[handiham-world] Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 12 March 2014

  • From: Pat Tice <Pat.Tice@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2014 19:46:39 +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, 12 March 2014

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<mailto:handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> for changes 
in subscriptions or to comment. You can listen to this news online.

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Welcome to Handiham World.
Thinking about ham radio computing

[Page from 1968 Allied catalog showing Minivac 601 computer, which cost $95 
back then.]

We've come a long way in ham radio computing since this early "personal 
electronic computer", the model Minivac 601, appeared in the 1968 Allied Radio 
catalog. Amateur Radio has always been fertile ground for trying new stuff, 
building things, and sometimes even pushing the envelope on technology in 

Since the ham shack computer is a well-accepted piece of "gear" these days, we 
need to sit down and have a talk about what works.  I don't want to launch a 
kerfuffle over operating systems.  Some of you will prefer Windows, some will 
like Mac OS, and a few will snap their suspenders and stroke their beards while 
proclaiming some version of Linux to be their choice.  I get that.  I've tried 
all of them at one time or another.  But the fact of the matter is that what we 
think we know about ham radio computing might be, well... wrong.

Let's start with Linux.  The days of suspender-snapping bearded guys toiling on 
server farms as the only Linux users are behind us.  Raspberry 
Pi<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raspberry_Pi> computing is here and is opening 
up new Linux possibilities in the mainstream "maker" community. Ham radio 
"maker" enthusiasts are rolling up their sleeves and designing new hardware and 
software to control amateur radio gear. Check out the Raspberry connect.com 
list of packages. 
 From rig control to logging to studying code, there are projects out there.  
If you use Linux on a desktop machine, you might consider 
Shackbox.net<http://shackbox.net/> as a source of over 150 applications for ham 
radio. It's actually a Linux distribution, based on the popular Ubuntu as a 
source of over 150 applications for ham radio. Best of all, there is a live CD, 
which means you can try it out without installing anything.  The Shackbox 
project is supported by donations.  One consideration in operating systems is 
always whether there is an accommodation for blind users.   Linux distributions 
are particularly good about this, and you can check out a long list of 
screenreaders sorted by name and find out which operating systems they will 
work in by going to 
Wikipedia<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_screen_readers>. A 
Linux-specific screenreader is the free and open-source SUSE-Blinux.

The go-to source for things Mac in ham radio is Mac Ham 
Radio<http://machamradio.com/>.  Blind Mac users already know about the 
built-in screenreader VoiceOver, so there is no need to elaborate on that.  The 
real question is whether the Mac OS can hold its own in the ham shack.  Is 
there enough ham radio software to make the cut?  The answer depends on what 
you want to do.  There are rig control and digital software packages, as well 
as some cross-platform programs like Chirp for setting up the memories in many 
models of radios. It is still not clear to me whether the VoiceOver 
screenreader can make programs like Chirp accessible.

Windows computers offer the most ham radio versatility, simply because most ham 
radio software is written for Windows.  There is no real native screenreader 
for Windows, which means that blind users are on their own when it comes to 
accessibility. The built-in Narrator is enough to get started, but it will not 
satisfy anyone who really needs a full-featured screenreader. If you check the 
Wikipedia list of 
screenreaders<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_screen_readers>, you will 
find that there are some free options.  The popular full-featured screenreader 
Window-Eyes(tm) by G. W. Micro may be available to Windows users if they have 
the right version of Microsoft 

I like to give people advice about ham shack computing by first finding out 
from them what their needs are.  Do they want to do simple things like logging 
and callsign lookup?  Is rig control a priority?  Do they want to put their 
station on their home computer network to control it from another location on 
the property or even via the internet?  Do they only use a computer for setting 
up memories in a handheld radio?

You might be surprised at how little thought some operators have put into this! 
 Ham radio may even be an afterthought in their computer choices, which is how 
they end up with a system that works great for web browsing, working at home, 
email and social networking, or gaming... but not necessarily for ham radio.

I'm an advocate for a dedicated ham shack computer.  That way, you can just let 
the kitchen computer be for YouTube and recipes.  There doesn't seem to be any 
real argument against this, since computers - let's call them devices - are 
cheaper than ever and easy to connect to a wireless network or home LAN.  
Forget about "one size fits all", because it doesn't.  You can have ham radio 
apps on various devices, the most popular one being Echolink, and still need a 
dedicated shack PC for integrated rig control and logging.  The modest outlay 
to get what really works for you will be well worth it, especially if you want 
to be competitive in activities like contesting. For example, given the fact 
that computer logging is the de facto standard in contesting, it pays to 
research the available software and find out what other contesters recommend.

My choice for a shack computer is a Windows PC, hands-down.  It will run more 
ham radio software than anything else, and I already know how to use Windows.  
These are personal preferences, and I realize that it is probably a happy 
accident for me that I moved into the DOS and later the Windows world early on. 
 I'm not so sure I'd be as easily convinced had I began life in the Linux or 
Mac worlds, but here's the thing: You need to figure out what you want to do 
with the ham shack computer or device.  The worst thing to do is to get a 
device and then start thinking about how you can figure out workarounds to make 
it perform ham radio tasks as an afterthought.  Some amateur radio operators 
have multiple ham shack computing devices, a strategy that allows for 
customization that will make for efficient operation on specific tasks.  
Remember, one of the premises we are going on is that computing is more 
affordable now than at any time in history.  We no longer have to make the 
family computer serve every function, because we can afford to set up 
task-specific devices that are easily networked.

Now, let's head for the US Inflation 
Calculator<http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/> because I want to illustrate 
how true this is.  Remember that Allied Minivac 601 computer from 1968?  It was 
exactly the kind of computer that an experimenter would want - and I'm sure it 
attracted the attention of many ham radio operators back in the day.  Well, get 
this:  Put the year 1968 and the $95 dollar price in the inflation calculator 
and you find out that in today's dollars that simple home experimental computer 
would cost a jaw-dropping $638.56!  For comparison, today a Raspberry Pi model 
B can be found on Amazon for $39, and it is a virtual supercomputer compared to 
the 1968 Minivac.

So stop fretting about making a device you use for general computing and web 
browsing into a ham shack computer.  Sit down and think about what kind of 
tasks you need to accomplish in the ham shack.  Make a list, then prioritize 
the list, assigning each task a number.  Rig control, check.  Logging, check.  
Callsign lookup, check.  Experimental ham radio projects, check. IRLP node, 
check.  There's lot's to do in the typical ham shack, so you may need more than 
one device or computer!

For Handiham World, I'm...

Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Courage Kenny Handiham Coordinator

HAMPod offers accessibility for ham radio:

  *   After we mentioned the Elecraft K3 last week, a reader reminded me about 
the HAMPod device that gives voice to Elecraft radios and other popular 
equipment like SteppIR(tm) antennas and HyGain rotor controllers. Check out 
their website at Hampod.com<http://www.hampod.com/>.

Ready-made Go-Kits

  *   WA0CAF sent me the link to a company that offers ready-packed go-kits.  
These kits are intended for sale to the general public, so they are not 
specific to Amateur Radio public service use, but that's a good thing in a way, 
because you can have one of these kits ready as a grab-and-go, while you also 
have your radio communications go-kit.  I think it's a good idea to have the 
radio kit as a separate bag because survival and living items are probably 
going to be used at different times and locations than communications gear 
during a real emergency deployment. If you are a minimalist, I guess you could 
pack a handheld VHF/UHF transceiver, charger, spare battery, and instruction 
cheat sheet in the ready-made go-kit, though.  The company that makes the 
ready-made packs is GRABPAK<http://www.grabpak.com>(tm), and you can find them 
at http://www.grabpak.com.
  *   Want information about what should be in your ham radio go-kit? Check out 
the Lake County, IL RACES ARES(r) Group go-kit 

2014 Radio Camp (Saturday, August 16 through Saturday August 23, 2014)

*         Operating Skills participants will have a chance to try out the 
Elecraft K3 transceiver!

*         The new Technician Pool will be in effect as of July 1, 2014.  If you 
are studying for your first license, you may continue to use our on line 
Technician audio lectures prior to the camp session, but you will want to 
download a copy of the 2014-2018 Technician Question 
Pool<http://ncvec.org/downloads/2014-2018%20Tech%20Pool.txt> for reference, 
since that pool is the one from which the questions on your exam will be drawn.

*         We recommend the NC4FB website for a study guide to the 2014-2018 
Technician Question Pool<http://www.nc4fb.org/wordpress/new-items/>.

*         The NCVEC website has a status page for the 2014-2018 Technician 
Question Pool.<http://ncvec.org/page.php?id=362>

*         The 2014-2018 Technician Pool may be downloaded as a plain text 

*         The Camp Courage 2 meter repeater will be on the air, and connected 
to the *HANDIHAM* Echolink conference.

*         The Equipment Program will be at Radio Camp.  Campers will be able to 
take home equipment, provided that the Equipment Program has it available.  
Campers should let us know what they need to get on the air. Categories of 
equipment that can be made available for you to take home from camp are:

o    VHF/UHF radios

o    HF radios

o    Accessories like speakers and tuners

o    Morse code accessories

o    Other accessories - Please let me know what you need.

*         Our study guide for 2014 Handiham Radio Camp Operating Skills will be 
the ARRL Public Service Handbook First 
Edition<http://www.arrl.org/shop/Amateur-Radio-Public-Service-Handbook>.  It is 
available from your favorite ham radio dealer or directly from ARRL.  Blind 
Handiham members should contact us for the DAISY version.  We will be happy to 
place it on your NLS DAISY cartridge for you.

*         We will be operating HF and VHF from the camp pontoon boat on Cedar 
Lake. Last camp we worked DX on 20 meters.  Can we do that again this year?

*         The outdoor shelter with picnic tables will be available for outside 
operations every day during net time 11:00 AM CDT and between 1:00 and 3:00 PM 

QRZ.com reports that nGenLog is back as 

  *   If you are a previous user, you may log in with your existing 
credentials, and new users simply register an account.  Find it at the nGenLog 
  *   I did download and started my testing of nGenLog, but I'm not really 
qualified to do screenreader testing.  I'd appreciate some help on this if 
there are any screenreader users who are willing to try out a freeware logging 
and rig control program.  It does support Logbook of the World imports and 
exports, DX Cluster, rig control for many models of radios, QRZ and Hamcall 
database integration, and even printing of your own QSL cards. I found the 
registration and setup to be easy, but I couldn't find any help files. I 
exported my logbook from the Ham Radio Deluxe log to my Microsoft SkyDrive and 
then imported it easily into nGenLog.  I tried a contact on my IC-7200, and it 
populated the screen with the frequency, date, and other relevant information.  
Upon adding the call of the station I worked, it quickly added the station's 
details from QRZ.com, where I am a registered member with access to this 
feature. The IC-7200 was already connected to my computer via a USB cable since 
I had previously used it with HRD.  My first impression is that it is a snappy 
performer, loading and populating fields very quickly.  I hate waiting and 
waiting for clunky software to do its thing, so a fast, efficient logging 
program is a nice addition to my ham shack.

DXCC tool is a free on line service

*         Club Log is a free web-based tool for producing DXCC league tables, 
expedition tools, log search services and most-wanted lists for ham radio.  You 
can use it to search for expeditions, and it also has other DXing tools. Get a 
free account at the secure Club Log 

*         As always, I appreciate reports from blind users on screenreader 
accessibility.  At first glance, this website does look to be accessible.

Dip in the pool dives into the new Technician Class:

*         Today we are going to dip our toes into the new Tech pool.

T1A12 asks, "Which of the following is a permissible use of the Amateur Radio 

Possible answers are:

A. Broadcasting music and videos to friends
B. Providing a way for amateur radio operators to earn additional income by 
using their stations to pass messages
C. Providing low-cost communications for start-up businesses
D. Allowing a person to conduct radio experiments and to communicate with other 
licensed hams around the world

The correct answer is D: Allowing a person to conduct radio experiments and to 
communicate with other licensed hams around the world.  I picked this question 
because it is a new one that is not in the current Technician pool. Of course 
the rules and regs have not changed as they relate to this long-time purpose of 
the Amateur Radio Service, but I particularly like this question because it 
emphasizes the experimental aspect of our hobby along with the communication 
part.  Since 9/11 pushed everyone toward the public service communication part 
of ham radio, I have felt that our innovation and experimentation with 
software, new modes, and innovative hardware has not been given enough of our 
time and attention.  I'm glad to see that this is changing and the "maker" 
community in ham radio is growing!

Extra Class lecture series now available in DAISY format.

  *   Our biggest single audio project, the Extra Class lecture series, has 
finally reached completion.  The entire series has been produced as a DAISY 
book, available in a zip file download or on NLS digital cartridge.  A link is 
on the new audio page referenced in each Friday's notification of new materials 
in audio format.

CQ combines March & April 2014 issues

*         The latest issue of CQ, which is released today in digital format, 
combines the March and April issues.  The reason is that the publisher is 
getting the schedule back on track.  Regular subscriptions have been extended 
for a month.  Details are on page 8 of the issue.  The DAISY digest edition 
produced for blind Handiham members will accordingly be labeled "March-April" 
when it is produced later this month.

Practical Radio

[pliers and wire]

Hey, dude - Figure it out

How do you approach problems in the ham shack?  What happens when the handheld 
radio you use every day gets out of its usual operating mode?  How do you 
respond when you press the power button on the HF rig and you don't hear 
anything out of the speaker?

I hope that you are not one of those operators who immediately sets the radio 
down and starts phoning everyone on the ham radio club roster to find out who 
will come over to reset the radio for you or figure out what is wrong with the 
HF rig.  Of course there are times when we all need some help, but since 
Amateur Radio is (after all) a technical hobby, we should be capable of doing 
some problem-solving on our own.  What are the benefits of learning how to 
problem-solve?  Here are just a few:

1.     You learn more about your equipment and about solving problems when you 
actively work to figure things out for yourself.

2.     You can fix things right away instead of waiting days or weeks for 
someone else to come over to your house to flip the right switch or reconnect 
the coax.

3.     You will not inconvenience another club member over a minor problem that 
you could have solved on your own.

4.     You will gain a reputation as a knowledgeable operator.

5.     In doing research on a problem, you will gain valuable experience and 
learn about new resources that will help you in the future.  These can be on 
line manuals, audio tutorials on various subjects, internet discussion boards, 
and so on.

6.     You will not wear out your welcome, so to speak, which means that when 
you do have a problem that you cannot solve you will have a greater chance of 
getting help from another club member.

7.     You will feel great when you do solve a problem on your own!

Let's face it - we have all known people who just can't seem to fix anything 
without help.  Most of the time it is because they have developed a bad habit 
of never trying for themselves.  Instead, they call for someone else to fix it. 
 But the problem is that some things can easily be fixed by the user, while 
other things should be fixed by a professional, or at least a helper.  Knowing 
which is which is a big part of being independent and able to control more of 
the things in our lives.

One of the things that struck me as a young father years ago was how my 2 year 
old son would insist, "I can do it myself", when he wanted to manage whatever 
task he was engaged in.

The march toward self-sufficiency is built into us from an early age.  But it 
can be "learned away" if the people around us never let us do anything for 
ourselves.  This can end up leaving a person much more dependent on others - 
often for a lifetime!  Wouldn't it be better to have those problem-solving 
skills in place so that we can do more on our own?  Start today by trying to 
figure out your minor ham radio problems on your own.  Use the on line 
resources at your computer.  Read the owner's manual troubleshooting section.  
Sure, you may not be able to figure it out, but at least you tried and have 
probably collected more information about the problem so that you will be 
better informed when you do call for help.

This is practical radio.  Learn basic problem-solving.

Handiham Nets are on the air daily.


Listen for Doug, N6NFF, tonight and try to answer the trivia question during 
the first half hour.  Check in later just to get in the log and say hello.  The 
trivia question answer is revealed shortly after the first half hour.

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!

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 
Daylight Saving time and GMT is -5 hours and the net is on the air at 16:00 
hours GMT.

The two evening sessions are at 00:00 GMT Thursday and Friday.  Here in 
Minnesota that translates to 7:00 PM Wednesday and Thursday.

The official and most current net news may be found at:

This week @ HQ

[Cartoon robot with pencil]

Phone & email changes coming March through May

We will be making some changes this Spring in our email and phone systems.  
Watch this newsletter and the Handiham website<https://handiham.org> for any 
changes in our contact information.

Digests & Lectures

*         Reminder:  If you use the NLS cartridges, please return them to us by 
the first week in the month so we can include your cartridge in the March 

In the Extra Class audio lecture series we have completed the course, finishing 
up last week with safety. Everything is now on line and available either as a 
Daisy download in zip file format or as individual MP3 files.  The zip file is 
a half gig, so it is huge.  Please don't attempt it on a slow or flaky internet 

Jim Perry, KJ3P, Bob Zeida, N1BLF, and Ken Padgitt, W9MJY do the volunteer 
digest recording.  Thanks, guys!

March 2014 QST Digest in Daisy format is available.

CQ Magazine & CQ Plus February 2014 digests in DAISY format.  Log in and check 
out the new CQ!

QCWA Digest for March 2014 is available in MP3.

In Operating Skills: Joe Bogwist, N3AIN, opens his Radio in the Dark series 
with tutorials on how to use the new Kenwood TS-590S 160 - 6 m transceiver!

Secure, blind-friendly Handiham website login:

*         We ask that you please log in securely if you are using any kind of a 
public network or unsecured wireless.

Remote Base News

Both stations are operational.

[W0EQO station in the server room at Courage North.]

[Kenwood TS-480HX transceiver with LDG autotuner]

Both Handiham Remote Base internet stations W0ZSW and W0EQO are on line for 
your use 24/7.

  *   If you use Skype for audio, please connect and disconnect the Skype call 
to the remote base manually.  The automatic calling and hang up is no longer 
supported in Skype.
  *   200 watt operation is restored on 160, 80, and 40 meters for Extra and 
Advanced Class users on W0ZSW.

*         Outages: Outages are reported on 

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:
  *   Read the tutorial in accessible HTML:

Digital Cartridges now Stocked at Handiham HQ:

Nancy now has the NLS 4GB digital cartridges and mailers available at our cost. 
 She says:

We now have a supply of digital Talking Book cartridges and mailers available 
for purchase for our Handiham members.  The total cost for a set is $15.50.  We 
will download any digital study materials from the Members Only section of our 
website onto your cartridge at no additional cost.  Minnesota residents please 
add $1.13 MN Sales Tax.

[Pat holding up NLS digital cartridge and mailer]

Don't care to download Handiham materials via computer? The NLS 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!

Want to log in?  Let's go:

Secure, blind-friendly Handiham website login:

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.

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, 

Digital Talking Book Cartridge, 4GB, Blank; Catalog Number: 1-02609-00, Price 

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:

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<mailto: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<mailto:handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> or by phone at 

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 
Email us to subscribe:

That's it for this week. 73 from all of us at the Courage Kenny Handihams!
Coordinator, Courage Kenny Handiham Program
Reach me by email at:

Nancy, Handiham Secretary:

Courage Kenny Handiham Program<http://handiham.org>
3915 Golden Valley Road
Golden Valley, MN  55422

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<mailto:handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>  for changes of 
address, unsubscribes, etc. Include your old email address and your new address.

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

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  • » [handiham-world] Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 12 March 2014 - Pat Tice