[handiham-world] Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 18 February 2015

  • From: <Patrick.Tice@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 18 Feb 2015 14:25:02 -0600

Logo for Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, part of Allina Health

Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for
the week of Wednesday, 18 February 2015

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

Our contact information is at the end. 

Listen here:

Get this podcast in iTunes:
 <http://www.itunes.com/podcast?id=372422406> Subscribe to our audio podcast
in iTunes

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:  

·         Making science and technology interesting

·         This week's question! 

·         Keep your smartphone safe.

·         Check into our daily nets.

·         Echotest is your friend.  Really. 

·         Take a dip in the pool: PSK-31.

·         The Amazon Echo®; Assistive Tech device?

·         The Remote Base HF report

·         ...And more!

What first tickled your interest in science?

For me science and radio went hand in hand when I was a kid.  Growing up in
the 1950s meant that broadcast radio was still a powerhouse of news, drama,
and musical entertainment.  Television was getting started in markets across
the USA but the signals were hard to receive and there were not that many
stations.  The stations that we could receive with a rooftop antenna didn't
even broadcast through the night.  They would begin and end the broadcast
day with a "test pattern" that was supposed to help you adjust the picture.

Radio was the thing.  Many broadcast stations were on through the night, and
you didn't need a fancy antenna to receive them.  Our family's RCA Victor
radio even had a short-wave band and the audio stage could be switched to a
phonograph input to play 45's from a matching record player.  For the day,
it was modern - a modular entertainment system.

Anyway, from the earliest days that I was able to tune that radio by myself,
I traveled the world and went into outer space in my imagination.  Radio
drama included exciting superheroes and science fiction.  I loved radio!
Dad bought me several crystal radio sets, one of which was a kit.  It was a
first introduction to hands-on science.  I even remember one of the crystal
radios designed into a silver-grey satellite shape after Sputnik went into
orbit.  Science and technology were on the march in the latter half of the
20th Century.  I had a telescope and watched the moons of Jupiter change
position from night to night.  Chemistry sets were a big deal, too.  I
belonged to a rock hound club and learned to identify minerals.  Photography
was fun, so I built my own darkroom in the basement and learned how to
develop film and print photos.  

Finally, as a teenager, I decided that I wanted to transmit on the radio.  I
wanted to be a ham radio operator, so I found a local ham, the father of one
of my classmates, to give me the Novice license exam.  My dad encouraged me
by getting me started with kit building.  My first real kit was a Knight-Kit
Span Master two tube regenerative receiver.

The point of all this is that science and technology are really best learned
as hands-on activities.  I got to thinking about this when I saw the Google
Doodle for today celebrating Alessandro Volta'
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alessandro_Volta> s 270th birthday.  The
"volt" is named in his honor.  Our knowledge of science is built on the
discoveries of men and women like Volta, who developed a curiosity about how
the natural world works and built a lifetime of science discovery on that
early experience.  You can bet that as kids most of them were picking up
rocks and sorting them out, observing how liquids behave, and lying in the
grass on a warm summer night to watch the stars march across a sky that had
yet to be polluted by artificial light.  

We learn best by doing things, not just reading about them.  Handling the
tools of technology reinforces our learning and makes it easier to retain
and build on our knowledge.  Remember that when you talk to potential new
ham radio operators today.  True, it is not the 20th Century anymore.
Things are different - much different - and the world of hands-on technology
projects has changed with the century.  I have to marvel about how all of
the stuff I used to do as a kid has been taken over by computers.  Ham
radio, photography, astronomy...  the list is endless.  Nothing is untouched
by the personal computer.  We could complain about this - and many do - but
it will not change the reality of science and technology in today's world.
Change is normal, and in a way ironic since by learning science and
technology, we push the evolution of these things, making even more change
inevitable.  Surely we agree that technology has enhanced ham radio, even as
it is harder to do some hands-on projects like building circuits with
discrete components. What takes the place of building tube-type radios is
awesome.  You can program a Raspberry Pi to your customized station needs.
You can control your station via the internet.  Information on projects on
every topic in Amateur Radio is at your fingertips via the Web.  And the
personal computer has emerged as the most significant assistive technology
tool for people with disabilities in a lifetime.  

In a sense, taking in information today is like taking a drink from a fire
hose.  There is so much to compete for the attention of our next generation
that we need to present Amateur Radio in ways that build curiosity about the
natural world that will help kids want to learn.  Everyone spends too much
time looking at screens, so how can we make ham radio unique?  That is the
challenge for the new century.  It is no longer good enough to tell your kid
how it's possible to talk to someone on the other side of the planet.
That's a normal daily activity for anyone who plays online massive
multiplayer video games.  We'll have to do better!  

Look, I don't have the definitive answer, but I do know as a former teacher
that learning by doing is a powerful motivator.  We have to do things with
those newbies - electronics projects, antenna building, Field Day setup and
operation, writing software, designing systems, putting on special operating
events that are inclusive - all of it in a spirit of "hey, this is fun stuff
that you can learn and use to do things".  

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


Drawing of a computer

This week's question:  Here's the scenario.

·         You've just gotten your General Class license.  Before this, a
dual-band VHF/UHF vertical antenna served your needs well for FM repeater
operation.  But now, partly because you are interested in checking into
regional and statewide HF nets on 40 and 75 meter SSB, you would like to put
up a new HF antenna.  Which would be better, a multiband vertical, or a wire
antenna system?  

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


Answer to last week's question:

Last week's question was: If you have a smartphone, you likely have the
Echolink app on it.  How would you assure that an unlicensed person who
picks up your phone could not start Echolink and start transmitting?  

Several of you got this one right, but Avery, K0HLA, was first.  He
suggested password protecting your phone, as did the rest of you.  One
suggestion was to use a pattern trace instead of a password, which is what I
do with my own smartphone.  There may be other solutions, but these two are
the most common and easiest to set up on your phone.  

The idea is to protect all of your personal information, not just the
Echolink app access.  The first line of defense is to be consistent about
how you carry and use your phone.  I keep my phone in the same pocket when I
am out and about.  That way I know where it is and can get at it without
even thinking about it.  Security experts tell us not to set phones on
restaurant tables.  It is easy to forget they are there and someone can
scoop them up in passing.  When using your phone in public, hang onto it and
put it away when you are finished.  In fact, think twice about using your
phone in public, especially when others are present.  An expensive phone is
an invitation to theft, and that can include a mugging during which you
could be injured.  You could also unwittingly share information with hackers
via Bluetooth or an unsecured wireless connection in that coffee shop!
Information can also be stolen the old-fashioned way:  by looking over your
shoulder.  Using a phone while walking can be dangerously distracting, too.
And there is always the possibility of dropping and losing the phone if you
are constantly fishing it out while in public places.  This is all basic
stuff about keeping your phone in your possession - your very first defense
against unauthorized use!

Should the phone fall into the wrong hands, your second line of defense buys
you some valuable time.  That is your password or trace pattern unlock
protection.  Hopefully it will never get to that, but if it does you may
have time to alert your wireless carrier and get assistance in locating the
phone or wiping your personal data.  You should also alert the police.  Lost
phones are actually found and returned.  Remember that most people are good
and honest, and will try to do the right thing by locating the phone's owner
if there is a name on it, or by turning it in to a lost-and-found at the
place it was found or by turning it in to the local police.  Another option
might be to turn the found phone over to the closest wireless carrier's
retail outlet if the phone is so branded.  I once turned one in to my
nearest T-Mobile store, which found the owner. 

Let's review our phone security:

1.   Practice good phone stewardship by knowing where your phone is.  Be
consistent about how you carry and store it, and don't leave it out in plain
sight in public places.

2.   Set a password or unlock pattern.  

3.   Report a lost phone immediately.  Contact your wireless carrier for
advice and assistance. 


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).  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, who takes the Thursday evening Technical Net


Echotest is your friend  

Thanks to the variety of devices and systems connected to VoIP nets these
days, it is not at all unusual to hear audio levels that vary from zero to
barely audible to screechingly loud and distorted, all on a single net.  The
remedy is to periodically check your own audio level and quality by using
the excellent Echotest tool built into the Echolink system.  Find it, if it
is not already listed in your app, by using the search function and looking
for *ECHOTEST*.  By radio with a touch tone pad, it is node 9999.  Most
often you will be able to do okay from a smartphone if you don't shout into
it or leave it in the next room while still talking.  These devices have
built-in audio leveling capabilities that work quite well.  The worst
offenders are generally users of the PC application, who set their audio
levels manually.  The typical mistakes are failing to choose the correct
audio input device and setting the audio levels far outside the normal
range.  This is why you should check the level using Echotest, especially if
you are on a PC.  

·         Another tip for consistent audio is to maintain a fixed distance
from the microphone.  On some nets I can hear a station quite well, only to
find the audio dropping off as the person talking turns his or her head away
from the microphone.  A headset with boom mic takes care of that problem!  

·         Try to maintain a constant voice level when talking.  Although
automatic gain control in a smartphone might make up for some variation, it
cannot work miracles.  

·         Operate in a quiet room if possible.  Background noise can degrade
your transmission, and if you have to shout to overcome the noise, there
will be distortion. Smartphones are especially susceptible to background

·         Are you a net control station?  If so, then you are certainly
going to want to maintain a good, high quality transmission.  It may not
make much difference if a single station on the net has a poor signal, but
when the Net Control Station does, that is a real problem. Take a minute to
check it out with Echotest.  

·         The oldest method of getting a signal report is to simply ask for
one!  It's a time-honored tradition in Amateur Radio to exchange signal
reports.  If you need a truly critical one, don't be shy about asking for
exactly that.  Tell the other operator that you are checking for signal
level and quality.  Ask for specifics if there is any doubt:

o    Am I overdriving my transmitter?

o    Do you hear distortion?

o    Is it easy to understand what I say?

o    Does my signal have any high (or low) audio frequencies, or does it
sound muffled? 

o    Do you hear dropouts?

o    Is my signal strength okay into the repeater?

There are plenty of things that can come between you and a good, solid
signal.  Conditions change as you walk or drive, internet connectivity can
vary quite a lot from minute to minute, some other app on your phone or
computer might have adjusted the sound levels since the last time you used
Echolink... The list is a long one.  Get in the habit of occasionally
running an audio test.  You'll sound good every time!


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 new question.  Let's
see if you can get the answer!

G8C08 asks, "Which of the following statements is true about PSK31?"

Possible choices are:

A. Upper case letters make the signal stronger
B. Upper case letters use longer Varicode signals and thus slow down
C. Varicode Error Correction is used to ensure accurate message reception
D. Higher power is needed as compared to RTTY for similar error rates

What do you think?  Do you think you know about PSK-31's transmission

Well, I thought I did but was surprised to learn that typing upper case
letters actually slows the transmission!  That means answer B, "Upper case
letters use longer Varicode signals and thus slow down transmission" is the
correct one.  While I like to begin sentences and proper names with upper
case letters as is usual in typing, I sure would not recommend leaving the
Caps Lock key on and typing everything in caps.  Doing so would decrease the
efficiency of your transmission, slowing it down without adding anything at
all to the message content.  


Department of possibly useful stuff: Amazon Echo

An Amazon Echo Bluetooth speaker 
Image:  The Amazon Echo, a Bluetooth speaker and voice-activated information
service delivery system.  It's a cylinder about the size of a bottle of

Have you heard about the Amazon Echo
<http://www.amazon.com/oc/echo/ref_=ods_dp_ae> ?  It's a standalone
Bluetooth speaker that also listens for - and answers - questions, sets
timers, and plays music, all by voice commands.  I'm mentioning it here
because it’s potentially a nice device for anyone who is blind or whose
disability prevents twisting knobs and fiddling with controls.  You just
tell it what you want it to do with a voice command containing a key wake-up
word.  The default word is "Alexa".  The way it works, is that you simply
ask Alexa a question by always prefacing it with "her" name.  For example,
you would say, "Alexa, what is the capitol of Iowa" and Alexa would give you
the answer.  You can ask it to do math, too, or add items to a shopping list
that then shows up on your smartphone.  You can also ask it to look things
up on Wikipedia.  If you have Amazon Prime, it will play music from Amazon's
vast library, or it will also play from your purchased music library.  You
can ask it to play you a streaming radio station like your local NPR
station.  It is a handy gadget for our family, but think of how it could
enhance the life of someone who has severe physical disabilities!  This is
an evolving product since its database - and therefore its capability -
lives in Amazon's cloud, not on the device itself.  It does require a
wireless internet connection from your home router.  I've had mine about a
month and so far I like it. If you have one yourself, let me know if you use
it as an assistive technology device and if you have found any creative ways
to help make your life better.  


Both TS-480 Handiham HF remote base internet stations are up and running.  

Close up of TS-480HX keypad

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.

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. 


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.   

The two HF remote base stations are also available every day for your use.


ARRL:  FCC "Paperless" Amateur Radio License Policy Now in Effect   

Starting today, February 17, the FCC no longer routinely issues paper
license documents to Amateur Radio applicants and licensees. The Commission
maintains that the official Amateur Radio license authorization is the
electronic record that exists in its Universal Licensing System (ULS),
although the FCC had routinely continued to print and mail hard copy
licenses until this week. 

·         More on the paperless license may be found at ARRL.org.

By the way, this announcement was sent out by the FCC in their daily
bulletin:  "The FCC was closed due to inclement weather on February 17,
2015."  My observation is that if they were headquartered in Minnesota what
they are calling "inclement" would just be a normal day here!  Anyway, if
you are waiting on a ULS licensing action, know that there might be a slight
delay this week. You can thank "inclement weather" for that. 


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.

Bob Zeida, N1BLF, has completed the February magazine audio digest for our
blind members.  Also in the members section: The February 2015 Doctor is in
column has been recorded by Ken Padgitt, W9MJY.

New this week are QCWA Journal for February <http://www.qcwa.org> , and CQ
Magazine for November and December, recorded by Jim, KJ3P.   

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

In the Technician Lecture Series, we most recently posted a review section.

 <https://handiham.org/daisy/open/General_Pool_2015-19_DAISY_Beta.zip> The
new 2015 through 2019 General Class Pool, machine-recorded in DAISY by the
Handiham Program; Beta 1 version in downloadable zip file format. 

Thanks to our volunteer readers:

Bob, N1BLF 

Jim, KJ3P

Ken, W9MJY 


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

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.  

 <http://truefriends.org/camp/> Camp dates are now published in the True
Friends Camp Catalog.  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.



·         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 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:  <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
for changes of address, unsubscribes, etc. Include your old email address
and your new address.

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


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  • » [handiham-world] Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 18 February 2015 - Patrick.Tice