[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: https://handiham.org/audio/handiham04MAR2015.mp3 Get this podcast in iTunes: [Subscribe to our audio podcast in iTunes]<http://www.itunes.com/podcast?id=372422406> RSS feed for the audio podcast if you use other podcasting software: http://feeds.feedBurner.com/handiham<http://feeds.feedburner.com/handiham> ________________________________ 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 time. 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, too! Today is March 4th - the date that is a command to "get moving". Think about it! (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 grounds<http://www.arrl.org/grounding>. 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. <mailto:Patrick.Tice@xxxxxxxxxx?subject=The%20weekly%20question> ________________________________ 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! AC8S ________________________________ Check into our Handiham nets... Everyone is welcome! [Cartoon multicolored stickman family holding hands, one wheelchair user among them.] 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 capacitors?" Possible answers are: A. Incorrect polarity can cause the capacitor to short-circuit B. Reverse voltages can destroy the dielectric layer of an electrolytic capacitor 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 audio. 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 station.<mailto:Patrick.Tice@xxxxxxxxxx?subject=Remote%20Base%20Hosting> 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 Sunday. ________________________________ 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 mailed. 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 format.<https://handiham.org/daisy/open/General_Pool_2015-19_DAISY_Beta.zip> 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 exercise. * 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 Application.<mailto:Nancy.Meydell@xxxxxxxxxx?subject=2015%20Radio%20Camp%20Application%20Request> ________________________________ Membership * 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. MEMBERSHIP DUES PAYMENT LINK<https://pay.usbank.com/default.aspx?id=COURAGE_KENNY_HANDIHAMS> 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 Audacity<http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/>. 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: 612-775-2290. 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 contained in the message. If you have received the message in error, please advise the sender by reply e-mail and delete the message.