[handiham-world] Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 04 March 2015

  • From: "Tice, Patrick W" <Patrick.Tice@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 4 Mar 2015 18:13:42 +0000

[Logo for Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, part of Allina Health]

Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the 
week of Wednesday, 04 March 2015

This is a free weekly news & information update from the Courage Kenny Handiham 
System<http://handiham.org>, serving people with disabilities in Amateur Radio 
since 1967.

Our contact information is at the end.

Listen here:

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Welcome to Handiham World.

In this edition:

*        Spring strategizing

*        The week's question: Plan to get rid of the rat's nest.

*        Life in an apartment doesn't mean ditching contesting!

*        Check into our daily nets.  And get the time right!

*        Take a dip in the pool: Exploding capacitors are not a good thing.

*        The Remote Base HF report:  Both stations go off the air as Murphy 
makes the rounds.

*        QCWA Journal for March is available in audio.

*        ...And more!


But first...  Spring strategies

[Cartoon robot carring pencil]

Spring begins for realsies on March 21, but "meteorological 
spring<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spring_(season)>" in northern climates more 
or less tracks the months of March, April, and May.  In that sense, we have now 
entered the spring season here in North America, and it will be underscored 
this coming Sunday, March 8, when we return to Daylight Saving Time.

As spring really begins to set in, you will notice that band conditions change, 
especially on 75 meters and 160 meters.  These bands are typically easiest to 
use in the winter when there are long nights and less solar absorption.  If you 
are working all states on either band, you will soon find that the early 
morning hours may be your best bet.  Daylight Saving Time will eat into your 
evening operations by making the hours of daylight stretch into your operating 
time.  Besides, as the warmer weather moves northward, thunderstorm season will 
move right along with it.  The lightning discharges will make 160 and 75 meters 
noisy as all get out as the day moves on, and storms can continue on into the 
evening.  Mornings will definitely be best for making contacts on both bands 
because it will be dark a bit longer in the morning after the time change and 
absorption and thunderstorm activity will be minimal.  Plan to get up early to 
fill your logbook with contacts!

Of course some HF bands are actually better during the daylight hours.  As we 
coast into the waning years of the solar cycle, which is now past peak, you 
will want to make some Q's on 20, 15, 17, 12, and 10 meters.  Save June for 6 
meter activity, since that month is usually best for long distance contacts 
above 50 MHz.  The longer daylight hours will help you out on these bands as 
spring turns into summer.

40 meters is reliably open almost all the time.  Some of your same strategies 
about early morning operation might work on this band during the summer 
thunderstorm season.

Another thing to put on your calendar for spring is antenna work.  It's no 
accident that the March QST is the annual antenna issue.  Spring is really a 
great time to get antenna work out of the way, before it gets really hot 
outdoors.  In many parts of the country the ground is soft in the weeks 
immediately following the spring thaw, making it much easier to install ground 
radials or dig feedline into the ground.  Getting your antenna system up and 
running early in the season allows you time to really test it out on every band 
and mode.  Any adjustments that need to be made can be taken care of while 
there is still plenty of good weather to work outdoors.  The onset of bad 
weather is always a concern with antenna systems installed in the late autumn, 
meaning you may well wait until the next spring to make those final adjustments 
and work the bugs out!  If you like to experiment with antennas, spring is your 

Spring is also time to take stock of your EMCOMM training and supplies.  Most 
destructive weather will happen in the warmer months because the sunshine 
drives convective activity that builds thunderstorms and tornados.  Dangerous 
storms can happen early in the season in the far southern part of North 
America, then move north following the sun as the season progresses.  Obviously 
the time to prepare is before the season, which means that early March is a 
good time to take stock of what you need.  If you have not used your go-kit all 
winter, locate it and go though everything.  The batteries in the flashlight 
may need to be replaced, and so may other supplies.  That list of emergency 
numbers and repeater frequencies should also be checked and updated.  Test 
radio equipment to make sure that it works.  If you keep supplies of fresh 
water and foodstuffs in the house for emergencies, replace the water and check 
everything for use-by dates.  Check the first aid kit for supplies, too.

Checking the calendar, spring is the time to mark down significant ham radio 
events during the upcoming warm months.  Dayton is in May, Field Day in June, 
Handiham Radio Camp in August. Special events can punctuate the summer with on 
the air fun, too.  You may want to try portable operation, which is usually a 
fair weather pastime.  Whatever you do, don't let spring slip away without 
getting on the air.  Regular operating will help keep you sharp, and it's fun, 

Today is March 4th - the date that is a command to "get moving".  Think about 

(For Handiham World, this is Pat Tice, WA0TDA.)


[Drawing of a computer]

Last week's question:  Have you ever had a computer fail? If so, how did you 
recover your files?

I asked because my computer failed when a problem on the main board kept the 
computer from booting. There was certainly sympathy to be had in the responses 
I received, and useful information as well, but it all boils down to keeping 
good backups of your files.  The "Time Machine" feature on Macs was recommended 
as was the excellent software backup solution Acronis True Image.

The replacement computer I ordered has not arrived yet, and I can't really 
start the file recovery process until it does.  It is expected later this week, 
so what can I do in the meantime?

It turns out that this is an opportunity in disguise!  My ham shack is showing 
its age and needs some work.  I do plan to paint and replace the flooring, but 
that project is down the road maybe a year.  Before that, I need to address the 
problem of equipment placement and cabling.  Many of the cables have been 
installed more or less as they were needed, running next to and between other 
cables.  Ham radio being what it is, one experiments with one thing or another, 
changing radios and computers.  After years of this sort of thing, the mess has 
reached "rat's nest" status.

My ham shack is a small basement room sandwiched between the furnace and the 
stairs.  That sounds awful, but it's really nice - I built and wired 
everything, and it's carpeted and fully finished.  A wall separates it from the 
unfinished back of the basement, and just beyond that wall I've built a server 
room to hold the computers.  The nice thing is that the unfinished side of that 
wall allows me access to all of the cabling that serves the radios and 
computers.  I have a couple of ports (okay, holes) in the sheetrock to allow 
wiring through to the operating position.  I've always preferred this approach 
because it doesn't require me to crawl under a desk to get at the computers to 
plug in a USB cable or to make some other change.

But the cables are a mess, and some will no longer be needed.  Even the Icom 
IC-706M2G transceiver, the main body of which is in the server room next to a 
computer, needs to have its cabling sorted out so that the new computer can 
manage rig control via the RigBlaster interface.  The IC-7200 sits on the main 
desk, and a USB rig control cable runs through the wall to... Well, that's a 
good question.  I think you get the idea:  It's time to clear it all out and 
start rewiring in preparation for the new PC.  This is ground work that can - 
and should - be done before the new machine arrives, so I'll definitely be busy.

[The rat's nest of USB cables at WA0TDA. Can you spot the RigBlaster under the 
cables and hub?]
Photo: The rat's nest of USB cables at WA0TDA. Can you spot the RigBlaster 
under the cables and hub?

The consequences of evolutionary technology will soon be evident.  While the 
old PC had just a few USB ports, the new one has 11, three of which are USB 3.0 
standard.  That will allow me to ditch some of the old USB hubs that added to 
the cluttered wiring mess.  It's important to have native USB ports and not 
rely on external plug-in USB hubs for some applications, especially those that 
port audio, such as might be used for remote base HF operation or recording 
voice through a USB headset.  If you have wondered why your USB audio device 
has pops and noise, it might be that you have plugged it into an external USB 
hub.  If you are sending and receiving audio through a remote base station or 
Echolink via a USB headset, try to make sure your headset is plugged directly 
into your computer's USB port, not an external hub.  This will be a definite 
improvement for my station.  Not only will it reduce clutter but it will 
provide better USB performance.  Since I record audio via Audacity, I expect 
better performance in audio processing, too - thanks to a six core AMD CPU.

As is the case with many ham shacks, mine requires lots of wiring, and the 
cables often look alike.  Furthermore, the ends of the cables are sometimes 
even in the next room!  Guess what?  That cable you run between the radio in 
one place and the computer in another might seem like something you will always 
remember when you first connect it, but (trust me on this) you will forget 
which cable is which and the cable you want to check out will look exactly like 
a half dozen others.  The solution is to label each cable on both ends.  There 
are two approaches to this;  you can use a descriptive label such as "IC-7200" 
or "Plantronics Headset".  Alternatively, you can use numbers, and then keep a 
separate list of what each number represents.  The important thing is that you 
can look at one end of a cable, note the label, and then locate the other end 
with a matching label.  The time to do this is when you first start setting up 
your ham shack, but the next best time is when you do a major upgrade like the 
one I'm planning.  Incidentally, this same advice applies to coaxial cables as 
well because they have a way of proliferating over the years and they all look 
alike.  I've heard of some nasty accidents involving unlabelled coax that have 
caused damage to equipment.

Another project is to provide a better grounding system.  This won't be fully 
completed until I do the other part of the remodeling project, but any time you 
do have occasion to disconnect and reorganize you should consider the basics of 
good station design, and that includes good RF and safety 

This week's question:  Do you have alternate power for your ham shack?  What is 
your plan to stay on the air if the power fails?  What is the best alternate 
power source?  (No, you cannot plug a power strip into itself!)

Think you have an answer?  Email me and let me know.  Also tell me if it's okay 
to mention your callsign in the e-letter and podcast. 


Should you give up contesting because of limited antenna possibilities?

Think you have to give up contesting because you live in a restricted area? 
Think again!
By Trippy Brown, AC8S

A few years ago, my friend Rick, WO8M, and I put up an antenna at a place with 
antenna restrictions. It is an apartment building and all we
have is a balcony that's 22 feet long and 3 feet wide, and there is a balcony 
above his balcony. I knew it would be a compromise, but I'm a
risk taker, I put up antennas that other hams say, "it's not gonna work, 
Trippy, it's not a normal antenna!"

I thought that they were right, because the rig that we had, had an automatic 
antenna tuner, and it just wouldn't tune it. However, I decided to buy an MFJ 
manual antenna tuner, which tuned up antennas that automatic antenna tuners 
inside rigs couldn't tune. This tuner was supposed to tune antennas of any 
kind, no matter how difficult the match.

So, on a Monday night last year, Memorial Day to be exact, we got it out of the 
box and hooked everything up, and it not only tuned
on 40 through 10 meters, but it also tuned up on 6 meters, and what do you know 
but 6 was open that night and we worked Alabama on the first call. To say we 
were excited was an understatement!

Then Field Day came and I said to Rick, "let's use your call, and actually send 
in our log, and see how we do!"

"Sure", he said, "let's do it!"

So we stocked up on chocolate,  Mountain Dew, and pizza and we began. We worked 
54 contacts - not earth shaking, but we had fun!!!
After the contest, I helped Rick with the log (we used the N3FJP logging 
software.) We worked both phone and CW, with me working the CW contacts. We 
sent it in. The months went by and last week, at the end of February, I decided 
to go on the ARRL's web site, and see if I could find the results for the 2014 
Field Day. I didn't think I would be able to read it, since I'm not a member, 
but I found it! I started with page one of the results and kept reading, and I 
didn't care how long it took to read through the results with the 2686 stations 
listed, but if we were there, I'd find it!

I got down to #2339 in the results, and there we were!  We didn't win the 
contest, but we beat out 347 other clubs... 347 others!! So much for hams 
saying that this nontraditional antenna wouldn't get out, huh?

If you live in a restricted area and you think you can't work DX or you can't 
be a contester any more, it's not true! Grab a piece of wire, and string 
something up, like we did, with our 22 foot long dipole. If you have the height 
but not the length, get a magnetic mount stick antenna for each band and put 
that on a metal chair.  You'll be glad you did and who knows, maybe I'll work 
you in Field Day this year. Look for the call WO8M. We'll be running 1D MI, 
just like we did last year.

73, and happy contesting!


Check into our Handiham nets... Everyone is welcome!

[Cartoon multicolored stickman family holding hands, one wheelchair user among 

Our daily Echolink net continues to operate for anyone and everyone who wishes 
to participate at 11:00 hours CST (Noon Eastern and 09:00 Pacific), as well as 
Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 19:00 hours CST (7 PM).  Beginning on 
Sunday, 8 March, we follow the clock to Daylight Time.  The net times stay the 
same relative to our changed clocks, but shift an hour by GMT:  11:00 hours CDT 
(Noon Eastern and 09:00 Pacific), as well as Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 
19:00 hours CDT (7 PM).   If you calculate GMT, the time difference is that GMT 
is five hours ahead of Minnesota time during the summer.

Doug, N6NFF, poses a trivia question in the first half of the Wednesday evening 
session, so check in early if you want to take a guess.   The answer to the 
trivia question is generally given shortly after the half-hour mark.  A big 
THANK YOU to all of our net control stations and to our Handiham Club Net 
Manager, Michael, VE6UE.


A dip in the pool

[circuit board]

It's time to take a dip in the pool - the NCVEC Amateur Radio Question Pool, 
not the swimming pool.  Looking forward to the new 2015 General Pool that comes 
into effect on July 1, we sample the following brand-new question.  Let's see 
if you can get the answer!

G6A13 asks, "Why is the polarity of applied voltages important for polarized 

Possible answers are:

A. Incorrect polarity can cause the capacitor to short-circuit
B. Reverse voltages can destroy the dielectric layer of an electrolytic 
C. The capacitor could overheat and explode
D. All of these choices are correct

The correct answer is D, all of them are correct.  This question falls into the 
"must know" area of practical electronics knowledge because over your ham radio 
career you will be using components like capacitors and you will need to handle 
them correctly.  You can assume that electrolytic capacitors will be polarized. 
 Any polarized capacitor will be labeled with plus and minus symbols. Be sure 
that they are wired correctly to avoid damaging the capacitor or other nearby 
components in the circuit.  Large electrolytics should be discharged with an 
insulated handle screwdriver or dedicated shorting tool before you work on  the 
circuit since they can store a charge an give you a nasty shock if you get 
across the terminals.  These capacitors are usually found in power supplies.


Both Handiham HF remote base internet stations are up and running.

In remote base news, we survived a challenging week in which both remotes went 
down at once, but for different reasons.  The TS-480HX at W0ZSW failed when the 
transmitter stopped working.  The host computer at W0EQO hung up following a 
Windows update.  For users, that meant the dreaded offline status was all that 
they could see on the client software.

Bill Jones, N0CIC, took the lead at W0EQO, rebooting the host computer and 
successfully getting the station up and running.  Thanks, Bill!  For those of 
you who go to Handiham Radio Camp, you know that N0CIC is the pontoon boat 
captain and sets up and manages the HF station on the boat for us.

[The IC-7200 in place of the TS-480HX at W0ZSW.]
Photo:  An IC-7200 pinch hits at W0ZSW.

Lyle Koehler, K0LR, and I worked together on the W0ZSW station.  We ended up 
replacing the host computer and substituting an Icom IC-7200 for the broken 
TS-480HX.  A consequence of this temporary change is that IRB Sound is no 
longer available, so Skype audio must be used.  Also, only basic radio 
functions like frequency, mode, transmit, and receive are available.  There is 
no speech frequency readout since the workaround provides no way to control 
this feature.  On the plus side, we have had good comments about the radio's 

We apologize for the extended outages at both stations, and are looking for 
something to blame it on.  "Murphy's Law" comes to mind!

Our two stations are W0EQO at Camp Courage North and W0ZSW in the Twin Cities 
East Metro.   Please visit the remote base website for more information on the 
status of the stations, the W4MQ software downloads, and installation 
instructions.  Details at Remote Base website<https://handiham.org/remotebase/>.

We are working to bring a third remote system online somewhere in the USA 
Eastern Time Zone.  Contact me if you are interested in hosting a Handiham 
Remote Base 

We are also looking for a new home for station W0ZSW here in the Twin Cities.  
The ideal candidate would be a local radio club with room for antennas, and a 
cadre of volunteers to help with the station.

A testing team has been formed for a TS-590S station using the Kenwood ARCP-590 
software.  The station is in its earliest stages of testing and is not open to 
any other users.  This week testing was suspended so that we could deal with 
the other station problems and replace the failed TS-480HX. The W0ZSW IC-7200  
will be unavailable at times because its antenna will be used for testing the 
TS-590S.  If you find that W0ZSW is unavailable, please consider using W0EQO 
instead. We will try to test during low usage times, but some disruptions to 
W0ZSW will be unavoidable.


Handiham office hours:

We are on our usual Monday through Thursday schedule this week.  Mornings are 
the best time to contact us. Please visit Handiham.org for updates and schedule 
changes.  Our website will be available 24/7 as always, and if there is an 
emergency notification or remote base outage, the website will be updated 
accordingly no matter what day it is.  We are always closed Friday through 


New audio:

If you are a Handiham member and want a weekly reminder about our new audio, 
let us know.  Watch for new audio Thursday afternoons.

NLS cartridge production during March is on schedule and cartridges have been 

In the Technician Lecture Series, we most recently posted a new lecture on 
licensing and regulations.

Bob Zeida, N1BLF, has completed the March magazine audio digest for our blind 
members.  Bob has finished the recording of the new 2015 General Class Question 
Pool and it is in the General Class section in the Members part of the website. 
 Don't miss Dave Sumner's article on Band Planning on page 9 of your March QST, 
or in audio in the DAISY QST from NLS or the digest from Handihams.

Also in the members section: The February 2015 Doctor is in column has been 
recorded by Ken Padgitt, W9MJY.

We also have QCWA Journal for March<http://www.qcwa.org>, and CQ Magazine for 
January/February (March release), recorded by Jim, KJ3P.

Jim has also recorded the DXer's Handbook Second Edition by Bryce, K7UA, for 
our blind members.

The new 2015 through 2019 General Class Pool, machine-recorded in DAISY by the 
Handiham Program; Beta 1 version in downloadable zip file 

Thanks to our volunteer readers:

Bob, N1BLF

Jim, KJ3P

Ken, W9MJY


Radio Camp News:  We will once again be at the Woodland campus, Camp Courage.

[Cabin 2, site of our ham radio stations and classes.]
Photo:  A Woodland Cabin with screen porch, fireplace, kitchen, laundry, and 
comfortable great room.

Plan to work DX with the triband HF beam antenna.  In addition, we will be 
installing several wire antennas fed with 450 ohm ladder line for 
high-efficiency operation on multiple bands.  We will be able to check in to 
the popular PICONET HF net on 3.925 MHz.  Radios you can try at camp include 
the remote base stations running the Kenwood TS-480, and get your hands on a 
Kenwood TS-590S or TS-2000, both of which will be set up to operate.  If you 
have a special request for gear you would like to check out at camp, please let 
us know.

Other activities at camp:

*        Campers needing radio equipment or accessories to take home and 
complete their stations should let us know what they need.  Equipment will be 
distributed at camp.

*        We will have a Handiham Radio Club meeting that will include election 
of club officers and planning for the upcoming year.

*        The Icom IC-718 will once again be pressed into service on the camp 
pontoon boat for HF operation from Cedar Lake.  All aboard!  QRMers will walk 
the plank if caught.

*        We'll have time for several operating skills discussions and an EMCOMM 

*        Anyone interested in a hidden transmitter hunt on VHF?

If you want to get a first license or study for an upgrade, let us know.

Camp dates are now published in the True Friends Camp 
Catalog.<http://truefriends.org/camp/>  They are Tuesday, August 18 (arrival) 
through Monday, August 24 (departure),

Please let Nancy know if you wish to receive a 2015 Radio Camp 



*        You can pay your Handiham dues and certain other program fees on line. 
Simply follow the link to our secure payment site, then enter your information 
and submit the payment.  It's easy and secure!

o   Handiham annual membership dues are $12.00.  The lifetime membership rate 
is $120.00.

o   If you want to donate to the Handiham Program, please use our donation 
website.  The instructions are at the following link:
DONATION LINK<http://www.handiham.org/drupal2/node/8>

o   We hope you will remember us in your 2015 giving plans.  The Courage Kenny 
Handiham program needs your help.  Our small staff works with volunteers, 
members, and donors to share the fun of Amateur Radio with people who have 
disabilities or sensory impairments.  We've been doing this work since 1967, 
steadily adapting to the times and new technologies, but the mission is still 
one of getting people on the air and helping them to be part of the ham radio 
community.  Confidence-building, lifelong learning, making friends - it's all 
part of ham radio and the Handiham Program.
[Begging cartoon doggie]

o   The weekly audio podcast <https://handiham.org/audio/handiham.mp3> was 
produced with the open-source audio editor 

How to contact us

There are several ways to contact us.

Postal Mail:

Courage Kenny Handiham Program
3915 Golden Valley Road
Golden Valley, MN 55422

E-Mail: Nancy.Meydell@xxxxxxxxxx<mailto:Nancy.Meydell@xxxxxxxxxx>

Preferred telephone: 1-612-775-2291
Toll-Free telephone: 1-866-HANDIHAM (1-866-426-3442)

Note: Mondays through Thursdays between 9:00 AM and 2:00 PM United States 
Central Time are the best times to contact us.

You may also call Handiham Program Coordinator Patrick Tice, WA0TDA, at: 

FAX: 612-262-6718 Be sure to put "Handihams" in the FAX address! We look 
forward to hearing from you soon.

73, and I hope to hear you on the air soon!

For Handiham World, this is Pat Tice, WA0TDA.

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 
Patrick.Tice@xxxxxxxxxx<mailto:Patrick.Tice@xxxxxxxxxx>  for changes of 
address, unsubscribes, etc. Include your old email address and your new address.

Return to Handiham.org<http://handiham.org>

This message contains information that is confidential and may be privileged. 
Unless you are the addressee (or authorized to receive for the addressee), you 
may not use, copy or disclose to anyone the message or any information 
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  • » [handiham-world] Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 04 March 2015 - Tice, Patrick W