Logo for Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, part of Allina Health
Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for
the week of Wednesday, 23 September 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:
. A digital dilemma.
. Special Report part 2: Focus on accessibility.
. W0EQO goes back on the air via Remotehams.
. SARA General course continues this month.
. Check into our nets!
. Dip in the Pool returns with a question from the NEW General Class
pool about Volunteer Examiners.
. ...And more!
HF beam antenna with flowering crabapple tree in foreground
Happy first day of Autumn! This photo of our old beam antenna was
definitely not taken in Autumn, since it shows Spring flowers on the
Antennas are a problem for many people these days - even non-hams who want
TV antennas for local digital TV broadcasts have to be circumspect about
putting something up on the roof. That's why we've been pushing the idea of
HF remote base operation. I'm really impressed with the Remotehams.com
online community set up and managed by Brandon Hansen, KG6YPI. It allows any
licensed ham to put a station on line for others to use. Stations are easily
managed through the host software as to transmit privileges and frequencies
allowed. You can set up club stations. The client software, RCForb, presents
a graphical radio interface to the end user, but there are plenty of
keyboard commands. It is not completely accessible yet, but it's getting
there. The software even speaks the frequency and buttons for radios that
are not equipped with speech hardware. It's free to sign up and use,
supported by donations. If impressive antennas and DX are your interest, the
W7DXX super remote (the first HF remote station) does have a club membership
fee of $200 per year to maintain the towers and antennas. Most are gratis,
and there are rigs on the air from all over the world.
Getting our members on the air via remote base HF is the most practical way
forward. Those members who can help others by putting their own stations on
line are encouraged to do so. It's a good way to build community. If someone
who's new to HF needs help, multiple users can be signed into the same
station at once. All will hear the receiver and the control op's
transmissions. It opens up wonderful possibilities for getting newbies up
and running on HF. Everyone knows of radio clubs whose club stations have
fallen into disuse. This solves that problem since no one has to drive or
take transit somewhere to get to the club station. You just log on and there
you are. Most maintenance can be done remotely, too.
If you are a vintage ham - a pre-internet person - you probably remember
listening to short-wave radio broadcasts and while tuning around the dial
how you ran across ham radio transmissions. These days short-wave radios are
not all that common, but the RCForb client software can be downloaded and
used as a guest. That means that even unlicensed short-wave listeners can
try the receiver sections of various radios that are on line, tuning them
and hearing what ham radio is about. Some radios are even on line as
streaming audio available through a web browser. Although physical
short-wave radios may be harder to find in the typical household, a
connected PC, tablet, or smartphone is never far away. Back in the day,
there were really no viable options to solve the no-room-for-an-antenna
problem other than to set up a portable station, go HF mobile, or use a club
station. Those are still options of course, but with internet-enabled remote
HF club stations we have a far greater potential user base for the club
Those of us who are fortunate enough to have room for antennas might even
prefer to operate our own HF stations with software. That's what I do; I
have become quite accustomed to being able to listen to a favorite net while
relaxing on the patio or walking the dog. It's no longer necessary to miss
my usual HF contacts when I'm traveling. Internet access is widely available
and considered an essential service in hotels everywhere. There is an
Android RCForb client that works great on my smartphone.
Yes, it does require a different mindset to do this kind of operation. Yes,
it is true that using a screen is not the same as sitting at an operating
position with a transceiver and accessories neatly arranged on the desktop.
You get used to these things if you have a mind to do so. Remember that
Amateur Radio is a technical pursuit and always has been. From the early
days when all equipment was home built to today, when we readily accept
manufactured radios defined by the software that runs them, we are still
involved - often very involved - in the technology. Some of us build
hardware, others of us write software. Some of us do "tech support", which
is today's description of what the old timers called "Elmering". Most
everyone tries different configurations of station equipment and software.
Computer literacy has emerged as an essential skill in ham radio, since our
logging, callsign databases, and station controls are all dependent on
digital devices. Of course ham radio is not an island in the digital
takeover. When I think back to the pre-internet days, I recall typing on a
Smith-Corona typewriter. I loved photography and had my own darkroom to
process film and print photos. Books were a favorite pastime, both for
relaxation and edification. Looking at the stars and planets through my
telescope was a regular thing as I was growing up. I loved looking at maps
and studying geography. And of course I enjoyed getting on the air as a ham
radio operator with my Knight-Kit T-60 transmitter and Lafayette receiver.
Every one of those activities has been profoundly changed by the digital
revolution! We know about ham radio and its evolution, but think about
typing: you can correct mistakes, type with your voice, change fonts at
will, save digital copies - as many versions as you want, send documents
anywhere in a fraction of a second, find a single word in a huge document
with a simple search, and so much more. The typewriter is more of an antique
curiosity for most of us today, though it still has some die-hard fans. My
dad used to fix typewriters for a living. I wonder what he would think if he
were alive to see what has happened! Photography has been turned on its
head, too. My smartphone is now my camera, and my darkroom is long gone,
replaced by software and a cloud connection to Google photos. While those
skills I honed long ago as I worked with chemicals and film are no longer
needed, I feel free to concentrate on finding and composing great photos. I
can take as many as I want without worrying about the cost of film. It seems
crazy to recall that the 35 mm film cartridges I used to use held only 36
frames! I still have a telescope, but software can turn it toward any part
of the sky I want to view. Plus, I now have access to the best archived
images that the Hubble Space Telescope has to offer, just a few clicks away
via the internet. My smartphone can produce a sky chart and all I need do is
point it toward a part of the sky to render a map of that section of sky.
It's now easy to identify stars and planets. Maps - always a favorite with
this geographer - were a vital tool of the trade. Today the digital maps we
have available are awesomely detailed, and can even be overlaid with
satellite images. Recently I was interested in a 200 foot ham tower that I
had seen while on a trip, and easily located it with digital maps and
satellite images. I could even see the tower from space! I still love to
read for both learning and pleasure, but even though we do have plenty of
traditional books in our home, most reading is done on tablets, the Kindle,
or on personal computers. By the time QST arrives in the mailbox, I've
already gone through several articles in the on line version. One gets used
to being able to click links in the digital version to watch a video product
review or gain access to further information about a product or service. We
still get a Sunday newspaper, but I almost never read it since the digital
version is more convenient and the font size can be adjusted to my taste. On
recycling day the newspaper is collected, but the digital version is still
there for reference, as is every issue of QST. Rig manuals are digital too,
and easier to use via computer since one can search them quickly.
But there can be a down side to all of this digital stuff, too. For one
thing, if you sit in front of a screen most of the day for work, it does not
necessarily feel like a fun break to sit down in front of another screen to
run the radio, read the news, or process your photos. Reading a novel on the
screen of a PC sitting on a desktop doesn't seem that different from sitting
at my desk and reading through a spreadsheet. If you do use screens for ham
radio and reading, it might be best to mix it up a bit and use traditional
methods, such as actually sitting at the radio and turning real knobs! If
you must use a screen, use one that is easy and portable for recreational
reading. Enjoying a good book should not be like work!
Another danger exists in the loss of personal contact. Yes, you can play a
game of chess online against another real person, but you can also play
against the computer. You can control radios and use the connected VoIP
repeater systems, but you can also "play radio" in what are essentially
simulations that use the internet only, where no RF is used and where
licensing isn't a requirement. I'll let you choose whether to play games or
really get on the air, but I know which one I prefer. You don't want to let
yourself get untethered from the reality of club meetings, special event
operations, Field Day events, and hamfests. These are the places that you
interact with others in the same reality of time and space. As good as
digital is, life - and Amateur Radio - are about balance.
Continued: What makes an HF radio accessible to blind operators?
Transceiver with braille book on top
But what exactly does it take to make a radio accessible?
Last week we covered some accessibility basics. Just to refresh your
memory, here are several things that I look for:
* Speech frequency announcement feature.
* Direct frequency entry keypad arranged telephone-style.
* Knobs and buttons with tactile feel (not on an LCD screen).
* Controls that are large enough to use easily without activating more
than one at a time.
* Simple front panel layout.
* Coverage of 160 through 6 meter bands and general coverage.
* Data interface on back panel.
* Built in CW keyer.
In the "nice to have but not essential" category are a few more features:
. Front-firing speaker that makes it easier to hear the audio
. Internal antenna tuner
. Carrying handle for portable use
We recommended several radios. Unfortunately I made a mistake on the
description of the direct frequency entry keypad on the Kenwood TS-480
series radios, incorrectly stating that there was no front panel keypad,
which in fact there is. Some of you got the earliest version of the podcast
and eletter text, which contained that error. Others may have gotten the
corrected version. I apologize for that confusing mistake. Here is the
Kenwood version as corrected:
Kenwood TS-480SAT and TS-480HX: More affordable than the 590, but not as
TS-480HX with LDG autotuner
The Kenwood models TS-480SAT and TS-480HX are hard to tell apart when they
are placed side by side. The SAT model includes a built-in automatic antenna
tuner and a 100 watt transmitter. The TS-480HX does not have a built-in
antenna tuner, but it does have a 200 watt transmitter. The higher power
model requires two power supplies and has two power cables. Both radios
have the exact same form factor: A radio body that is separated from a
free-standing front panel control. The two parts of the radio are connected
with a cable. There is no way to join them into a single unit; they are
made to be a two part system. Both models accept the optional VGS1 Voice
Guide, but I can tell you from experience that they are hard to install. Be
sure that the installation is done by the dealer.
The front panel of the radio is compact, since it is intended for mobile
use. There is a number pad.
The user experience is quite a bit different from that of the TS-590 series.
The compact front panel does not have many buttons, which means that each
button has multiple functions. With the VGS1 Voice Guide the radio is
accessible, but it is definitely not as easy to navigate as the TS-590
series. Furthermore, because it is an older design, its receiver is not as
good as the much newer 590's. Of the two models, I would recommend the 100
watt SAT over the 200 watt HX. The built-in antenna tuner is a more
valuable feature for most users and it does not require two power supplies.
As with the TS-590 series, the TS-480 series radios can be controlled by
free blind-accessible software available from the Kenwood website. The
software is called "ARCP-480". However, before you use the software, the
rig must be interfaced to your PC. That is more difficult with the 480
series because there is no standard USB jack. You will need to use the
older 9-pin serial cable for local control and either build or buy an
interface for the audio if you want to run the radio over the internet. If
you plan to use the ARCP-480 for multiple internet users, there is a
built-in limit of ten slots for registered users, making it a poor choice
for a club HF remote. The much newer ARCP-590 software accepts up to 100
The main things the TS-480 series radios have going for them is that they
are less expensive than the TS-590 series and they are more suitable for
mobile use. They are, however, the oldest design of any of the radios
listed here and that is reflected in less capable performance and somewhat
outdated interface features.
And now, back to our accessible radio narrative.
Some of you have asked me about the excellent Elecraft K3 and KX3
transceivers, reminding me that they are (indeed) blind-accessible. This is
true. The K3 (and presumably the new KS3) are accessible, but with CW
feedback on settings. There is an external third-party device called a
"HamPod <http://hampod.com/> " that announces plain speech settings. You
can also use a computer to supply a speech frequency output using the
Elecraft K3 voice program.
The HamPod - A versatile accessibility alternative to a computer:
However, I feel that the failure to include spoken word speech is a
shortcoming, as many hams today are not proficient in Morse code and would
be forced to use an external computer or device to produce the speech. On
the plus side, the Elecraft settings are indeed accessible in CW, which is
better than only having the frequency readout accessible as it is with some
other radios like the Icom or Yaesu.
Here are some good in-depth explanations about Elecraft accessibility from
Ham Radio and Vision <http://www.hamradioandvision.com> . As you read
through them, you will learn about a wonderful standalone accessibility tool
called the HamPod.
. The HamPod <http://hampod.com/> itself is a very useful accessory
that can also be ordered for other radio brands. For example, last week we
mentioned the Icom IC-7200, which has built-in speech frequency
announcements but lacks access via speech to other settings. The HamPod for
Icom can add that extra functionality.
. There is also a version for Kenwood reviewed on Ham Radio and
Related: The Elecraft KX3 Morse Guide
(For Handiham World, this is Pat Tice, WA0TDA.)
W0EQO goes on line with Remotehams.com RCForb software:
The W0EQO station is on the workbench for testing.
Image: The Kenwood TS-480SAT is on the workbench.
W0ZSW is off the air due to a lack of antenna most days. The W0EQO station
is online for testing using the antenna, so there is no way to keep W0ZSW on
the air at the same time. If you use the Remotehams.com RCForb client, you
can search for W0EQO and listen to the station during testing sessions. You
will hear the Kenwood TS-480SAT and be able to control the frequency if no
one else is using the radio.
The new software for our remotes will be the RCFORB client from
Remotehams.com. <http://www.remotehams.com> Did you know that with the new
RCFORB software, you can log on to and listen to stations as they both
receive and transmit? Furthermore, many of you can be logged in at once,
since multiple listeners are supported. This enables you to listen to an HF
net and hear everything, even when the station you are connected to
transmits! I checked into PICONET yesterday while on my walk through the
woods down to a nearby lake, using my Android smartphone. A user who was
connected to my station reported that he could hear both the net control
station and my transmission as I checked in. How cool is that? It means
that it will be much easier to get large groups of Handiham Club members
listening on a single HF frequency. There are lots of potential uses for
this feature, including helping newbies learn about HF, listening on an
emergency HF frequency during a practice or actual emergency, and more!
General Course - September 24th:
A FREE General License Class continues THIS WEEK on Thursday, September 24,
2015. I will be teaching this session at the Stillwater, MN Public Library.
My topic is "Rules & Regulations". This is Chapter 3 in the ARRL General
Class License Manual, 8th Edition.
SARA, the Handiham-affiliated Stillwater Amateur Radio Association
<http://www.radioham.org/> , is conducting a Fall General Class licensing
course. Technician level hams looking to expand their HF operating
capability are invited to join us for eight instructor-led sessions. The
classes are designed to help attendees successfully pass the General exam.
(Heck, it's also a great, easy way for any ham to brush-up on basic
theory!!) Most classes will be held Thursday evenings at the Stillwater MN
Public Library <http://stillwaterlibrary.org/> from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.
Although we encourage attendees to come to all class sessions, a combination
of class room and self-study has been successful for many. An ARRL sponsored
VE testing session will be held November 12. Do you know anyone interested
in upgrading to General?
According to Bob Jensen (W0GAF), SARA's Education and Training Director,
"Our instructors are well-versed and enjoy teaching Amateur Radio. I've
heard it said we can almost guarantee those who attend our sessions and
read/study a bit on their own, will pass the exam! I guess we can't make it
much easier than that."
(Note: Anyone interested in forming a study group for obtaining their Extra
Class license should contact Bob or one of SARA's officers.) Local (Twin
Cities area) Tech class licensees may contact WA0TDA by email for phone
Visit the Stillwater Amateur Radio Association website for more details.
What are you waiting for? Check into our Handiham nets... Everyone is
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.
A dip in the pool
Dip in the pool is back! Our question this week is from the General Class
question pool, number G1D08. It asks:
"Which of the following criteria must be met for a non-U.S. citizen to be an
accredited Volunteer Examiner?"
Possible answers are:
A. The person must be a resident of the U.S. for a minimum of 5 years
B. The person must hold an FCC granted Amateur Radio license of General
Class or above
C. The person's home citizenship must be in ITU region 2
D. None of these choices is correct; a non-U.S. citizen cannot be a
While you're thinking about which answer might be the right one, let's try
to recall exactly who can hold a USA Amateur Radio license. Most of us
probably remember that there are no age restrictions, right? You can be
young or old or anything in between and as long as you pass the exam, you
are in. If you've been on the air any length of time, you may know that you
do not need to be a US citizen to hold a USA Amateur Radio license. Perhaps
you have run across other operators who hold licenses in more than one
country and have callsigns assigned from each jurisdiction. Some Handiham
members have multiple callsigns in exactly this way.
Did you decide which answer is the correct one? If you picked answer B, The
person must hold an FCC granted Amateur Radio license of General Class or
above, you got this one right. In this case we see that US citizenship is
not required to become an accredited Volunteer Examiner. This is not really
surprising, since there is no citizenship requirement for the Amateur
License and it would not make much sense to make non-citizen license holders
somehow less qualified than citizen license holders. Volunteer Examiners
are accredited by the same VECs, no matter what their citizenship status.
New audio: The NLS cartridges for September have been sent out. There is no
additional new audio this week. October QST has been published by ARRL and
is available to ARRL members as the online digital magazine and in print.
. CQ September 2015 has been recorded by Jim Perry, KJ3P - 58 MB
DAISY zip file. Find it in the members section.
. Joe, N3AIN, tells us how to install Windows without sighted help
by using a blind-accessible tool.
help.mp3> Anyone may follow this link and listen to or download the MP3
Other audio posted earlier:
* QCWA Journal for September has been recorded by Jim, KJ3P. It is
released when the official Journal for September is posted at QCWA.org, so
watch for it at QCWA.org. <http://www.qcwa.org/qcwa.php>
* The Doctor is In column from September QST has been recorded for our
blind members by Ken Padgitt, W9MJY, and is available in the members
* QST for September 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
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.
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 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!
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The weekly e-letter is a compilation of software tips, operating
information, and Handiham news. It is published on Wednesdays, and is
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