Courage Kenny Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 02 October 2013 This is a free weekly news & information update from Courage Kenny Handiham System <http://handiham.org> . 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: http://www.handiham.org/audio/handiham.mp3 Get this podcast in iTunes: <http://www.itunes.com/podcast?id=372422406> http://0345ed7.netsolhost.com/images/itunes_button_sm.jpg http://www.itunes.com/podcast?id=372422406 RSS feed for the audio podcast if you use other podcasting software: http://feeds.feedBurner.com/handiham _____ Welcome to Handiham World. The vertical bites the dust HF9V vertical antenna, broken from metal fatigue Last week we shared our summer antenna woes, detailing the demise of the big olive tree that held up one end of the W0OXB double extended zepp antenna at W0ZSW. This past Monday we had some pretty brisk winds out of the south. I thought it was pretty breezy when I took Jasper out into the back yard that morning, but it wasn't the sort of wind that felt unusual as the seasons change here in southern Minnesota. When I took a break around Handiham Echolink net time, I peeked out the kitchen window and there it was: the Butternut HF9V had folded over, its top pointing northwest and its lower portion propped onto the wooden protective fence surrounding the base of the antenna. Jasper and I went out to take a look, and while he took care of his business, I inspected the damage to the vertical. It had broken at a junction, about 4 feet up the mast from the ground. At that point there is a fiberglass rod insulator that separates the base section of 1-1/8 inch aluminum tubing from a middle section. The bottom section of aluminum is slotted at the top opening so that the solid fiberglass rod can slide in and be secured by a stainless steel hose clamp that fits around the slotted tubing. The failure occurred when the top slotted section broke away, weakened by almost 20 years of wind and weather - some of it very severe weather. Metal fatigue had set in and the antenna could not remain standing in Monday's modest winds. The good news is that no one was hurt - the antenna is out in a large space, away from anything or anyone. And the other thing is that this antenna really doesn't owe me anything. 20 years is a good run for an antenna like this in an extreme climate like Minnesota's that includes plenty of strong winds, snow and ice, heavy rain and thunderstorms, hail, and just about anything else the weatherman can pull out of his hat. This is actually the second HF9V to fail in this location. The first one was destroyed in a weather event so severe that it took a heavy redwood play set out of our yard and deposited it in a neighbor's yard several lots to the east. The house to our northeast lost one entire side, so it looked like one of those doll houses where you can look into one open side and see all the furniture. The power was out for days, so that's when I acquired my gas generator, which I still keep fueled up and ready to go. The winds rushed in during the middle of the night, the house shaking and the sound of the wind like a roaring freight train. After the wind died down, I found a flashlight and looked out the back door. Pink insulation was raining down from the sky, debris from damaged homes around us. When it got light enough to venture out, I found that the protective fence around the base of the Butternut vertical had failed in the wind and sheared off the antenna at its base. That one was a goner, so I replaced it with the current one, and now after a long and strenuous life it too has gone to that big antenna farm in the sky. This has certainly been the year for antenna failures at W0ZSW and WA0TDA! I got to thinking: About how long should antennas last? Five years? Ten? Twenty? Longer? The worst antenna ever installed at W0ZSW, when it was located in Golden Valley , was a VHF log periodic from a commercial antenna company whose name I won't mention. Its design was such that the elements were solid aluminum alloy rods with threaded ends that mounted into a square tubing boom. Within a year, most of the elements had fallen off and were lying around the base of the tower. You can see that antenna in this photo of K0CJ on the tower. It's the one at the very top. K0CJ atop the Golden Valley Tower at W0ZSW That design failed for whatever reason, and it was far short of our expectations. When I mull over the life span of antennas, I guess I'd say that absent severe weather or other catastrophic event that damages other structures, a reasonable expectation is at least five years. I've seen beam antennas survive for over 30 years, while others fail within 10 or 15, but the failures are sometimes minor - perhaps only a single broken element. Coaxial feedlines also fail, but usually not in such a way that the failure is instantaneous, though of course that can happen too if a cable is cut or if a connecting point fails. The biggest culprit is water intrusion, which causes the copper braid to oxidize and which also changes the dielectric properties of the cable. Loss increases as the cable ages, and this is not as easily spotted as a broken antenna element. Vertical antennas and antenna supports like towers with hollow legs can also suffer water intrusion damage. Water can flow into the hollow tubing, collect, and then freeze, expanding and splitting the tubing. Many antenna designs use insulators of some sort, and the insulating material can deteriorate with age. The point at which insulators are part of an antenna structure can also be a failure-prone part of a design, as was the case with my vertical. Beam antennas with traps can fail in similar ways at the trap junctions. Wire antennas are pretty diverse. They vary in length and construction, and have different kinds of supports. Trees can fall down, wire can break under the load of ice and wind, and the constant flexing can eventually separate joints and break connections. The robustness (is that a word?) of your wire antenna can be increased by using the right construction techniques and choosing wire that has a breaking strength higher than 100 lbs. If you have flexible tie-off points for the wire (like tree branches) make sure that there is enough slack in the wire to accommodate the shifting of the branches in the wind. Secure the feedline well, soldering all connections and then weatherproofing them with non-acidic sealers. Special sealing compounds and tape products are available to seal water out without corroding the connection. Remember that some kinds of silicone sealer have acetic acid in them. You can detect the sharp smell of acetic acid when you use these sealers. I don't like acidic sealers directly on the copper wire or on the solder connections, so if I do use this kind of sealer I make sure the connection is already encased in another layer of sealing tape or sealing compound. If the feedline is heavy coax, you should support it in some way so that it does not constantly pull down on the wire element of the antenna. The point at which wire loops through eyelets on a center insulator can be protected by "thimbles" that are a sort of protective guide for the part of the wire that bends through the eyelet. Some operators like to install strain relief at the ends of wire antennas, but in any case the wire should not be stretched so tight that it is apt to break if it contracts in the winter cold or if the supports flex in the wind. I have always liked the "inverted-vee" dipole configuration which allows for a sturdy center support for the feedpoint and the heavy coax, with the ends of the wires trailing off at a downward angle. The wires can help guy the main support in an inverted-vee system. Looking at it from the side, this configuration makes use of triangles for stability! You can run several inverted-vee dipoles for different bands from a single center insulator, turning the system into an efficient multiband antenna. I recommend a 75 meter dipole, a 40 meter dipole (which will also tune on 15 meters), a 20 meter dipole, and perhaps another dipole for a band of your choosing. Properly trimmed, this antenna will tune without an antenna tuner, and its stable, sturdy design will last a good long time. Next time: How long should electronic gadgets last? Patrick Tice, WA0TDA Courage Kenny Handiham Coordinator _____ Bulletins The big news this week is the shutdown of the Federal Government here in the United States. Several web resources used by amateur radio operators are affected. Library of Congress shuts down LOC.gov The US Government shutdown claims another website, LOC.gov, as the Library of Congress shuts down operations. The only remaining Library of Congress sites that remain accessible are the legislative sites: http://thomas.loc.gov/ http://beta.congress.gov/ We are asking blind users to monitor and report back to us on the status of the BARD website, operated by the LOC to serve members with blind-accessible audio books. As of this morning, it appeared to be on line. If there is a status change, please email wa0tda@xxxxxxxx with your report. Here is the official announcement: Due to the temporary shutdown of the federal government, the Library of Congress is closed to the public and researchers beginning October 1, 2013 until further notice. All public events are cancelled and web sites are inaccessible except the legislative information sites THOMAS.gov and beta.congress.gov. FCC.gov shuts down The FCC website is reduced to a shutdown page. Generally, during a shutdown all FCC activities other than those immediately necessary for the protection of life or property will cease. Suspended activities include, among many others: Consumer complaint and inquiry phone lines cannot be answered; consumer protection and local competition enforcement must cease; licensing services, including broadcast, wireless, and wireline, must cease; management of radio spectrum and the creation of new opportunities for competitive technologies and services for the American public must be suspended; and equipment authorizations, including those bringing new electronic devices to American consumers, cannot be provided. http://www.fcc.gov/shutdown-page.html NOAA.gov shuts down Due to the Federal government shutdown, NOAA.gov and most associated web sites are unavailable. Only web sites necessary to protect lives and property will be maintained. See Weather.gov for critical weather information or contact USA.gov for more information about the shutdown. This information from http://governmentshutdown.noaa.gov Demo video on RT Systems programming software For those interested in a method of programming lots of the popular amateur radios with your computers there is a speech-friendly set of software packages to do just that. John Abbamont KA2HOI and I have produced a Video and audio demonstration of programming amateur gear with speech using the RT Systems software and the free NVDA screenreader. It is available on YouTube at the URL below. It is interesting to note that NVDA is the only screenreader out there that works with the RT Systems software. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vj4ch8ApVts Dave Marthouse N2AAM _____ Handiham Friend Raleigh "Lee" Shaklee, W6BH, SK Long-time friend of the Handiham program Lee Shaklee, W6BH, is a silent key. ARRL is reporting that he died September 23 following a brief illness. He was 91. Lee was an avid DXer and built a remote station on a mountain so that he could operate his station from his QTH in Newport Beach, CA. Always helpful, Lee was a practical-minded guy who knew how to get things done. He found out about us and stopped by Handiham Radio Camp at Camp Joan Mier in Ventura County, CA one year long ago. He has been a good friend ever since, and we will really miss him on the air and as part of our Handiham community of supporters. Lee has a website, which contains a bio and information about his ham radio career. I recommend it for some good reading and views of the antenna farm. http://www.w6bh.com/bio/index.html Read the ARRL article about Lee here: http://www.arrl.org/News/view/3408 Best 73, Lee... and good DX! Your friends at Handihams Patrick Tice, WA0TDA Courage Kenny Handiham Program _____ Practical radio pliers and wire Cheap tools Are they any better than expensive tools? That's a good question - and one that every ham radio operator who tinkers with antenna projects, homebrew circuits, and projects around the house might well ask. Of course a "tool" can vary from a steel wrench to a sophisticated piece of software these days, depending on what the job to be completed might call for. Here are a couple of anecdotal stories about tools: 1. The Globemaster wrench set: When I was a teenager in the late 1960's I got into ham radio and decided I needed a set of wrenches to work on antenna projects. I found a bargain bin somewhere - probably a department store - that had sets of cheap, imported wrenches. There were three to a set, exactly the sizes I needed: "Globemaster - forged in India". You don't have much of a budget when you are a teen, and I could afford these wrenches much more painlessly than brand-name tools. Over the years these wrenches accompanied me on many antenna projects, endured being dropped from the top of towers, and even graduated to work on some automotive projects. As cheap as they were, they managed to hold up beautifully, and guess what? I still have them! In that case, cheap did not mean poor quality. 2. Software for recording audio: When you need a software tool, the same strategy applies. Check out cheap early on in the game, because cheap does not necessarily mean poor quality. I had cast about, using paid software for some time before finally settling on the free open-source software Audacity as my recording tool of choice. It works great - and the price is right! 3. LDG TW-1 Talking Wattmeter: I mention this tool - really a test instrument - because I want to make a point about accessible tools. LDG made a limited run of these talking wattmeters and they are no longer available, but that doesn't stop people from calling us looking for them. Over the years I have seen many accessible devices come onto the market, only to enjoy a brief lifespan before being discontinued. The LDG meter wasn't instrument-grade quality, but it was priced right and easy to use. We had one (as usual) at the main HF station at Minnesota Radio Camp this past summer and it still worked well. My point is that some tools - especially ones that are blind-accessible - usually do not stay on the market as long as other tools intended for a wider user base. If you find a "must-have" tool like this, don't dither and dawdle - buy it! The issue is not cheap or expensive, it's that it's available at all! Remember, "Practical Radio" is what works for you! _____ Handiham Nets are on the air daily. If there is no net control station during any scheduled net time, just go right ahead and start a round table discussion. TMV71A transceiver We are scheduled to be on the air daily at 11:00 USA Central Time, plus Wednesday & Thursday evenings at 19:00 USA Central Time. A big THANK YOU to all of our net control stations! What will Doug, N6NFF, come up with for his trivia question tonight? I guess we'll just have to tune in and listen! Tune in and see how you do with the question this week, or just check in to say hello. We maintain our nets at 11:00 hours daily relative to Minnesota time. Since the nets remain true to Minnesota time, the difference between Minnesota time and GMT is -5 hours. The net is on the air at 16:00 hours GMT. The official and most current net news may be found at: <http://www.handiham.org/nets> http://www.handiham.org/nets _____ October Events - On the Air Autumn is definitely my favorite time of the year. The clean, cooler air and the gorgeous colors that the season brings just make me happy! And, if you add in some amateur radio activities and good friends, you truly have something to celebrate. I was very surprised to see eight pages of Special Events on the ARRL website for this month. There are some highlights at the end of this update. But, you may want to log in for yourself to see if there are more events that catch your interest. Enjoy the beginning of autumn and get your radios active! Until next month.. Regards, Laurie Meier, N1YXU n1yxu@xxxxxxxx Read the Events Column Here: http://www.handiham.org/node/251 <http://www.handiham.org/drupal2/node/251> _____ A dip in the pool Pat shows off his new Plantronics USB headset! It's time to test our knowledge by taking a dip in the pool - the Amateur Radio question pool, that is! Let's go to the General Class pool and examine a question about wire antennas: G9B05 asks: "How does antenna height affect the horizontal (azimuthal) radiation pattern of a horizontal dipole HF antenna?" Possible answers are: A. If the antenna is too high, the pattern becomes unpredictable B. Antenna height has no effect on the pattern C. If the antenna is less than 1/2 wavelength high, the azimuthal pattern is almost omnidirectional D. If the antenna is less than 1/2 wavelength high, radiation off the ends of the wire is eliminated This is an important concept, because it can help you understand how to locate your antenna system on your property. Many new hams assume that a dipole radiates perpendicular to the wire, and so it does - but only if the antenna is somewhere near a half-wavelength up off the ground, or higher. If the antenna is closer to the ground, it begins to radiate about equally well in all directions, so that means if your 75 meter dipole (1/2 wave = 125 feet) is up in the air only 40 feet, you really don't have to worry about whether the antenna runs north-south, east-west, or whatever! On the other hand, it is easier to get a 20 meter dipole (1/2 wave = 32 feet) higher relative to a wavelength on that band. So at the same height of 40 feet, the 20 meter dipole will have pronounced directional radiation broadside to the antenna and if you want to favor a particular direction, you have to plan for it. Thus, the correct answer is C: If the antenna is less than 1/2 wavelength high, the azimuthal pattern is almost omnidirectional. Please e-mail handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx to comment. _____ This week @ HQ Cartoon robot with pencil Digests October digests are ready for our blind members in the members section. Digital NLS cartridges are already out. (Ours, not the Library of Congress's since their services are shut down for now.) If there is a protracted shutdown at BARD, we will consider recording QST for October. Remote Base News W0EQO station in the server room at Courage North. Both Handiham Remote Base internet stations W0ZSW and W0EQO are on line. W0ZSW still needs antenna and power supply work. 160 meter transmit is disabled for now. Outages: Outages are reported on http://handiham.org/remotebase/station-status/. Band conditions: As of this writing, conditions on HF are fair with disturbed conditions predicted. Check http://handiham.org/remotebase/station-status/ for a current HF conditions report from G4ILO. Operating tip: Find out how to tell if the remote base station is already in use if you are using JAWS: * Listen to the tutorial: http://www.handiham.org/audio/remotebase/W4MQ_status_JAWS.mp3 * Read the tutorial in accessible HTML: http://handiham.org/remotebase/2013/03/05/check-station-status-with-jaws-13- or-14/ Pat holding up NLS digital cartridge and mailer Don't care to download Handiham materials via computer? This digital cartridge and mailer can bring you Handiham audio digests each month, plus we have room to put the audio lecture series or equipment tutorials on them, too! * If you have trouble logging in, please let us know. * All Daisy materials are in zip file format, so you simply download the zip file you need and unzip it so the Daisy book folder can be accessed or moved to your NLS or other Daisy player. * Tip: When in the Daisy directory, it is easy to find the latest books by sorting the files by date. Be sure the latest date is at the top. The link to sort is called "Last Modified". * You can also find what is on a web page by using CONTROL-F. This brings up a search box and you can type a key word in, such as "September". You may find more than one September, including 2012, but you will eventually come across what we have posted for September 2013. * Our thanks to Bob, N1BLF, Jim, KJ3P, and Ken, W9MJY, for reading this month. Look for these DAISY materials in the members section. <http://handiham.org/drupal2/user> Digital mailers are important: If you do mail a digital cartridge to us, please be sure that it is an approved free matter mailer. Otherwise it will quickly cost us several dollars to package and mail out, which is more than the cost of the mailer in the first place. We don't have a stock of cartridges or mailers and not including a mailer will result in a long delay getting your request back out to you. 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 call sign 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: $2.50 Order Toll-Free: (800) 223-1839. The Library of Congress NLS has a list of vendors for the digital cartridges: <http://www.loc.gov/nls/cartridges/index.html> http://www.loc.gov/nls/cartridges/index.html Get it all on line as an alternative: Visit the DAISY section on the Handiham website after logging in. _____ Stay in touch Cartoon robot with cordless phone Be sure to send Nancy your changes of address, phone number changes, or email address changes so that we can continue to stay in touch with you. You may either email Nancy at hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx or call her at 763-520-0512. If you need to use the toll-free number, call 1-866-426-3442. Handiham Program Coordinator 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 Kenny Handiham Program 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. 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 Handiham Weekly E-Letter in MP3 format <http://handiham.org/audio/handiham.mp3> Email us to subscribe: hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx That's it for this week. 73 from all of us at the Courage Kenny Handihams! Pat, WA0TDA Coordinator, Courage Kenny Handiham Program Reach me by email at: handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Nancy, Handiham Secretary: hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx ARRL is the premier organization supporting Amateur Radio worldwide. Please contact Handihams for help joining the ARRL. We will be happy to help you fill out the paperwork! ARRL diamond-shaped 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.