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

  • From: <Patrick.Tice@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 18 Mar 2015 12:03:00 -0500

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 March 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:
https://handiham.org/audio/handiham18MAR2015.mp3

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:  

.         What makes a radio easy to use?

.         The week's question: Did you ever have an RF problem in your ham
shack?

.         Check into our daily nets.  

.         Take a dip in the pool: Those RF problems again. 

.         The Remote Base HF report:  Minor outage at W0ZSW during
maintenance.

.         ...And more!

  _____  

But first...  What makes a radio easy to use?

Icom IC-7200 and Bencher CW paddle

Ask ten Amateur Radio operators what their preference is in radio equipment,
and you will probably get ten different opinions. There will be discussions
about what type of operating the equipment will support, about whether
mobile or portable operations will be involved, what kinds of antennas will
be used, and on and on. 

Amateur Radio is, after all, a BIG tent!

There really can be no one right answer until we narrow our search.  A radio
that can be used by a blind operator, one that includes all-mode operation
on the VHF bands, something that can fit into an automobile,
affordability...  You get the idea.  The question "Which radio is best?"
doesn't make any sense without that kind of context.

At the Handiham Program we have always been about accessibility of equipment
for use by operators with disabilities.  Over the years many volunteers in
the program have creatively modified radio gear to make it easier to use.
Whether it was placing tactile markers on a mechanical frequency dial or
adding extensions to knobs to provide more leverage to click through the
bandswitch positions, these mods were unique and designed to help each
operator based on special needs. 

Today's radios are different; way different.  They are smaller, more
efficient, more stable, and operate more modes.  They are uber-configurable,
too.  Most can be operated by that ubiquitous ham shack accessory, the
personal computer or whatever similar device we can interface to a radio.
There is no longer a need to attach a wooden clothespin to a band switching
knob.  The band switch doesn't even exist anymore in the world of direct
frequency entry and multifunction keypads.  Memories hold band and mode
information anyway, and today's equipment usually offers several different
ways to get to where you want to be.  

Modern transceivers sometimes elicit comments from old-timers about
excessive complexity and how simple the radios of yesterday were to learn
and operate.  And it's true - sort of.  The old gear didn't have
multifunction controls with layers of menus lying in wait beneath them.  On
the other hand, the old radios didn't do as much as the new ones and what
they did do wasn't always done well.  I remember final amplifier tubes that
melted from too much key down time during tune up.  Some radios of the era
drifted.  One triband HF rig was said - and not without reason - to drift
"like a rowboat in a hurricane".  Reliability was problematic by today's
standards. But what made those old rigs easy to use was their
straightforward, simple front panel controls.  You can't go wrong with
intuitive, simple, easy to understand front panel layout.  Is it possible to
duplicate that kind of simplicity and ergonomic efficiency in a modern
transceiver with all of its extra functions and capabilities?  

Well, maybe.  And if it's possible, that is certainly a good thing for
people with disabilities.  It turns out that what is good for them is good
for everyone else too, since having equipment with intuitive controls that
are easy to use is good universal design.  Anyone appreciates buttons that
are big enough to select without pressing the neighboring buttons.  Who
wouldn't want controls that are familiar enough to be easy to learn,
especially in an emergency?  All of us like easy to read frequency displays.
With that in mind, here is our top 10 list of things to look for in
transceiver accessibility: 

1.    Simple front panel with large tactile buttons and easy to grasp rotary
controls for commonly-used functions.  These include VFO, passband tuning,
audio gain, and memory channels, among others.  

2.    A direct-entry frequency keypad laid out in the same pattern as a
standard telephone keypad.  We all know how to make a phone call with a
keypad. The familiar 3 by 3 number pad with the 0 in the fourth row between
a star and a pound key allows us to make calls without having to study the
keypad or fumbling around to find the correct digits. 

3.    Menus that push common functions to the front and lesser-accessed ones
to the back.  This allows the front panel to be simple and uncluttered, but
it is only going to be easy to use if the things you actually want on a
daily basis are the ones on the top - the first button push, not buried in a
menu system.  To understand why this is important, think about the fridge,
pantry, and cabinets in your kitchen.  In a sense, kitchen storage is like a
layered menu system in a radio.  You need some common food items every day
or at least several times a week.  These might include salt and pepper,
cooking oil, bread, milk, coffee, tea, and fresh fruit.  It makes sense to
have these things at the front where they are easily reached because you use
them often.  The pasta can be on a back shelf with the flour, but not as far
back as other foodstuffs or ingredients that will only be used on a monthly
basis.  You want your radio's menu to be the same way;  it needs to have the
functions you need often near the front.  Thus, you will want the mode
switch to be easy to find while the CW speed control and microphone gain
controls can be in the menu system "on the back shelf" so to speak.  

4.    A large easy to read frequency display with speech frequency readout.
The radio needs to give the operator this information efficiently.  If you
buy a radio with a tiny hard to see display, it will never cease to remind
you of this mistake whenever conditions are not absolutely ideal.  Some
radios include speech frequency readout built in while others have this
feature available as an option.  

5.    A front panel headphone jack.  This feature will be used often because
conditions will change and you will want to switch between the built-in
speaker and headphones.  You might as well have the headphone jack handy.

6.    A USB interface.  This allows you to make an easy connection to a rig
control computer with only one cable and a USB driver from the radio's
manufacturer.  It bypasses complicated wiring for microphone connectors and
audio interfaces if you want to control the radio remotely via the internet.


7.    A good receiver section.  You might think this goes without saying,
but having a good receiver makes a big difference in overall usability of a
transceiver.  Some are better than others, so check the reviews and shop
accordingly.  As the old saying goes, "You can't work them if you can't hear
them."  Make sure that the received signal controls you will use most often
are easily accessed.  Shaping the IF response is often beneficial, so it
should be readily accomplished without jumping through a bunch of menus.
Similarly, filter bandwidths should be easy to change.

8.    100 watt transmitter capability.  You can argue with me about this
one, but there will be times when QRP power levels are just not enough.  You
can always set the power level below 100!

9.    A quiet but effective cooling system.  This is sometimes overlooked
altogether, but do you really want to have to listen to a noisy cooling fan
while you are trying to pick out weak signals?  The system should be
whisper-quiet and the radio should not run hot.  

10. And the final feature?  This is the one that only you can answer.  It
may be affordability.  It could be portability. Over the years I've heard
laments from people who have bought big, heavy radios only to find
themselves on the go and wishing for something lighter and smaller.  Others
paid too much and got features they never used.  

Yes, a new transceiver can be really pretty darned accessible to people with
disabilities right out of the box. Just pay attention to the basics of good
design and ergonomics when you go shopping!  If you don't have a disability,
you will still benefit by an easy to operate radio.  

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

  _____  

Drawing of a computer

Last week's question: Have you ever had a ham shack in a location where
there were RF and grounding problems?  What did you do to resolve them?

Maybe I should have asked how you even knew that there was a grounding
issue!  One symptom of RF in the shack is getting an RF burn when the
transmitter is on. The first time I did this was as a beginner when I got a
burn on the lips from the metal trim on a microphone.  That got my
attention!  My shack was on the second floor of my parents' house and
grounding involved a long wire to a ground rod in the back yard.  This, I
later found out, was not at all adequate for RF grounding. A long ground
wire can actually radiate RF just like an antenna, even if it is terminated
in a ground rod.  It can be difficult to resolve these kinds of RF problems
in ham shacks that are in upstairs rooms.  MFJ makes an "artificial ground"
that may help.  Make sure all equipment is bonded together with short
grounding leads to a single point.  Making a multi-turn coil of coax in the
feedline near the transmitter to act as an RF choke might be helpful.  Try
to be sure that the antenna is properly tuned to the lowest SWR.  It's not
an exact science, and if those things don't help, consult the ARRL Antenna
Book for ideas.  

This week's question:  Have you ever spilled a liquid into a piece of radio
gear?  Did it survive its bath?  

 <mailto:Patrick.Tice@xxxxxxxxxx?subject=The%20weekly%20question> 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.  

  _____  

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 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.

Don, N0BVE, reminded me that SATERN nets are on the HF bands.  I've added a
story about them on the Handiham website.
<http://www.handiham.org/drupal2/node/399>   Because of the variety of
frequency bands they operate, you are likely to be able to hear one or more
of them no matter where you live.  SATERN stands for "Salvation Army Team
Emergency Radio Network", an emergency communications net system.  Find them
at http://www.satern.org. 

  _____  

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

G4C05 asks, "What might be the problem if you receive an RF burn when
touching your equipment while transmitting on an HF band, assuming the
equipment is connected to a ground rod?"

Possible answers are:

A. Flat braid rather than round wire has been used for the ground wire
B. Insulated wire has been used for the ground wire
C. The ground rod is resonant
D. The ground wire has high impedance on that frequency

Do you sense a theme here?  We are being asked about RF burns and grounding.
If you picked answer D, The ground wire has a high impedance on that
frequency, you are correct.  Since we can operate on multiple bands that are
far apart in frequency and wavelength, it is quite possible to have a
problem with the grounding wire on one band but not another.  If the
impedance on the ground wire at a given frequency is low, there is no
problem.  Then when you change bands and the wire happens to be at a high
impedance at that frequency, ouch!  You might get an RF burn.  Here is a
link to some eHam reviews on the MFJ Artificial Ground.
<http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/2118> 

  _____  

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

We had a minor outage at W0ZSW on Tuesday.  It was necessary to shut the
station down to do routine maintenance.  The outage was under two hours. I
needed to clean out the last of the TS-480HX interfacing cables and remove
the old XP based rig control computer.  The new one runs Windows 7. 

One operating note:  There is no speech frequency readout available at W0ZSW
with the substitute radio.  W0EQO does return speech frequency readout for
our blind users.

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

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.

In the Technician Lecture Series, the big news is that the entire lecture
series is now complete.  We expect to have a DAISY version on line for
download shortly.  The new General Class License Manual has not been
released yet.  Usually this is ready in print by HamventionR time in
mid-May.  

April 2015 QST has been released by ARRL, so we will be getting to work
shortly to get audio for our blind members.  This is about the earliest I
have seen QST released!  I always wonder if I will fall for whatever April
Fool's joke is hidden in the April issue. 

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

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. Regarding this topic, what do you think about the 75 meter phone
band starting the 3.6 MHz?  One of our member likes this as it is and would
not like to see digital modes there instead.  What thoughts do you have?
Phone or digital in this part of the band?  

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.  

 <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
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.

.         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.
<mailto:Nancy.Meydell@xxxxxxxxxx?subject=2015%20Radio%20Camp%20Application%2
0Request> 

  _____  

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:  <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:
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
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 March 2015 - Patrick.Tice