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Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for
the week of Wednesday, 05 August 2015
This is a free weekly news & information update from the Courage Kenny
Handiham Program <https://handiham.org> , serving people with disabilities
in Amateur Radio since 1967.
Our contact information is at the end.
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Welcome to Handiham World.
In this edition:
. We say goodbye to W0EQO and W0ZSW - for now.
. Check into our nets!
. This week's website features Windows 10 info.
. Dip in the Pool returns with a question from the Extra Class pool
about rectangular coordinates.
. August audio is available.
. ...And more!
W0ZSW and W0EQO are off the air.
W0EQO remote base HF station, pictured here in the attic IT closet at Camp
Image: W0EQO station at Courage North.
Our very first remote base HF station was W0EQO, installed way back in 2009,
was taken down on Tuesday August 4, 2015 by volunteer Bill Jones, N0CIC, who
also helped us install it almost seven years ago. As pictured here, it was
located in the attic of the Courage North dining hall, which is also an IT
closet for some computer networking equipment. The location was great for
quiet reception most of the time since it was a rural, forested part of
northern Minnesota. Our members who liked working DX had some success with
the station when the bands were open. The station consisted of a Kenwood
TS-480SAT, LDG AT-100PRO automatic antenna tuner, and G5RV antenna high up
in the tall pine trees - thanks to Bill's skill in launching wire antennas
high into the upper branches! Inside, Lyle Koehler, K0LR, was instrumental
in putting the station equipment together and configuring the RIGblaster
interface and the Lenovo PC running Windows Vista.
Once the final Radio Camp session at Camp Courage North wrapped up late in
August 2009, we left the station running in the attic of the camp dining
hall. It could be tended periodically by now retired camp director Tom
Fogarty, KB0FWQ, who lived on site at the time, or Bill, N0CIC, who lives a
few miles south of the station. Over the years, the station did need some
maintenance, but remained surprisingly robust and resilient in the face of
Minnesota winters with temperatures that sometimes flirt with minus 30
degree below zero, strong winds, blowing snow, and icing. Summers brought
strong wind and rain storms, too. In all that time, the antenna stayed up!
It was amazingly tough, considering what it had to endure.
Inside the unheated attic, the Windows Vista computer just ran and ran.
Unlike the antenna, the computer and internet connection were not nearly as
solid and reliable. There were many times software glitched, updates messed
things up, the internet went off or the network had some issue - any of
which took the station off the air until we could fix the problem remotely,
sometimes with the help of a camp staff person on site. Problems are to be
expected when you run a system day and night, summer and winter, for years
on end, and we had our share of them.
Back then our best choice for rig control software was the excellent W4MQ
interface written by Stan Schretter, W4MQ, and featured in QST. The
software was designed to control several models of Kenwood radios, one of
which was the TS-480 series of HF/6M transceivers. That was perfect,
because we could put together stations with the TS-480SAT and later on the
TS-480HX at W0ZSW. Both were equipped with the Kenwood VGS1 Voice Guide
modules, which returned frequency feedback for our blind members.
Image: The W4MQ software setup interface was simple to set up, as long as
you could see it. We did determine that an expert screenreader user could
manage the setup, but it was beyond the skills of many screenreader users.
We did attempt to update the software and made some progress, but it was
increasingly clear that we needed new software by the end of 2014. Many
problems had emerged over the years, including incompatibilities of the
sound system and the need to use a third party sound application, Skype, to
port the transmit and receive audio. Both the rig control and audio
applications would cause problems, sometimes hanging up or crashing. People
forgot Skype passwords and called us for help. Setup issues were too
daunting for many users, who ended up needing even more tech support from
Lyle and me.
Nonetheless, we pressed on when Radio Camp moved to Camp Courage in Southern
Minnesota in 2010. There we installed our second HF remote, W0ZSW, which
used a TS-480HX radio and an excellent 300 foot double extended zepp antenna
fed with 450 Ohm ladder line and a current balun. This station location
turned out to be just plain awful. Not only did the dodgy DSL internet
connection fail often - sometimes several times in a week, but the antenna
was constantly being damaged by falling trees and broken branches as storms
pushed through the deciduous forest. These trees were not the same as the
sturdier pines in the far north, and often suffered wind damage.
Eventually we gave up and moved the W0ZSW station to the WA0TDA QTH in the
eastern Twin Cities metro area. There it has operated pretty reliably, but
suffered lightning damage on Field Day 2014 and has been on the air for a
considerable time with other radios, since the TS-480HX needed repair. The
substitute system didn't support speech frequency readout over the internet
and also used a workaround to get an Icom IC-7200 to work in place of the
damaged 480. Although the antenna and internet connection are excellent at
the WA0TDA QTH, having this station on the air 24/7 and having to defer to
users when I would have liked to get on the air myself has made it somewhat
like a houseguest who has outstayed his visit. Knowing that the software
needed upgrading, we decided to form a beta testing team for the Kenwood
TS-590S transceiver using the Kenwood ARCP-590 rig control software. To
make a long story short, we did find the ARCP-590 software to be
blind-accessible but not all that easy or intuitive to set up. The system
also, like the old one, required us to use separate audio software, which
was Skype. This meant tech support would be a constant problem, and tech
support is something we just can't do justice to, given our small Handiham
staff. Sure, volunteers could help, but they also have busy lives and other
things to do. We decided to end the beta testing at the end of July, given
that there was almost no action in the beta test group and band conditions
were terrible anyway. That means that, for the time being, both stations
are off the air.
Image: In the meantime, we have gotten the TS-480HX repaired, and it has
been set aside, awaiting another station location assignment.
What does the future hold for stations W0EQO and W0ZSW?
That is a good question! We currently plan to update station W0EQO and
relocate it to a Boy Scout camp in Northern Minnesota, where it will have a
more reliable internet connection and be available both to us and the
scouts. The old computer will be either recycled or repurposed and replaced
by a new PC with an updated version of Windows. The rig and associated gear
will be checked out and tested. We hope to have it back on the air by late
W0ZSW is another story. I'm not sure if I'm willing to host it anymore, and
no club has stepped forward to take it. I guess I'll see how I feel about
it after Radio Camp.
In any case, when the stations return to service, it will be with the
Remotehams.com RCFORB software, which we feel is better for operating
remotes like ours. The RCFORB client is easily installed and doesn't
require any third-party audio software like Skype. Many remotes around the
world use this free software and administration of the host part of the
software is much easier and generates less tech support. The client
software supports many keyboard shortcuts for blind users and it also has a
surprising and most welcome feature: speech frequency readout is handled by
the software and is not dependent on the radio having a special speech chip.
This means that you can get speech frequency readout from radios of all
types operating from locations all around the globe, even radios without
speech chips. The free software is under current development, and is
supported in part by donations to the developer, which are optional. There
is an excellent Android app version, and an optional hardware package with
an interface into which you can plug a code key and the rig's own
microphone. Of course you can always run the client software right from
your PC and use your computer microphone and speakers to have an excellent
HF QSO. For those who like the Elecraft K3, it is my understanding that you
can interface the K3 to the internet and use it to control the remote
stations that way, right from your K3. There are blind accessibility
solutions available for the Elecraft radios.
With all of these options, the RCFORB system is just a no-brainer for us.
We simply cannot maintain a high level of tech support for old software and
external VoIP systems like Skype. I find that my own time is very limited
these days, and we need something that just plain works. While I have
gotten questions about whether we will make up help files, I can say that I
would like to do that. It will take time, and I have very little of that
right now, but I will put it on my to-do list. In the meantime, remember
that Amateur Radio is a technical activity. License holders are expected to
know something about radio and operating. It can be rewarding to figure out
how to do things on one's own - partly because when you do that, you really
learn how things work. The Remotehams.com website has a user forum to help
The bottom line is that we are all part of the Amateur Radio community. We
need to roll up our sleeves, volunteer to do things, and help each other.
The same few people simply cannot do it all, whether it is the remote base
project, the teaching of classes for prospective new hams, the Field Day
setup for your local radio club, and everything else that keeps us all on
the air. Summer is "down time" for many of us in ham radio, but before you
know it, summer will be over and radio clubs will have their first meetings
of the season. Thoughts will turn to getting on the air as the fine summer
weather fades away and many of us turn again to radio and indoor activities.
It will be a perfect time for you - yes, you - to step up to the plate and
put together a program for your radio club, or perhaps even volunteer to
help edit the club newsletter. Another goal could be to learn something
new, like remote base HF operation. If you get good enough at it, you can be
a helper to others in the user forum. Your local radio club will also
appreciate your efforts.
It feels good to help others, but as the old saying goes, "Many hands make
Please do step up to the plate. Many worthy projects will go undone without
The new software for our remotes is the RCFORB client from Remotehams.com.
(For Handiham World, this is Pat Tice, WA0TDA.)
Check into our Handiham nets... Everyone is welcome!
How to find the Handiham Net:
1. The Handiham EchoLink conference is 494492. Connect via your iPhone,
Android phone, PC, or on a connected simplex node or repeater system in your
2. WIRES-2 system number 1427
3. WIRES-X digital number 11165
The Handiham Net will be on the air daily. If there is no net control
station on any scheduled net day, we will have a roundtable on the air
Cartoon multicolored stickman family holding hands, one wheelchair user
Our daily Echolink net continues to operate for anyone and everyone who
wishes to participate at 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, VE7KI.
This week's website: Blind Bargains.
Ken, KB3LLA, sent us a link to the Blind Bargains website
<http://www.blindbargains.com/bargains.php?m=13189> . It's got some new free
Windows 10 information links so dig in. We don't take any ads or get
compensation from vendors, and just enjoy finding things that might help
blind hams operate their stations better.
A dip in the pool
Dip in the pool is back! Our question this week is from the Extra Class
question pool, number E5C11. It asks:
"What do the two numbers represent that are used to define a point on a
graph using rectangular coordinates?"
Possible answers are:
A. The magnitude and phase of the point
B. The sine and cosine values
C. The coordinate values along the horizontal and vertical axes
D. The tangent and cotangent values
While you're thinking about which answer might be the right one, let's
remind ourselves that blind candidates must still be able to answer
questions like these, since they do not specifically refer to a figure or
diagram. Even though you may not be able to see a printed page showing you
what a graph with rectangular coordinates looks like, you still have to know
how such graphs work. I'll have to admit that questions like this one can
pose a bit of a challenge to anyone, not only blind test-takers, especially
if it is many years since you took a math course in school.
Did you decide which answer is the correct one? If you picked answer C, the
coordinate values along the horizontal and vertical axes, you got this one
right. Perhaps you have a good memory for those math classes from junior
high school, or maybe you have learned how to recognize and use rectangular
coordinates though tactile materials or through an audio description like
the ones I use in our Extra Class audio course.
Vertical and horizontal lines cross each other and form a grid of squares in
rectangular coordinate graphs. These are among the first kind of simple
graphs we learn about in our school math classes. They are useful for
showing how one property of a system changes in relation to another one.
For example, you could use a graph like this to plot the length of an
antenna against its resonant frequency or the altitude in feet above the
ground against atmospheric pressure.
New audio: There is new audio since last week.
* QST for August in digital has been recorded by Bob, N1BLF, and is
ready. We have it in DAISY for our blind members.
* ARRL General Class License Manual: Jim Perry, KJ3P, has finished the
first three chapters of the new ARRL General Class License manual, recorded
for our blind members. The audio is processed into DAISY for our General
* QCWA Journal for August has also been recorded by Jim, KJ3P. It is
released when the official Journal for August is posted at QCWA.org, which
has been done, so it is now available at QCWA.org.
Podcast: If you would like to receive this audio newsletter as a podcast in
software other than iTunes, the RSS feed for the audio podcast is:
Email version: <http://www.freelists.org/list/handiham-world> Subscribe or
change your subscription to the E-mail version here.
Weekly audio reminder: If you are a Handiham member and want a weekly
reminder about our new audio, let us know. Watch for new audio Thursday
afternoons. (Some audio is available only to members.)
Beginner course DAISY download available for our blind members: We now have
the DAISY version of the entire Technician Class lecture series on line for
Some of you have asked about the 2015 General Lecture Series. The new
General pool is used for exams beginning on July 1, 2015. If you are
planning to study for General at Radio Camp in August, you will take your
exam based on the new General question pool. Jim, KJ3P, is helping us with
recordings from the new 2015 ARRL General License Manual.
But you can start studying using the new pool right now! Bob Zeida, N1BLF,
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.
Jim, KJ3P, has recorded the DXer's Handbook Second Edition by Bryce, K7UA,
for our blind members. If you are a Handiham member and need a link to the
DAISY download, please let me know.
Thanks to our volunteer readers:
. 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
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
How to contact us
There are several ways to contact us.
Courage Kenny Handiham Program
3915 Golden Valley Road
Golden Valley, MN 55422
E-Mail: <mailto:Nancy.Meydell@xxxxxxxxxx> 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
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