[handiham-world] Courage Center Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 02 May 2012

  • From: Patrick Tice <wa0tda@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 2 May 2012 14:07:41 -0500


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.*

*You can do it!  *

Today, just as we did last week,  we are going to begin with
Troubleshooting 101 as part of our initiative to help new ham radio
operators (and even some of us older ones) learn how to do some basic
troubleshooting for ourselves. Yes, it can be tempting to ask someone else
to do things for us.  This can become a bad habit when it keeps us from
learning new things, especially things that we could - with a bit of
practice - learn to do for ourselves.  Knowing these basic things can serve
us well in the future when no help is available.  This next simple exercise
is one that we will be practicing at this summer's Radio Camp.  You can do
it yourself once you learn a few basics.
*Troubleshooting 101*

*I have my General Class license now, so I decided to put up a vertical
antenna, which I ground-mounted, in my back yard. I have checked the SWR
(standing wave ratio) and it is practically one to one. It is grounded with
a ground rod right near the feedpoint, and I have kept the grounding wire
short. I am putting out plenty of power with my 100 watt rig, but I am
having a hard time making contacts? What is wrong here?*

Vertical antennas have long been the subject of derision in many amateur
radio circles. It is practically an article of faith that “a vertical
antenna is one that transmits equally poorly in all directions”. These
operators have either tried vertical antennas themselves and had a poor
experience or (more likely) they have heard some know-it-all pontificating
on the awfulness of verticals and the awesomeness of just about any antenna
other than a vertical.

Yes, the poor old vertical has gotten a pretty bad reputation. But is it

*I say no! And here's why.*

The most common vertical antenna design is an electrical quarter-wave long.
This means that a simple 20 meter vertical will be on the order of 16 to 17
feet tall (5 meters). There is no problem ground-mounting a vertical in
most locations, and this kind of antenna is sometimes disguised as a
flagpole in places where there are restrictions on traditional antennas. A
ground-mounted vertical will certainly have other advantages, too. It will
not require an expensive tower or other supporting structure. It will be
easy to install and work on if it needs maintenance or adjustment because
you can reach it without any climbing. You can trench the coaxial feedline
under the ground to keep it out of the way. If it is mounted in the back
yard, it will probably not even be visible from the street. No wonder this
simple antenna seems so attractive!

But let's get back to your troubleshooting question. You have done well
with your vertical antenna installation as far as it goes, but you have
made a common mistake. You have assumed that a ground rod would suffice as
a complete grounding system – but it won't. When we work with RF (radio
frequency) energy, we must remember that RF grounding is not the same as
providing a simple electrical ground for low-frequency AC, DC, or lightning
protection. Yes, a good electrical ground is an essential part of a
well-designed antenna and feedline system. Now it is time to complete your
vertical antenna installation with a good RF ground. That means installing
radial wires extending from the base of the antenna outward in all
directions. The ground rod should work as a common connection point. The
coax braid is connected to the ground rod or the antenna's mounting post,
both of which are tied together with a stout, solid conductor.

What is happening in your antenna system is that lots of current is flowing
in the vertical element right near the feedpoint. This is normal and
expected. There is also a lot of current flowing in the ground beneath and
around the antenna, outward in all directions. That is because a
quarter-wave vertical is like one side of a dipole system, except that the
ground makes up the other half of the dipole. If you recall your General
Class studies, you will remember that current in a half wave dipole flows
most strongly right near the feedpoint.

Now, answer me this: If you put up a dipole with one leg made of a
fully-extended wire and the other a very short wire connected to a big
resistor, do you think that dipole would work as well as a dipole with both
legs made of wire?

No? Why not?

“Well”, you say, “It is obvious that the dipole with a big resistor in it
will not work as well because there will be power lost in the resistor. The
resistor will heat up, just like a dummy antenna.”

Yes, you are right! In fact, dummy load antennas are really nothing more
than resistors designed to dissipate RF energy to keep it off the air while
you run tests on a transmitter. A dummy load will have a near-perfect SWR,
even though it is a resistor. Just because it has a low SWR does not mean
that it is a good antenna. The problem with your vertical antenna system is
that it is like that dipole with a resistor in one leg. The ground beneath
the antenna has resistance to the flow of RF energy outward in all
directions. The soil does have some conductivity, but it depends on
moisture and composition. So the ground can be like a resistor. The ground
rod you have installed goes straight down and does nothing to help RF flow
in all compass directions outward near the surface of the ground.

*The fix: A good radial system. *

Radial wires are installed like the spokes of a wheel, outward from the
grounded side of your antenna's feedpoint. They can be cut to a
quarter-wave length for every band you plan to operate (if your antenna is
a multiband vertical) or – and this is more practical – to whatever length
is convenient to fit into the space you have. Mind you, this goes only for
a ground-mounted vertical in an area with normal to good soil conductivity.
If you are mounting a vertical over quartz rock with almost no soil, the
tuned radials might be necessary. If you are in the USA Midwest with its
rich soil, you can probably get by with random length radials in your
ground-mounted system. The reason is that conductive soil pretty much
detunes the radials anyway, so there is nothing to be gained by carefully
measuring them. In fact, since most of the RF current will be flowing right
near the feedpoint, it makes sense to provide it with a low resistance path
there, close to the antenna.

Why? Think of the formula power dissipated = current squared times
resistance. The higher the resistance in the ground, the more power will be
dissipated as heat. You don't want that! What you want is for most of the
power to be used to make contacts with other stations. The earthworms will
be happier, too, because they don't need the extra heat. If most of the
current flows in the ground near the antenna, then THAT is where you need
to put the most radial wire. I have always simplified this concept when
teaching about vertical antennas by using the following practical example:

You have a coil of wire to use for radials. It is 100 feet long and will
provide the radial system for your 20 meter band quarter-wave vertical. The
question is which of these choices would be better:

A. One long radial that uses all 100 feet of wire.
B. Two 50 foot radials running in opposite directions.
C. Three 33 foot radials spaced 120 degrees apart.
D. Five 20 foot radials spaced at 72 degrees apart.

If you were thinking about losses near the feedpoint, you would probably
pick answer D. The reason is that you are putting more wire near where the
loss is actually happening! In fact, the thing with radials is “the more,
the better”, not “the longer the better”. Of course you would not want to
go to extremes and assume that 100 one-foot radials would work. But in the
real world, you want to get more wire down in the ground near the
feedpoint. A dozen radials work better than four.

*Installing and testing the system:*

You don't need any special kind of wire for radials, but I recommend a
coated (insulated) wire that is not springy and is strong enough to flex
multiple times without breaking. Clean off enough insulation to make a good
connection to the central grounding point, then run each wire out across
the yard, approximating its final position. The wire only need be just
beneath the sod. There is no reason to bury it deeper, so you can cut the
sod with something like an edge trimmer and just poke the wire down into
the cut. Before doing ANY digging, check to be sure you are not going to
run into any buried utilities or your lawn's irrigation system.

Stomp the grass back down and you are good to go. Repeat for each radial.
If you can go out 33 feet in one direction and only 15 in another, that's
okay. Just make sure that the final installation is solidly connected to
the ground rod and coax braid and all of the wires are out of the way of
the lawn mower. The insulated wire will last longer in the ground than
non-insulated wire. Once you get a taste of a hands-and-knees radial
installation, you will not be eager to repeat it to replace rotted out wire
any more than you have to. And if you tried to install springy radial wire,
well, you know what that is like. Push one part in, another part pops out.

When the radial field is in place, a test will include an SWR check. If you
find that the SWR has gone UP, you should not be alarmed. The feedpoint
impedance of a vertical is generally well below 50 ohms, so it is quite
possible that all that loss resistance in the soil had been adding to the
impedance to make the end result a better match before than it is now! You
should not worry unless the SWR is really high, though. In fact, the
somewhat higher SWR is an indication that you have cut ground resistance
and improved conductivity, thus increasing your antenna's efficiency. Turn
on the rig, try calling some stations, and you will find out that more of
your signal is going out onto the air!

Email me at handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx with your questions & comments.
Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
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 General Class pool:

G9B06 asks, “Where should the radial wires of a ground-mounted vertical
antenna system be placed?”

Possible answers are:

A. As high as possible above the ground

B. Parallel to the antenna element

C. On the surface or buried a few inches below the ground

D . At the top of the antenna

The most correct answer here is C, On the surface or buried a few inches
below the ground. There have been some experiments with radials mounted a
few inches or more above ground, but this is considered impractical in most
real world installations.
Digital Media Update

*Don't forget to send us an NLS digital cartridge in a Free Matter mailer
if you have an NLS player. *We will use your cartridge to keep you up to
date with our audio digest and podcasts, as well as add whatever you
request from our library, including the audio lectures and rig tutorials.
Find out more at:

*Handiham Extra Class digital format lectures will be removed from our
server at the end of June 2012.* The new Extra pool is in effect for all
examinations beginning on July 1st, and at that time we will begin posting
the new lecture series.  We will produce some new Extra Class lectures as
well as modify parts of the old lectures when appropriate.  The Extra Class
is a large project for us, so the entire lecture series will take
significant time to complete.  Handiham members who wish to have their own
complete copy of the existing lecture series should either download and
save the individual lectures or send us an NLS cartridge.  There is no way
to place the lecture series in a single zip file for download due to the
large file size.

*Several users have notified us of a problem with Technician lecture 2, *so
we will be replacing that audio file as soon as we have time to re-do the
lecture.  In the meantime, Technician students should skip lecture two.

*Wrong file: *While doing some housekeeping on the server, I found the
N7HVF review of the TS-480SAT radio in the TMV-71A folder.  It has been
relocated to the correct folder in the Manuals section.

*Kenwood TS-590S:  *We are still in need of an audio tutorial and
description of this new radio by Kenwood.  If you can create any kind of
digital audio help file, we would sure appreciate it.

*Remote Base Health Report for 02 May 2012*

We have a website for the remote base software. You may check it out at:

*W0ZSW is on line.  Severe weather moved through the area of W0ZSW
yesterday, but there was no damage to the station or antenna. There will be
thunderstorm static, especially in Southern Minnesota, today.

W0EQO is on line. *

Please check the latest operating tips on the remote base pages:

The link to the daily status update pages:

Our thanks to volunteer engineer Lyle Koehler, K0LR, for his help
maintaining the station databases and updates.


Aurora'12 Weak Signal VHF+ Conference

On Saturday, May 12, Aurora'12 will be held in White Bear Lake, MN. 2012
represents the 29th year for this fun one day conference that is the
largest gathering of weak signal VHF enthusiasts in the Upper Midwest. From
9:00 am to noon we will hold an antenna range for 2m through 10 GHz. From
1:00 to 4:30 PM there will be number of technical papers presented. If you
have an interest in learning more about the World Above 50 MHz, come and
check it out. It's a great place to meet people, to ask questions, and to
learn a thing or two. Registration is $5.00 and full information, including
registration, can be found at:


73, Jon

*How to Tell if a File is Malicious*

WA0CAF likes a link:

He also likes one about how to report spam:

*Railroad Mobile Event!*

AE5WX writes:

I just got word that the Arkansas and Missouri Railroad will once again be
doing the Memorial Day Troop Train on Saturday, May 26, 2012, and we'll be
going HF mobile. I'm not sure what frequencies we'll be on yet... but if
it's like last year, we'll leave Springdale, Arkansas around 8am, from the
depot at 306 East Emma Avenue...heading south along the old Frisco mainline
between Monett, Missouri and Fort Smith, Arkansas, with a final destination
of Van Buren.

It's a day long, 134 mile scenic round trip to historic Van Buren, aboard
one of our vintage passenger cars. With passenger cars dating from the
early 1900s, the Excursion Train is comprised of enclosed coaches offering
coach, club and First Class seating. The A & M also features the
opportunity to ride in our classic caboose. Riders can sit back, enjoy the
great views, and visit with friends and family as the train travels through
the foothills of the Boston Mountains, across our three high trestles
(approx. 120 ft high) and through the 1700 foot tunnel at Winslow. A live
narration along the way covers local history and key points of interest.

If we do like last year, we'll operate on 20 meters, so you'll need a
General Class or higher Amateur Radio license to make a contact with us.
I'm not sure offhand whether we'll have a special event callsign, or use
the club callsign, AA5AR. Last year, we operated from the Conductors Cabin
of a restored 1927 Harlan and Hollingsworth Passenger Car...it was a bit
cramped, but the bands were cooperative...especially when Judy, KF5ERQ (XYL
of W5KRK) got on the bands...we were working Pennsylvania like there was no
tomorrow!! A YouTube video of yours truly operating on the 2011 Memorial
Day Troop train is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aEtSbHX7pw  -- it was
my first true HF operations in amateur radio, since my shack has antenna

Lastly, I believe a special QSL card will be available.

Daryl, AE5WX

P.S. A quick reminder that the Trains And Railroad Net meets every Monday
night at 8pm Central Time, on the K9QLP repeater, in Cedarburg,
Wisconsin... and on Echolink via the N9LLT-L node (2356). If the N9LLT-L
node is down at net time, the net will be on the AB9ON-R node (517774).
With yours truly as the "Conductor" (Net Control), amateur radio operators
with a Technician Class or higher license are invited to join us, where we
discuss anything, and everything related to trains and railroading.

*This week @ HQ*

*Radio Camp Update: We are always hearing from folks who “will come to
radio camp someday” or “next year”. We need you now, and we still have
plenty of openings, so apply now.  *Camp is a better value this year
because it is one day longer than last year, the tuition is cheaper,
scholarships are available, and we will have our own dining hall.  Camp is
Saturday, June 2 through Friday, June 8 2012. Call 1-866-426-3442 to

*Equipment! * We also have a selection of donated radios available for
campers to take home. If you are registering for this camp session, please
be sure to let us know if you have an equipment request.

*Ideas wanted:  *If you have ideas about how to market or improve Radio
Camp, or if future camp sessions should be replaced with something else
that will better serve Handiham members, please let me know by email or
postal mail.  Please, no phone calls as I am creating a file to store
comments.  Email radiocamp@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx or write directly to Patrick
Tice, Handiham Manager at our Courage Center address.  If you prefer
changes to Radio Camp, tell me:


   Where it should be held.

   When it should be held.

   How long it should be.

   What it should cost for a camper to attend.

   What topics, courses, or activities should be included during the camp

   What should replace Radio Camp if you think it should no longer be held.

*Thursday meetings: Handiham staff will be at meetings most of Thursday 03
May and unavailable to take phone calls. Please leave a message or email us
and we will get back to you as soon as possible. *

The May 2012  DAISY format audio digest is ready for our blind members.
Check it out in the members section.  Members using NLS digital cartridges
may receive the digest by Free Matter postal mail.

May QST and Worldradio audio digests are now also ready for our blind
members who do not have computers, also in DAISY format, playable in your
Library of Congress digital player.  Handiham members who use these players
and who would prefer to receive a copy of the monthly audio digests on the
special Library of Congress digital cartridge should send a blank cartridge
to us in a cartridge mailer (no envelopes, please), so that we can place
the files on it and return it to you via free matter postal mail.  Your
callsign should be on both the cartridge and the mailer so that we can make
sure we know who it's from. Blank cartridges and mailers are available from
APH, the American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.

Digital Talking Book Cartridge Catalog Number: 1-02610-00, Price: $12.00

Digital Talking Book Cartridge Mailer Catalog Number: 1-02611-00, Price:

Order Toll-Free: (800) 223-1839.

May QST audio digest is now also ready for our blind members in DAISY
format, as a digital download for your computer DAISY player or to place on
your digital cartridge or other portable DAISY player. Visit the DAISY
section on the website after logging in.

Members Only Website Update:

Handiham.org open enrollment is over, but Handiham members who do not have
log in credentials for the site may request them by emailing
handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx This step was taken to curtail the hundreds of
account requests from spammers and other non-members each week.

*Tonight is EchoLink net night.*

The Wednesday evening EchoLink net is at 19:30 United States Central time,
which translates to 00:30 GMT Thursday morning.

The 11:00 daily net will be heard at 16:00 GMT.

The following EchoLink nodes are always connected to the Handiham

HANDIHAM conference server Node 494492 (Our preferred high-capacity node.)
NEW! NX0P-R, node 513917
KA0PQW-R, node 267582
KA0PQW-L, node 538131
N0BVE-R, node 89680
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

A big THANK YOU to all of our net volunteers who keep things running so

*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

Handiham Manager Patrick Tice, WA0TDA, may be reached at
handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx or by phone at 763-520-0511.

Mornings Monday through Thursday are the best time to contact us.

Answers to many questions about radios, Echolink, nets, and the Remote Base
stations are all at www.handiham.org.

*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

Step one: Follow this link to the secure Courage Center Website:

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

Handiham Membership Dues

Benefits of 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

  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

  Join for three years at $36.

  Lifetime membership is $120.

  If you can't afford the dues, request a 90 day non-renewable sponsored

  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

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:

Handiham members with disabilities can take an online audio course at




  Operating Skills

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

Nancy, Handiham Secretary:

Radio Camp email:

*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!*

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
handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx  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

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  • » [handiham-world] Courage Center Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 02 May 2012 - Patrick Tice