[handiham-world] Courage Center Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 25 April 2012

  • From: Patrick Tice <wa0tda@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2012 21:05:55 -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]

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*

[image: Cartoon guy with toolkit]

*I have set up my Echolink audio and it worked perfectly, but today when I
tried using Echolink, the audio was really low or not working at all.  What
can be done?*

[image: Echolink audio tab in System Setup Reach system setup with keyboard
command ALT-E.]

Before we say anything more about this, I have to let you know that you are
not alone.  I like Echolink and use it nearly every day, but I still
consider it to be a journey, so to speak.  I have not quite arrived yet at
the point where Echolink works perfectly each and every time.  Audio
problems are common and expected, so we have to learn how to troubleshoot

Your first test should be a visit to the Echolink Test Server.  Find the
test server by going to the Station menu (Arrow right from the File menu or
use ALT-S) and when you hit "Station", arrow down to "Connect to test
server". You should hear the familiar welcome message.  After the welcome,
get focus in the transmit box, toggle transmit with the space bar, and
transmit a short test message. Toggle again and wait for your audio to be
echoed back to you. If there is no audio, proceed to the "No Audio"
troubleshooting.  If there is low audio or too much audio so as to cause
distortion, proceed to the "Audio Level" troubleshooting.

No Audio

If there is no audio at all, there are several things to check.

Volume:  Is the volume turned up?  Are your computer speakers powered up?

Microphone: Is the microphone plugged in?  If there is an external
microphone, whether USB or the 3.5 mm plug, it may have been unplugged by
another user in the family, or you may have unplugged it and forgotten to
plug it back in. Some microphones have their own mute buttons.  Check to
make sure the microphone is not muted. If you are using a microphone
headset with 3.5 mm audio plugs, make sure that the headphone plug and the
microphone plugs are not reversed. If you use a USB headset, plug it into
the same USB port on your computer each time so that the machine does not
search for USB drivers each time you plug it in.

Audio Mixer: The audio mixer in your operating system (usually Windows for
Echolink users) might have the microphone either muted or the wrong audio
input is selected. Windows users need to go to the Windows Mixer recording
settings.  Getting there is different depending on your version of
Windows.  We will not explore this, but it is something you should learn
about your own computer and operating system. In the recording mixer
settings, unmute the microphone and run the slider up if it is set at zero.
Repeat the test server test and it should work fine.  You can usually get
to the mixer settings via the Echolink application itself. Go to the Tools
menu, then arrow down to "Adjust sound device" and choose "Recording".
This is an easy way to find the recording mixer!

Multiple audio inputs: As we mentioned, the wrong input may be selected in
your Windows mixer.  Be sure the correct input for the microphone you want
to use is selected as the default device.  Again, how you do this may vary
depending on your operating system.  You should learn how to use your
operating system's mixer.

Echolink sound selection:  The Echolink application has its own selection
of audio input devices available from a pull down menu.  You will find it
on the audio tab in System Setup.  The choices are "Input Device" and
"Output Device". If the microphone selection is to be checked, the one you
want to pull down is the "Input Device".  If you have more than one input
device, they should all be listed in the pull down.  However, the first
item listed is always "system default".  That is the one you should select,
because if you followed the directions we just gave you, you have already
set the preferred microphone to "default device".

[image: Recording device list in Windows 7 with default device selected.]

So why do we recommend using "default device" instead of one of the other
selections?  It is because selecting the recording device via the Echolink
pull down does not always result in the correct device actually being used
for audio input.  This is a real mine field for users who have lots of
audio devices.  A computer could have a TV tuner, more than one microphone,
a webcam with a built-in microphone, a line in device, and even a USB audio
line to a transceiver.  Don't laugh - I have had all of these things, and
sometimes Echolink reported one microphone being the input when instead the
audio was coming from the HF rig connected via USB.  It is safer to set
your preferred microphone up as the default device in Windows, then always
choose the default device as the Echolink input via the Setup menu.

Final test: If you have followed the directions and everything is set up as
described, repeat the test server test.  Adjust levels if necessary.  If
there is still no audio, you may have to look further.  There could be a
fault in your microphone, usually with the cable or plug, or with the
computer hardware or sound card drivers.

Low Audio

Microphone selection and positioning: As we already discussed, you must be
sure that you are using the correct device. One fellow I know was puzzled
by a low transmit audio condition.  When I talked with him on Echolink, his
audio sounded like he was far away from the microphone, yet he was wearing
a headset microphone combo.  The diagnosis was that the sound was being
picked up by his laptop's built in microphone, which had been selected as
the default audio input device.   If you are simply too far away from the
microphone it can have exactly the same effect. Position the microphone
closer to your mouth, keeping it slightly to the side.  If the mic element
must be very close to your lips, as is the case with headset microphones,
use a foam wind screen to prevent puffs from making loud noises as you

Beware of other software that takes over mixer settings:  Voice dictation
software can change your mixer settings to some predetermined level that is
ideal for speech input computing.  You may have your Echolink levels just
perfect, then you open Dragon NaturallySpeaking®, enjoy a session of typing
with your voice, and think nothing of it.  But the next time you want to
use Echolink, the microphone audio may be very low.  This happened to me
all the time, because I liked using my USB headset for both voice dictation
and Echolink. Dragon would reset the mixer every time, unchecking the
microphone AGC boost and changing the slider level. It might be best to
select different input devices for these two software applications so one
does not fight it out with the other for mixer level settings.

Mixer settings continued: Most of us will not use anything but the built-in
software mixer, but there may be some users who use external hardware
mixers.  These can be great for those who like to really be in control of
their audio.  If you have an external mixer, be sure the microphone is
plugged in and selected as the input device. Check the sliders to adjust
the level.  If the device uses external power, be sure it is powered up!

Every computer system is different.  It is difficult for someone else to
help you with your system, especially on the phone.  So I have some
"homework" for you.  I want you to learn how to use the audio mixer in your
own computer, and learn it well enough to set input and output levels.
Some computers (probably most these days) have some kind of keystroke
combination or actual dedicated keys on the keyboard to raise and lower the
volume or mute the audio.  Some laptops have a volume control that operates
by spinning a wheel or holding down a specific key. You need to learn these
controls and learn them well, because they will be used for lots of other
applications like taking voice notes, doing voice dictation, playing music,
listening to audio books or Internet audio streams, and much more.
Wouldn't it be nice to learn the mixer settings so that you don't have to
ask for help on these things as well as with Echolink?

Sure, it would!  And you can do it.

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

G4A14 asks, "How should the transceiver audio input be adjusted when
transmitting PSK31 data signals?"

Your possible choices are:

A. So that the transceiver is at maximum rated output power
B. So that the transceiver ALC system does not activate
C. So that the transceiver operates at no more than 25% of rated power
D. So that the transceiver ALC indicator shows half scale

Since we have been talking about setting audio levels, I thought this would
be a good question to bring into the discussion.  I'll bet some of you have
not tried PSK31, so you may not have a clue as to how to set audio levels.
Because the level can be controlled both by the computer's audio mixer and
the radio's microphone level control, there are a couple of settings to
look at.  The first one is that you should know how to set your radio's
readout to display the ALC (Automatic Level Control).  In modern radios,
this is a digital bar graph that may not be accessible to a blind user.
The trick with sending data via the transceiver's microphone input is to
keep even the slightest audio distortion from damaging the data stream.  To
do that, you want to keep the level fairly low, so that the ALC is not
being activated. You want the cleanest audio possible, and processing the
audio can introduce data errors. If your radio has a dedicated data port,
this makes the change of distortion by the microphone ALC circuitry a
non-issue. However, the mixer settings in your computer's operating system
may still need setting.  When getting ready to operate PSK31 for the first
time solicit the help of a friend to check your signal at the received

Digital Media Update

On line publishing is now well-joined with QST in beta testing mode.
Recently ARRL invited VEs who are registered with the ARRL VEC to view the
new on line May 2012 edition of QST.  Since I am a VE, I received the
invitation and found that I enjoyed looking at the new digital version and
comparing it to the print magazine.  I had a bit of an advantage because I
had already been through much of the print version already, having recorded
parts of it for our blind members.  Some pages in the digital version were
different, though the page numbers were mostly the same.  For example, the
excellent article "Who was Bill Orr, W6SAI?" by Eric Nichols, KL7AJ,
appears in both the print and digital versions on page 73.   But the two
pages do not look exactly the same.  In the print version, Eric's entire
article fits onto page 73. If you turn the page, you will find an article
about the new DXCC fee structure.  In the digital version, Eric's article
contains a "Digital edition only" inset on page 73.  This inset is "More
about Bill Orr, W6SAI". It includes some facts about W6SAI and a picture of
him in his ham shack. This information does not appear at all in the print
version, though there is a link in the text telling you where to find it on
the ARRL website.  Because the inset takes some space, Eric's article
continues on the next digital page.  That page is numbered 73a instead of
74.  Also on page 73a is a copy of the new ARRL Frequency Chart reflecting
the changes in the 60 meter band. To preserve the proper location of the
DXCC article on page 74, a page 73b is also added, and it has a full page
ad for ARRL publications.  That way the digital edition and the print
edition can be "in sync" again on page 74.

The digital version is easy and intuitive to a sighted computer user.  Page
turns are done by clicking an outer page corner or by using the arrow
controls in the Flash-enabled browser application. I used Firefox for this
test, but any web browser that supports a Flash plug-in should work just as
well. There is a "page turn" sound (like a paper page being turned) set up
by default. The page turns are also animated to make it look as if you are
turning a paper page.  Both of these features may be disabled in the user
settings.  The page turn sound may be especially annoying in a quiet
environment where others are reading.  Page turn animations are harmless if
you have plenty of processing power, but if your computer is getting a bit
long of tooth you may find that animated page turns are jerky or hang as
the processor struggles to keep up.

Blind users will be wondering whether the digital QST is accessible with a
screenreader.  Our volunteer station engineer Lyle Koehler, K0LR, writes to
me about that:

As for blind accessibility, here is what it says in the ARRL FAQs:

Question: Do Blind Readers work on the digital edition of QST?

Answer:  The new digital edition is not currently formatted for Blind
Readers. ARRL is looking into a text-only version of digital QST with our
vendor, Nxtbook. We hope to launch it later in 2012. QST is currently
available through the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically
Handicapped (NLS) in cassette format: http://www.loc.gov/nls/index.html .

At the present time, both NLS and Handihams offer versions of QST in DAISY
digital format as well as tape cassette.  Tapes are being phased out in
favor of NLS digital cartridge versions, which are available both from NLS
and Handihams.  Both also offer DAISY downloads to registered and qualified
blind users.

There is a provision for off line reading of the digital QST.  The
technology is Adobe AIR™, and you will need to download and install it
automatically.  Windows will ask your permission at some point, so it is
necessary to have administrator privileges.  This feature is useful if you
want to read on an airplane with your laptop or if you will be somewhere
without Internet access. Once AIR is installed, you need to install the
magazine itself, and you will be asked for your ARRL login credentials.
The magazine will then be downloaded and installed.

A "Contents" button in the toolbar at the top of the browser application
allows for a quick listing of articles along with thumbnails of pages.
This makes navigation from one article to the next easier since most of us
hop around within the publication looking at articles as they interest us
and saving others for later.

There are a couple of social media sharing buttons that don't seem
functional in this beta version, but later on it should be possible to
share articles on Facebook, Linked In, or Twitter.  Hopefully Google Plus
will be an option in the future.

Finally, there are ARRL membership and QST links that take you to
membership information and QST archives.  All in all, the web app is easy
to figure out and use.  I found myself wondering if the pages could be more
scalable, but there is only a standard and somewhat enlarged option:  Click
to zoom in; click to zoom out - that's it.  Some users may need more screen
enlargement.  The standard Firefox zooming feature that works on regular
web pages is disabled in this app.  If you have a small monitor, you might
have trouble seeing the text clearly.  Going to full screen mode in the
application did help.  In that mode, with the text zoomed, the font size
was slightly larger than that on the printed page.  Changing the monitor
resolution degraded the text, making it a bit blurry.  When digital
publications are put together there is a compromise between high resolution
images and file size.  To strike a balance, the file size must be
manageable for users with slower Internet connections but still good enough
to allow for reasonable resolution.

The June issue is the one that will open up to the entire ARRL membership.
When the system is up and running, members must have a valid ARRL website
login to access this benefit. You can always find a link to the current
digital edition and archives at www.arrl.org/new-qst. To login or register,
go to www.arrl.org/myarrl.

*Remote Base Health Report for 25 April 2012*

[image: W4MQ software screenshot]

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

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

*Power change: We have returned to the full 100 Watts at W0ZSW.  This is up
from 75 Watts last week. W0EQO continues to operate at the full 100 Watts. *

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.


[image: Cartoon dog barking at mail carrier]

Dr. Dave, KN0S, sent us this photo of him with his horse and black lab

[image: Dr. Dave with horse and black lab dog in barn.]

He writes:

Have you ever worked an Equine Mobile? Neither have I -- yet. This is a
photo of our latest pet horse: Strider, who is a retired but yet spirited
20 year old (on May 17th) Hunter Jumper Hanoverian Warmblood.

We had a brief but very pleasant visit with Walt Siebert, KD0LPX, when he
was in the area last week too.

The Tour de Chesapeake is coming up on May 19th... we will be using the
Middle Peninsula ARC APRS Repeater for the event.  It should be fun!

73... Dr Dave kn0s

*This week @ HQ*

[image: happy cartoon guy wearing earphones]

Radio Camp enrollment is about 1/2 complete.  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.

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.

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. The May Digest by digital
DAISY cartridge will not go out until we receive Worldradio.

April QST audio digest is 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.

April 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.*

[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.

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

*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!*

[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, 25 April 2012 - Patrick Tice