[handiham-world] Courage Center Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 14 March 2012

  • From: Patrick Tice <wa0tda@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2012 15:30:07 -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.*

[image: drawing of transceiver]

Last week I was thinking about mentioning something about "bad apples" –
amateur radio operators who exhibit poor operating practices while on the
air. There was plenty of other stuff to cover in the newsletter and podcast
already, so I decided to let it go until this week. Anyway, as you know,
the Amateur Radio Service is largely self-policed. That means that we
observe what is going on on the bands and help other operators learn good
operating practices, largely leading by example.  In fact, the last thing
you want to be is "the band police", which is someone who sticks their nose
into every situation and scolds other operators for real or imagined
infractions on the bands. No, it is better to lead by example and always
use your call sign, be helpful rather than judgmental as much as possible,
and convey your concerns off the air. Frequently the telephone is a better
choice, as would be a note in the mail. You don't want to embarrass someone
who has made a mistake by pointing it out on the air. If the violation was
willful, it is likely that confronting someone on the air about it will
simply result in an on the air argument that will certainly be heard by
others and show amateur radio in general in a bad light.

Thankfully there are volunteers who listen on the bands for situations that
call for some kind of resolution. These are "Official Observers", or
"OO's". The Official Observer program is run by ARRL.  It is administered
by the Section Manager, and the volunteers report to him or her.  An
Official Observer is recommended for appointment by the ARRL Section
Manager and completes a short training course by reading relevant
information provided by ARRL. For a complete list of the requirements,
visit the ARRL website and put "Official Observer" in the search box.
You'll find a complete description and everything you need to know about
becoming eligible for this important volunteer appointment.

But anyone can hear a violation or instance of bad operating on the air and
take some notes. You can always send your Section Manager an e-mail
expressing your concern and asking that Official Observers listen for
further violations. Some of the most annoying and difficult situations are
those where the bad operating practices go on day after day, week after
week, and month after month. These are not something for an individual to
tackle; it takes a team to gather information and make a case against the
perpetrator. You will definitely want to pass the information on through
the right channels. In some cases, the bad operating may be originating
outside the borders of your country. Again, going through the right
channels to gain experienced assistance is key to solving such problems.
That is why I like the Official Observer program.  It is backed by 85 years
of collective experience at ARRL in dealing with virtually every kind of
technical problem and bad operating practice.

Part of knowing when to report a violation is simply something that comes
to you by gaining experience through years of operating and listening on
the bands. You learn to get a sense of when something is a willful
violation (done on purpose with a bad intent) or simply an innocent mistake
that is unlikely to be repeated once the person finds out what they did
wrong.  Frankly, all of us are human and will make mistakes. It is not
necessary to jump on someone because they made one of these all too common
errors. Who among us has not gotten Echolink stuck in transmit mode? Yes,
it is an embarrassing mistake but it is not the end of the world. On the
other hand, talking for a half-hour in a roundtable conversation without
using your call sign even once is not only against the law but also rude
and inconsiderate of other operators. As I said, figuring out what to
report and what to simply set aside for the moment is one of those things
one picks up by experience. Listening is really important in amateur radio.
We all learn a lot more by listening than by talking no matter what the
situation – and amateur radio is no different!

The ultimate goal is to make the amateur radio bands a better, safer, and
more civil place for all users and to always "put our best foot forward"
for any listeners out there who might be thinking about getting their
amateur radio licenses.

For Handiham World, I'm...
Patrick Tice, handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Handiham Manager

*Understanding HF propagation*

[image: IC-706 transceiver showing 1.902 MHz on the display]

Along the lines of my previous comments about bad operating practices, I
recently received an email about an interference problem on 160 meters.
The interference situation arises when a group of stations in the eastern
United States run high power and operate close to another frequency several
kilohertz away that is in use by a group of operators here in Minnesota. As
you know, these groups of stations may not even hear each other during
early evening hours when daytime conditions hold sway and absorption keeps
long-distance sky wave propagation from taking place.  As the night falls
and the ionospheric absorption decreases, the band starts to open up to
longer distance skip, and soon the two groups of stations begin hearing
each other.

Both groups may be tempted to dig in their heels and say, "We were here
first", but the fact of the matter is that the propagation conditions
simply changed and that is what causes the interference. Understanding that
it is not the other guy's fault is important in making a decision about
what to do next.

Remember what the FCC says about how we should only use the level of power
necessary to carry on communications?  Well, Sec. 97.313 Transmitter power
standards, (a) says, "An amateur station must use the minimum transmitter
power necessary to carry out the desired communications."

When propagation conditions change, there are three good choices to
mitigate the interference problem:


   All stations in both groups should lower their transmitting power
   levels, even though the temptation is to crank up the linear amplifier.
   Lower power levels decrease the likelihood of interference.

   Consider using a different frequency.  This is often the best solution.
   Remember, no frequency has any single user's name on it - I don't care if
   your group has been on "their" frequency for 10 years.  Get out of the
   mindset that one can claim a frequency by squatter's rights.

   Change the scheduled time of your on the air gathering to avoid the
   propagation conditions you find undesirable.

Notice that these are all non-confrontational solutions that do not involve
blaming "the other guy".  Understanding HF propagation can be very helpful
in solving interference problems and enjoying ham radio even more!

*Troubleshooting 101*

[image: Cartoon guy with toolkit]

If you are like most amateur radio operators, you probably have several
portable, battery-operated devices that take consumer-grade replaceable
cells such as AA's or 9 V square batteries often used in smoke detectors.
In this scenario, you decide to use your dip oscillator to check on the
approximate resonant point of an antenna that you are building. When you
press the power button, nothing happens. Since the dip oscillator is a
battery-operated portable device, the first thing you are probably going to
think of doing is checking the battery or batteries. For some
incomprehensible reason, many of these amateur radio test accessories
require you to use a screwdriver and take the case apart to get at the
batteries. This makes it inconvenient to take the batteries out if the
device if it is not going to be used for a long period of time.

Okay, so you go ahead and get the screwdriver and take the case off the dip
oscillator. What do you see? Of course the battery is dead; it has
obviously died a rather messy death because there is a white residue around
the contacts. The battery has leaked and corrosion may have set in,
possibly damaging the dip meter. The first thing to do is dispose of the
old battery safely. Usually alkaline batteries or the old carbon-zinc
batteries can simply be thrown in the trash while  batteries with other
chemistries such as rechargeables might have to be taken to a recycling
center.  If you are unsure of the residue leaked by the battery, it is
prudent to wear gloves. Anything leaked from a lead-acid battery should be
considered dangerous and corrosive. Usually such batteries are not found in
small accessories.

With the battery gone, you can now attend to the mess left behind inside
your meter. Flaky or powdery residue can sometimes be removed effectively
with a brush such as an old paintbrush that is dedicated to such projects
on your workbench. Do your best to avoid inhaling anything and if necessary
use a mask to protect your lungs. A damp Q-tip can also be effective
without creating dust. I have used a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol
because the alcohol will evaporate from the circuit board and contacts
quickly. You don't need to use much! A pencil eraser like the kind on a
number two lead pencil can do a pretty good job of polishing up a battery
contact on the meter's battery holder.  Try to make sure that the battery
holder contacts are shiny and clean before putting in a new battery. I
always try to avoid using abrasives on these battery contacts because they
will remove any plating and open the road to further corrosion. If the
battery contacts have been destroyed, it will be necessary to find a new
battery holder, and this may mean making some slight modifications to
accommodate it. Every case will be different, so this is a chance to be
creative and figure out your own solution. Just be careful that nothing
will short out when the meter is in use or when you put the case back on!

I have always wondered why manufacturers of these devices make it so
doggone hard to get at the batteries in the first place. Something like a
dip oscillator will only be used occasionally by most amateur radio
operators, so it would be great to be able to put in and remove the battery
easily and quickly so that the device could be stored for months or years
without the battery in place.

Email me at handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx with your questions & comments.
Patrick Tice
Handiham Manager

*A dip in the pool*

[image: cartoon kid doing math problems]

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.

G0A02 asks, "Which of the following properties is important in estimating
whether an RF signal exceeds the maximum permissible exposure (MPE)?

Your possible choices are:

A. Its duty cycle

B. Its frequency

C. Its power density

D. All of these choices are correct

Okay, so how many of you picked answer D, All of these choices are
correct?   As it happens, maximum permissible exposure to RF energy is
determined by several factors. The duty cycle of the  transmitter refers
to  the percentage of time that the transmitter is active for a given mode
of operation when a measurement is taken. Okay, that may oversimplify it
just a bit, but if you take the extreme examples of single side band
operation versus FM operation, there is quite a difference in duty cycle
and therefore RF exposure. The duty cycle in single side band operation is
far lower than that in FM operation. On a single side band transmitter,
when you key the microphone but don't speak into it, there is no RF energy
being transmitted. The transmit power drops to nothing between words and
sentences and varies with your voice pattern. When you key an FM
transmitter, maximum transmit power occurs at all times, whether you are
saying anything into the microphone or not. Obviously this will affect the
amount of RF exposure.  Frequency also plays a part in determining maximum
permissible exposure. The human body is more sensitive to some frequencies
than others.  Power density is also important because when you are close to
the transmitting antenna and when you are using an amplifier the level of
RF energy is quite high and care must be taken to limit time spent in that

You can arrive at a safe solution to RF exposure by changing any of these
variables. For example,  you can locate your antenna system far away from
dwellings so that the power density where human beings are likely to be is
very low. You can put a fence around a ground mounted vertical antenna to
prevent people from coming too close to the antenna. You can use lower
power levels while transmitting. Remember, as we said before, using only
the necessary power is good operating practice anyway. You can transmit
using a mode  with a lower duty cycle. When this is impossible, you should
be aware of other ways to keep RF energy away from nearby people or
dwellings. You can learn to use the RF safety calculations on the ARRL
website or on websites designed to do the math for you. This helps you
design your station and antenna system so that it is safe to use on
different frequency bands.

An online RF safety calculator is here:

I like to use an online RF safety calculator rather than trying to figure
things out with a pencil, a piece of paper, and a calculator. Although the
online calculators do a good job of estimating RF power density, they come
with a caveat, which is that there are "no warranties". As with many other
types of calculators, the rule of thumb is "garbage in, garbage out". You
may need to read the instructions carefully on the website and do a little
background research into the type of antenna you have to make sure that you
fill in the form fields on the RF safety calculator page correctly. In most
cases, operating HF without a linear amplifier under normal conditions will
not result in any serious RF exposure, but, as is noted in question G0A02
above, several factors do come into play and it is better to be safe than
sorry. If you are operating a linear amplifier of any kind, you need to pay
careful attention to make sure that you do not exceed maximum permissible
exposure levels for yourself or anyone who might be in the vicinity. Indoor
antennas are another red flag for possible RF exposure. Take some time to
be safe and do a station assessment.

*Remote Base Health Report for 14 March 2012*

[image: W4MQ software screenshot]

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

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

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

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

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.

*Database query tool *

Recently I had a request for some way to look up the sequence in which the
FCC is assigning callsigns.  The best I have found is the AE7Q FCC database
query tools:


There are kind of a lot of form fields on the page, but it sure does stuff
no other site does for look up.  Take some time to poke around the site and
I think you will be amazed at what you can find out.

*This week @ HQ*

[image: happy cartoon guy wearing earphones]

*Pat is back:*  Being out of the office for a few days allowed me to catch
up on my backlog of chores. My mother-in-law needed a new light fixture
installed, some shelving repaired, and a computer fix. She lives three
hours away from us so it was important to get quite a few things done.
While I worked on the other jobs, my wife shampooed the carpet and helped
"Grandma" shop for a new dishwasher. Sometimes it is necessary to take time
off from work and from amateur radio to get other things done. Life is like
that; it requires balance in everything. Of course getting back to the
office today means that there is a backlog of work piled up. I apologize if
I have not gotten back to you by phone or e-mail.

*Please read the instructions!  *We have done quite a lot of work putting
together resources to help people understand our remote base stations and
EchoLink, but seriously folks – we do not have a "tech support staff"
sitting here by a bank of telephones just waiting to walk you through the
process of port forwarding on your router. Amateur radio is a technical
pursuit by its very nature. You learn it by actually doing it for yourself,
and that means digging into the already available help files on the
Echolink.org website and on the remote base pages that we have placed on
handiham.org.  EchoLink seems to be a tough nut to crack for a lot of
newbies, and that is not surprising because it does require special router
configuration that most people have not done before. But think about it; if
you have a problem with EchoLink, it is quite likely that many other people
have had the exact same problem and therefore it will be covered in detail
in the help and troubleshooting pages on the excellent EchoLink website.
Like us, the EchoLink volunteers do not have phone banks of technical
support staff who can walk you through the entire setup process. But there
is no need to despair, because everything you need to know is covered on
the website. You need to take the time and be patient and do your reading.
You will find that the answers are indeed there, but it will take some
learning on your part to figure out how to best solve the problem. Once you
get used to using the EchoLink website, you will find that navigation and
troubleshooting become easier and easier.

It is pretty normal for me to be on a phone call and have incoming call
alerts several times during the active phone call. On Wednesdays, when I am
on deadline to produce the podcast, I sometimes have to say "that's it" and
send all calls to voicemail. You can help by communicating by e-mail
whenever possible and by leaving a short phone message on voicemail telling
us the reason you are calling and giving us your complete phone number with
area code so that we can call you back. Please note that if you can use the
resources already available on our website to answer your question, there
is no need to call, and you will quite possibly get your answer more
quickly that way.  Remember, we have only a tiny staff here and I simply
cannot spend a lot of time on the telephone without neglecting my other
duties.   I do try to make calls to members before returning calls to

*Bob, N1BLF, has completed the March CQ audio digest for our blind members.
*Check it out in the members section.  Thanks, Bob, for another great job
of recording.

*Mike, N0VZC, has replaced the hard drive that hosts the HANDIHAM EchoLink
conference.  *Service was completed on the weekend with minimum down time.
Thanks, Mike, for hosting this great service that many of us use and enjoy

*Technician License Class continues in Stillwater this Thursday (March 15)
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

   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.

*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.*

[image: Echolink screenshot]

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.

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

*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
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:

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:

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!*

[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
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, 14 March 2012 - Patrick Tice