, so you think I won't publish a story about kitty whiz?  You don't know
how desperate we are here!  Actually, pets cause damage to electronics
probably more than we realize, so thanks for sharing this story and good
luck with the replacement Braille Plus.  I hope kitty knows where the
litter box is by the time the new unit arrives!

Email me at wa0tda@xxxxxxxx with your questions & comments.
Patrick Tice
Handiham Manager
------------------------------
A dip in the pool

It's time to test our knowledge by taking a dip in the pool - the question
pool, that is!
Today we are taking a question from the new Extra Class pool.

*E6A02 asks: Which of the following semiconductor materials contains excess
free electrons?*

Your possible answers are:

A. N-type
B. P-type
C. Bipolar
D. Insulated gate

*But wait! There's another one:  E6A03 asks, What are the majority charge
carriers in P-type semiconductor material?*

Your possible answers are:

A. Free neutrons
B. Free protons
C. Holes
D. Free electrons

Obviously these questions are related because they both talk about
semiconductor materials and charges. We might as well get a "twofer" and
build up our knowledge of semiconductors.
The correct answer for the first question is A: N-type.  The correct answer
for the second is C: Holes.  N and P materials are layered in transistors
to make either NPN or PNP active devices.
------------------------------
Remote Base Health Report for 29 February 2012

[image: W4MQ software screenshot]

*New this week:  We have a new beta website for the remote base software.
You may check it out at:
www.handiham.org/remotebase.*

*Operating tip:  If you see a "checking status" message on the W4MQ log in
screen, it could indicate that the station is not online, but it could also
mean that you are not connected to the Internet. Check your Internet
connection first, but if it turns out that the station is actually off
line, please report it to **wa0tda@xxxxxxxx* <wa0tda@xxxxxxxx>*.*

*Operating tip: If the rig control software disconnects from the station
shortly after you log on, simply go ahead and reconnect right away. There's
no need to drop your Skype connection.*

*Operating tip: Before reporting errors like the runtime six error, and
before reporting to us that the station does not tune on certain bands,
please read the instruction pages where these topics are covered.*

*W0ZSW is on line.
W0EQO is on line. *

Please check the latest operating tips on the remote base pages:
http://handiham.org/local/blind/w4mq_remote_base_software.htm

Request for feedback!

Have you installed the remote base software?  How were the instruction
pages on our website?  We know that these pages need updating and we are
looking for feedback from users.  The idea is to make them less confusing -
and they are pretty confusing right now because we have added items over
the years without looking at the big picture.  If you have suggestions, we
would very much appreciate hearing from you. Please contact wa0tda@xxxxxxxxx

The link to the daily status update pages:
www.handiham.org/remote

Our thanks to volunteer engineer Lyle Koehler, K0LR, for his help
maintaining the station databases and updates.
------------------------------
This week @ HQ

Camp application packages were mailed last week.

Dates for Radio Camp 2012 are Saturday, June 2 - Friday, June 8, 2012. This
will be earlier than usual so that we can test for Extra under the existing
question pool, which expires at the end of the last day of June.

*Technician License Class Starts in Stillwater this Thursday (March 1) for
Handiham Members and the General Public*


   - Location:  Stillwater Public Library (224 Third Street North),
   Stillwater, MN.

   - When: Thursdays beginning March 1 (8 Thursday sessions)  6:00 to 8:00
   p.m.

   - This class is free, though participants will have to buy or bring
   their own study materials.  We - and I say "we" because I am one of the
   instructors - will be using the ARRL Technician book "Ham Radio License
   Manual" as the text.  Handiham members are encouraged to attend.


If you are a Handiham member and your member log in does not work on the
new Handiham.org, please use the Create Account link and set up your new
account.

Your log in credentials should still work on the old site, which is now at
www.handiham.net.

The Handiham website log in credentials are for the use of Handiham
members. If you are not a member, you may still enjoy browsing the many
articles and the weekly audio podcast without logging in. If you are a
Handiham member (you have joined us by contacting Handiham headquarters),
you may use the Create New Account link to get started. Please use the
email address you already have on file with us, and your callsign as the
user name. The reason for this is that we need to check to see that you are
who you say you are. We get many fraudulent credential requests from
spammers. Odd user names instead of callsigns get deleted. If you are a
Handiham member without a callsign (you are studying for Technician),
please be sure you let our office know what username and password you would
like so that we can set it up.
The link to the Create Account is here:
http://www.handiham.org/user/register
------------------------------
Tonight is EchoLink net night.

[image: Echolink screenshot]

The Wednesday evening EchoLink net is at 19:30 United States Central time,
which translates to 01:30 GMT Thursday morning.

EchoLink nodes:

HANDIHAM conference server Node 494492 (Our preferred high-capacity node.)
KA0PQW-R, node 267582
KA0PQW-L, node 538131
N0BVE-R, node 89680
N9GMR-R 640860
W0EQO-R, node 309436

Other ways to connect:

IRLP node 9008 (Vancouver BC reflector)
WIRES system number 1427

More information about repeaters and nodes may be found at
http://www.handiham.info.
------------------------------
Stay in touch!

Be sure to send Nancy your changes of address, phone number changes, or
email address changes so that we can continue to stay in touch with you.
You may either email Nancy at hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx or call her at
763-520-0512.  If you need to use the toll-free number, call
1-866-426-3442. Mornings Monday through Thursday are the best time to
contact us.
------------------------------
Supporting Handihams - 2012.

Now you can support the Handiham program by donating on line using Courage
Center's secure website. It is easy, but one thing to remember is that you
need to use the pull-down menu to designate your gift to the Handiham
program.

Step one: Follow this link to the secure Courage Center Website:
https://couragecenter.us/SSLPage.aspx?pid=294&srcid=344

Step two: Fill out the form, being careful to use the pull-down Designation
menu to select "Handi-Hams".

Step three: Submit the form to complete your donation. If the gift is a
tribute to someone, don't forget to fill out the tribute information. This
would be a gift in memory of a silent key, for example.

We really appreciate your help. As you know, we have cut expenses this year
due to the difficult economic conditions. We are working hard to make sure
that we are delivering the most services to our members for the money - and
we plan to continue doing just that in 2012.

Thank you from the Members, Volunteers, and Staff of the Handiham System.

Patrick Tice, WA0TDA, Handiham Manager
patt@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Handiham Membership Dues

Benefits of membership:

www.handiham.org/membership

Handiham renewals are on a monthly schedule - Please renew or join, as we
need you to keep our program strong! You will have several choices when you
renew:

   - Join at the usual $12 annual dues level for one year. Your renewal
   date is the anniversary of your last renewal, so your membership extends
   for one year.
   - Join for three years at $36.
   - Lifetime membership is $120.
   - If you can't afford the dues, request a 90 day non-renewable sponsored
   membership.
   - Donate an extra amount of your choice to help support our activities.
   - Discontinue your membership.

Please return your renewal form as soon as possible. Your support is
critical! Please help.

The Courage Handiham System depends on the support of people like you, who
want to share the fun and friendship of ham radio with others. Please help
us provide services to people with disabilities. We would really appreciate
it if you would remember us in your estate plans. If you need a planning
kit, please call. If you are wondering whether a gift of stock can be given
to Handihams, the answer is yes! Please call Walt Seibert at 763-520-0532
or email him at walt.seibert@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Ask for a free DVD about the Handiham System.

It's perfect for your club program, too! The video tells your club about
how we got started, the Radio Camps, and working with hams who have
disabilities.  We are in the process of revising the video, so it is
presently out of stock.  You can get on the list to get one when they are
back in stock.

Call 1-866-426-3442 toll-free. -- Help us get new hams on the air.

Get the Handiham E-Letter by email every Wednesday, and stay up-to-date
with ham radio news.

You may listen in audio to the E-Letter at www.handiham.org.
Email us to subscribe:
hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Handiham members with disabilities can take an online audio course at
www.handiham.org:

   - Beginner
   - General
   - Extra
   - Operating Skills

That's it for this week. 73 from all of us at the Courage Handiham System!
Pat, WA0TDA
Manager, Courage Handiham System
Reach me by email at:
patt@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Nancy, Handiham Secretary:
hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Radio Camp email:
radiocamp@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
------------------------------


*ARRL is the premier organization supporting amateur radio worldwide.
Please contact Handihams for help joining the ARRL. We will be happy to
help you fill out the paperwork!*

[image: ARRL Diamond Logo]

The weekly e-letter is a compilation of software tips, operating
information, and Handiham news. It is published on Wednesdays, and is
available to everyone free of charge. Please email wa0tda@xxxxxxxx  for
changes of address, unsubscribes, etc. Include your old email address and
your new address.


Courage Center Handiham System
3915 Golden Valley Road
Golden Valley, MN 55422
763-520-0512
hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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