[handiham-world] Courage Center Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 12 September 2012

  • From: Patrick Tice <wa0tda@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2012 15:16:23 -0500

*Courage Center Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday,
12 September 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.

MP3 audio stream:

Download the 40 kbs MP3 audio to your portable player:

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RSS feed for the audio podcast if you use other podcasting software:
*Welcome to Handiham World.*

[image: Outdoor swapmeet tables showing the Connectors by George inventory
with PJ in the photo, hiding under the table in the lower right corner.]

George, N0SBU, writes: "PJ and I had a quiet weekend. We went to the Rush
City swap meet. I looked around and PJ sold connectors or something like

The picture George sent me shows the Rush City swap meet parking lot, where
the outdoor event participants enjoyed a perfect Minnesota Saturday. George
sells connectors, so his tables are neatly organized with plastic bins of
all sorts of electronic connectors and related accessories. The N0SBU
license plate can be spotted on George's SUV in the background. Can you
spot PJ, his helper?  She is a sweet as can be little puppy and a good
guard dog and sales associate for "Connectors by George". Blind users can
find her by reading the alt-text in the photo field. Where is George,
N0SBU?  He is behind the camera, taking the picture!

George mentioned to me that he didn't see me at the swap meet.  That is
certainly true, because I went to my local radio club meeting that day. The
Stillwater (MN) Amateur Radio Association (SARA), a Handiham affiliated
club, kicked off its new ham radio meeting season with an excellent program
on digital modes. The meeting was full of operating news - two special
events that the club would be running, plus an on the air experimental
digital net using PSK-125.

Sometimes it seems there is nothing going on and then the ham radio
calendar gets so busy that one has a hard time picking and choosing between
the events!

But September is the traditional month for radio clubs in North America to
end their summer hiatus and get back to business, so I guess it is not
surprising that there will be much more activity, both at the clubs and on
the air from this point on. Check out the usual sources to get an idea of
where the action might be, then plan to have fun on the air. The QST and CQ
magazines both list events.  The ARRL website has an excellent radio club
locator resource that allows you to find a club near you. Several ham radio
websites have news and information announcements, and club websites post
club events and news.

This special edition of your Handiham World looks at a few troubleshooting
issues with antennas and feedlines to help you get back in the running for
some great on the air fun this ham radio season!

Email me at handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx with your questions & comments.
Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Handiham Manager
Troubleshooting 101: Keeping an open mind.

[image: Cartoon guy with hard hat and toolbag climbing tower]

Okay, here's the scenario:  I have not been on the HF bands in a while -
been busy with summer stuff, you know - and now I am all jazzed up about
getting on the air after hearing about contesting and DX at my first local
ham club meeting of the season. I dust off the radio and turn it on, tuning
to 20 meters and I hear... Nothing except a little hiss.  This is a major
bummer, because I was so excited to get on the air!  Now I will have to go
out and weed the garden as my wife suggested.

Ha, ha, of course I am not going to do that!  I will troubleshoot the
problem instead because that is better than digging out weeds with roots
that go to China.

Consider that a problem like this one can have many causes. The radio is
not receiving any signals but I know that it is turned on and there is some
noise coming from the speaker.  Keeping an open mind when approaching a
troubleshooting project is not just a good idea - it may be essential to
actually locating and resolving the issue!

Let me illustrate this concept by visiting two guys who have the exact same
receiving problem. These guys are both imaginary and are not based on any
real person, but if either one sounds like it might be you, well... What
can I say? Learn from your experience.

*Ham Guy 1:* Buster finds his station as just described. He has seen this
problem before, so he knows that he is in for a day of antenna work. He
switches off the radio and heads out to the garage to collect the climbing
gear and all the necessary tools, including the safety harness and a hard
hat. With a neighbor performing the spotting duty of being watchful in case
Buster should need help, up the tower he goes. The first step is to cut
away the sealant and the tie wraps securing the balun near the top of the
tower.  This allows the balun to be disconnected from the feedline and the
antenna.  Buster then places the balun in the carry pouch he has on his
safety belt and begins the climb back down the tower.  Back on the ground,
he can open up the balun to solder the broken wire that he knows caused a
problem several years ago. The balun is tightly sealed, so he takes it down
the basement to his well-lighted workbench to get the case off.  Those
screws are really tight!  Finally the balun case yields and it is possible
to get at the wiring.  But wait!  Everything looks just fine. An ohmmeter
check shows that all of the balun's circuitry is intact! Nothing seems to
be wrong, and there is certainly no hint of any damage from overloading or
a lightning strike. Still, better safe than sorry, so Buster gets into the
car and drives to his nearest ham radio store to purchase a new balun.

"There is no point in climbing that tower again with a bad balun", he

With the new balun in hand and the helpful neighbor once again recruited to
act as a spotter during the tower climb, Buster heads on up. The new balun
is easy to install, but the coax sealant is kind of a mess to work with, so
he decides that it might be better to come back down the tower and run a
test on the repaired system before sealing the connectors - just in case.

*Ham Guy 2: *Dexter finds his station as described above.  He sits down to
think about it for a minute.

"There could be one or more things wrong here", he thinks to himself.
"Might as well check the easy stuff first."

After checking the rig's attenuator setting (off) and the RF gain control
(100%), Dexter reached around the back of the rig and felt the disconnected
PL-259 plug.  That's when he recalled that a few weeks ago he had
disconnected the antenna when thunderstorms had been forecast and because
his summer had been quite busy he had not been on the radio since.

"I'm getting a bit forgetful", he thought to himself as he reconnected the
antenna, after which he proceeded to get on the air and make a dozen DX

*Meanwhile, back at Buster's house:  *Buster fired up the radio and the
band was still dead. It was only then that he discovered the coax that he
had also disconnected when the thunderstorms rolled through several weeks
ago. He connected the feedline and the band came alive.  The patient
neighbor spotted for him again when he climbed the tower to seal the coax
and replace all the tie wraps, completing the antenna project.  By then it
was much to late to get on the air.

Which ham radio troubleshooter are you?  Do you open your mind up to all
the possibilities? Or do you simply know what to do because you are sure
you are right?

This is not a rhetorical question. It is a serious matter when working out
real-world issues. Not only can a closed mindset send you down the garden
path in a completely wrong direction, it can be part of a thinking pattern
that can actually cause safety issues. Let's take a look at what caused
Buster to waste an entire day replacing a perfectly good balun.

*Mistake 1: Assuming that history predicts the future. *

Buster had experienced antenna problems before.  In fact, the memory of
replacing a bad balun was still pretty fresh in his mind. The symptoms of
the problem had been exactly the same. He made the mistake of assuming that
history (the balun that had really gone bad a few years ago) had repeated
itself this year. That was not the case.  The problem with assuming that
the future can be predicted by a past event is that the future has not yet
happened! New things happen for the first time every day. None of these
things could be predicted by a past event in history. Consider the case of
a dead radio. One time it may be a tripped circuit breaker and nothing
more. Another time the breaker may be tripped because of a shorted
transistor that has caused the excess current draw. Another time the power
supply may have gone bad.  Maybe the power switch has failed. The radio may
be unplugged from the power supply. Maybe the power is off to the entire
neighborhood because a tree has fallen on the power lines. Don't assume
that just because one of these events caused the problem last week it must
be the same thing this week!

*Mistake 2:  Failing to consider alternatives.*

Buster assumed that he knew what the problem was right from the outset. He
did not take a few minutes to think about other possibilities. Nothing
could change his mind at that point because he was so sure he knew the
answer. He proceeded to waste time and resources chasing down the wrong

*Mistake 3: Failing to understand probabilities.*

As we have learned, one must consider alternatives when deciding what path
to take with troubleshooting.  Dexter considered several possible
conditions that could cause the problem, but he wisely thought about
probabilities and did not consider the less likely possibilities - at least
at first.  Although the problem was simply a disconnected feedline, it
could have been a bad balun.  But how often do baluns actually fail?  The
probability of that kind of failure is relatively low compared to leaving
the RF gain control in the wrong position or forgetting to reconnect a
feedline after a thunderstorm. To press the point, it is also possible that
a passing meteor zinged right through your feedline and you never noticed a
thing.  Some things are so improbable that they are not worth considering
until the easy and much more probable stuff has been exhausted. It is way
more likely that some simple thing is amiss, so take a few minutes to think
things through before wasting time on the least likely scenarios!

*Mistake 4: Giving up.*

To the credit of both Buster and Dexter, neither one gave up on the
problem. They both eventually found a fix and their stations were both back
in service. Had they given up, they would have abandoned a valuable
tradition in amateur radio - working on one's own equipment. Even if a
problem is too puzzling or requires extra hands on deck, it is always
acceptable to ask for help. The amateur radio club in your area is a good
place to start.

Sometimes it is fun - and always satisfying - to work our way through the
troubleshooting process, learning as we go.
Distracted driving reminder

[image: Cartoon couple driving in convertable]

*Driving the car is your first responsibility!*

Yesterday I spent the afternoon in one of those 55+ defensive driving
refresher courses. You save money on your car insurance premium if you
complete an initial 8 hour class, then you have 4 hour refreshers every
three years or so. One of the hottest topics in driving safety these days
is distracted driving. I remember my very first ham radio mentor telling me
about how he just couldn't get on the two meter radio when he was driving
because every time he did so he would end up concentrating on the radio and
forgetting about watching his speed. Finally he got a speeding ticket and
just quit using the radio in the car. That, of course, was long before the
days of smart phones with their touch screen interfaces.

I've never had a huge problem using the VHF radio while driving, but that
doesn't mean you can't still be distracted. The 2 meter rig can't even come
close to the distraction potential of a modern smartphone!  The phone has a
touch screen that demands your close attention if you want to input
information correctly. It does multiple things, often requiring its user to
go through several screens while paying close attention to touching the
exactly correct spot on the screen to move the process forward. Experts
tell us that even hands-free smartphones cause considerable brainpower to
be diverted from the primary task of driving the car.

How is it that ham radio operation is different?

[image: Bumper sticker on SUV at Dayton: As a matter of fact I don't have
enough antennas on my car.]

Well, for one thing it is considerably easier to simply turn on a radio and
use an existing repeater channel that is already stored in the
transceiver's memory. The conversation is not full duplex, so you can talk
or listen, but only one person has the repeater's transmitter at a time.
Most everyone using the repeater understands that the conversation may be
interrupted by a driving situation that demands the driver's full
attention. Repeater conversations often go into a standby mode while
traffic (car traffic) clears. All I have to do is let the person I am
talking to know that I must concentrate on driving.

Emergency responders and police officers use the radio all the time. It is
a skill that can be learned, but that still does not mean that the radio
comes first. Your first job is ALWAYS to drive the car. To that end, you
must be honest with yourself about how distracting you find the radio. If
you only use it while the car is parked, you will be safe and can
concentrate on your conversation. If you are on an empty freeway at noon on
a sunny day, you may find the radio's use to be easy and safe. It all
depends on you and the situation. What these periodic driving refresher
course do is remind me that distracted driving can be a killer.  Better be
safe than sorry. Know your limitations and use the radio only when it will
be safe to do so.
Don't forget about the new Tech Net!

[image: TMV71A transceiver]

We have heard lots of positive comments about our new Handiham Tech Net, a
place to discuss technology related to amateur radio. The Tech Net is on
the air at 19:00 hours USA Central Time each Thursday. The regular Handiham
Radio Club Wednesday evening net is at the same 19:00 hour, just one day
earlier.  Daily nets are at 11:00 hours USA Central Time.

Frequency in the local Minnesota repeater coverage zone: 145.45 FM,
negative offset with no tone and 444.65 MHz with 114.8 Hz tone in the Twin
Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul Minnesota. The UHF repeater will be
heard more easily in the Eastern Twin Cities.

*EchoLink nodes:*

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

*Other ways to connect:*

IRLP node 9008 (Vancouver BC reflector)

WIRES system number 1427
*A dip in the pool*

It's time to test our knowledge by taking a dip in the pool - the question
pool, that is!

Let's go to a question from the Extra Class pool:

E5D07 asks, "What determines the strength of a magnetic field around a

Possible answers are:

A. The resistance divided by the current

B. The ratio of the current to the resistance

C. The diameter of the conductor

D. The amount of current

This question is really sort of easy, isn't it? Of course you have to know
beforehand that a magnetic field is created by the flow of current through
a conductor. It stands to reason that the more current that flows, the
higher the strength of the magnetic field that it creates. I am not going
to stick my neck out and say that it is exactly proportional, because you
can arrange the conductor in such a way as to concentrate the magnetic
lines of force. I'm thinking of the case where you wind the conducting wire
to form a coil, thus concentrating the magnetic field. The important thing
to remember for your Extra Class exam is that a conductor carrying a
current does create a magnetic field, and that a conductor moving through a
magnetic field creates a current, because the two are physically related.

Please e-mail handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx to comment.
*Remote Base health report: W0EQO is on line. W0ZSW is on line.*

Notice to users of W0ZSW: At this time we are recommending caution if you
plan to transmit using W0ZSW. We have noticed an irregularity in the
station's behavior where the station will receive normally for an
indefinite period of time, but lock up and become unresponsive after the
operator transmits two or three times. Your client software may show that
you are still connected even when you try disconnecting. If this happens to
you, please send an email to wa0tda@xxxxxxxx immediately so that the
station can be disconnected. Then close the w4mq software on your computer
and reopen it, and use w0eqo instead. W0ZSW is available for receive use
via Echolink, a feature which is working well.

Solar activity is expected to be low with a chance for an isolated M-class
flare for the first day (12 September). M-class probability is expected to
decrease for the second and third days (13-14 September) as Region 1564
rotates out of view.

Geophysical Activity Forecast: Geomagnetic activity is expected to be quiet
with a slight chance for unsettled levels on days 1 and 2 (12-13
September). An increase to quiet to unsettled levels with a slight chance
for an active period is expected on the third day (14 September) due to a
favorably positioned coronal hole.
This week @ HQ

I will be out of the office for an all-day meeting on Monday, 17 September
2012. Nancy will be in the office as usual that day. I hope to have some
time to diagnose problems at W0ZSW on Monday.

A new lecture in our Extra Class series will be released on Friday. Our
topic area is Electrical Principles.

Laurie's Events Column is ready for September:

We have the Daisy version of September 2012 QST. Worldradio is also
available for September in Daisy, and CQ will be posted by Friday at the
latest. (Thanks, Bob, N1BLF!)

DAISY audio digests are available for our blind members who do not have
computers, 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. <http://www.aph.org/>

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.

The Library of Congress NLS has a list of vendors for the digital

Get it all on line as an alternative:  Visit the DAISY section on the
Handiham website after logging in.
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.

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, KD0LPX, at
763-520-0532 or email him at walt.seibert@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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:

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:

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, 12 September 2012 - Patrick Tice