[handiham-world] Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 24 September 2014

  • From: <Patrick.Tice@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 24 Sep 2014 15:14:05 -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, 24 September 2014


This is a free weekly news & information update from  <http://handiham.org>
Courage Kenny Handiham System. Our contact information is at the end. 

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  _____  


Welcome to Handiham World.


Pat and Newt check out a generator, circa 1971.


Picture: The scene is a farmyard set against a background of tractors and
cultivating equipment.  The time is circa 1970, and in this old photo we see
a 20-something year old me on the left, a yellow gasoline generator in the
center, and my friend Newt on the right, showing me how to work the
generator.  Newt was kind enough to host several of us on his family farm
for Field Day even though he himself was not a ham radio operator.  His
brother and farming partner Bill was, so Newt was very familiar with Amateur
Radio.  

Yes, it's finally autumn and we have time to resume our recollections of ham
radio memories that we had started in mid-summer.  Field Day was always good
for a memory-maker.  When I think back on that Field Day from the 1970's I
remember how I had my first experience with a really, really long Marconi
wire antenna.  We strung it from one corner of the barn to an enormous oak
tree that stood at the juncture of a corn field and a soybean field.  It had
to have been at least 300 feet long, but we got it up high enough in the
tree and attached at the other end near the top of the barn so that we could
really stretch it out to the southeast.  The radios were set up on the
ground floor of the barn, atop an old table.  The barn had once been a home
to dairy cows or hogs but was at that time just used for storage so it was
both quiet and thankfully non-aromatic.  The generator was noisy, so it had
to be positioned well away from the barn.  I remember the cool shade of the
barn contrasting starkly with the sunny fields surrounding us on that
Minnesota summer. Newt's wife brought us coffee and cool well water.  Tuning
the end-fed antenna was as much art as science.  A confabulated arrangement
of air-wound coils held together by crazed plastic and from what I could
tell, dirt, and old variable capacitors rescued from itinerate oddball
radios were all tacked to a dry unfinished wooden frame served as the
antenna tuner.  We had to use clip leads to tap the coils and change the
circuit as necessary depending on the band we wanted to operate.  Sounds
scratchy?  Wiggle the clip lead! Since the radio had 6146 tubes for a final
RF amplifier, you had to tune that as well.  When you changed one variable,
several others went out of whack.  This was real-hands-on radio because you
always had your hands on some knob or switch, trying to coax enough RF into
the antenna to snag a rare station before everyone else piled on.  Mind you,
MFJ would just be getting started around 1972 so there were none of those
handy MFJ antenna tuners in the barn for our Field Day.  And the old
Heathkit we used certainly didn't have a built-in antenna tuner.  Once
things were tuned up, the bands were pretty awesome.  Remember, this is far
out in the country, and none of the local farms had noisy electric fences.
It was before the days of plasma TV sets and switching power supplies.  All
of this made for a lower noise floor than we experience today, and that made
it easier to hear weaker signals. 

It's funny, but I remember less about what stations we worked while on the
air or even the details of the rigs we used.  (I think one was a Heathkit
SB-101 patched together with pipe cleaners used for the final amplifier
tuning pulleys after the notoriously fragile Heath rubber belts broke.)
What I remembered most was that I had fun during the weekend with my
friends, and that seems to have been a theme with Field Days over the years.
It turns out that for me the biggest reason to participate was just to be
there and do things with either a few other hams or the members of my local
ham club. There were other years when we set up at places like a college
campus or a vocational school or a scout camp.  The mix of participants was
always changing from year to year, and that also made it fun since I was
meeting new people and making new friends while we all enjoyed the Field Day
activities.  Although there were a number of years that I did not
participate in a group Field Day, instead preferring (because of scheduling
or circumstances) to just go it alone as a single operator station, I have
to admit that I have no strong memories of any of those years.  It seems
like the Field Days that were filled with friends were also the ones that
were filled with memories!  

There was only one year that I had a disappointing Field Day.  It wasn't
because of the usual things that can ruin the weekend like wall-to-wall
thunderstorms, poison ivy, smoke coming out of the rig's final amplifier, or
pretty much anything that wanders out of the woods.  This particular Field
Day was one put on by a local radio club.  I was a member, but not a
terribly active one, so I thought participating in the annual weekend
exercise would be just the thing to give my ham radio club a real test
drive.  When I arrived at the site, everything was already getting set up
and no one wanted help with anything.  When it was time to operate, only
high-speed CW was on the table.   I cut my teeth on CW, but I've never been
a really high-speed operator and was a bit surprised that at least at this
Field Day site it was the only game in town.  Well, that year I went home
pretty disappointed.  I didn't feel that I was welcomed at the event and it
wasn't long after that that I quit attending club meetings.  Those were the
days before ARRL gave points for having GOTA (Get On The Air) stations and a
"Free VHF Station", both of which give a wide range of participants a chance
to get on the radio and be part of the event, even if they are not part of
the competition for points. 

Thinking back to the days of heavy power supplies with big transformers,
vacuum tubes, and paper logbooks like the kind we used at that Field Day on
the farm, I have to marvel at what we were willing to put up with.  The
equipment was anything but stable compared to today's solid-state hardware
and the logging was problematic, because you sometimes couldn't read each
other's scribbling and paper pages sometimes got caught in a gust and
disappeared downwind.  The true stamp of certification for a logbook page
was a brown coffee cup ring on the paper, but at least the heavy cup
prevented the page from blowing off the operating desk!  In recent Field
Days our club has networked the logging computers at each station and all of
the equipment is late-model hardware that is uber-reliable. And although we
do collect points, the point count isn't really, well, the point.  The point
is participation and having fun while doing things.  We are much more
interested in the social aspect than in logging lots of contacts.  Bringing
club members of all abilities together to gain some experience trumps
rapid-fire contacts on the air.  You could even make a case for this
approach in that it can draw in more participants who will learn to put up
antennas and set up stations, and of course to learn the basics of good
communication.  We find that it is fun to include CW, SSB phone, VHF FM,
digital modes - anything and everything that might be of interest to
participants and visitors.  One year a packet node went aloft on a weather
balloon.  

But I still recall those earliest Field Days with great fondness.  Perhaps
it is because as a young man back then I looked at the world and saw endless
possibilities.  Or maybe it's because I've just forgotten how bad the
mosquitoes were when night fell on the Field Day site.  I have heard that we
tend to remember things quite selectively, and as far as those mosquitoes
go, that's a good thing.

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


Don't forget our nets...


.         Avery, K0HLA, conducts the Morse Code Practice Net immediately
following the Thursday evening Handiham Net on the Echolink and IRLP-enabled
network.  Join Avery as he covers the very basic beginner introduction to
the Morse code.  The code net begins at approximately 8:00 PM Central Time
on *HANDIHAM*, Echolink node 494492, and on IRLP 9008.  Check-ins are taken
both in CW and on phone!  

Avery, K0HLA, sends Morse code.

.         Our daily Echolink net continues to operate for anyone and
everyone who cares to check in 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).  Tonight N6NFF will pose a trivia question in the first half hour, so
check in early if you want to take a guess.

.         No more streaming links on the website:  After several months and
numerous complaints about the web stream of the Handiham net not working, I
have removed both links.  We don't have control over the web stream and
cannot do anything about it.  Remember that you can always listen on the
145.45 MHz N0BVE system here in the Twin Cities and connected repeater
systems, and on Echolink 494492 (*HANDIHAM*) or IRLP 9008.  

.         With 75 meters becoming more usable, consider checking into the
PICONET on 3.925 MHz, which has a long Handiham affiliation. It's on Monday
through Saturday mornings from 9 AM to 11 AM and Monday through Friday
afternoons from 3 PM to 5 PM Central Time.  Details and schedules are at:
www.piconet3925.com

.         Don't forget about our remote base station, W0ZSW, which is
available for your use. You can easily use it to check into PICONET on 75
meters or MIDCARS on 7.258 MHz.  The YL System net is happy to get your
check-in on 14.332 MHz.  You can find the YL System Net website at: 
http://www.ylsystem.org/


Taking stock:


Let's find out what's going on.  

.         Monday, September 22, 2014 at 9:29 PM CDT brought the start of
autumn here in the USA Upper Midwest.  This is more correctly termed the
autumnal equinox.  Daylight and darkness are equal once in the spring and
once in the fall as we make the transition to and from summer.  I have
started hearing remarks on the air about how quiet the HF bands are and how
much easier it is to hear more stations.  Here we go, folks - we are now on
a steady, steep slide into the longer nights of autumn and winter until we
hit the shortest day of the year on December 21, 2014 at 5:03 PM CST.  The
good thing about this is that the lower frequency HF bands will become much
more enjoyable and useful as D-layer absorption and thunderstorm static,
both driven by sunshine, fade away. 

.         The next date to think about is the one when we return to standard
time.  In Europe clocks go back 1 hour on Sunday, Oct 26, 2014. Here in the
United States and Canada that happens on Sunday, Nov 2, 2014.  As always,
Handiham nets remain true to Minnesota local time, which means who the heck
knows when the nets will be on for at least a couple of weeks until we all
manage to figure it out?  In the summer Minnesota is 5 hours behind GMT.  In
the winter Minnesota is 6 hours behind GMT.  Where do I get my date and time
information?  Check it out at http://www.timeanddate.com. 

.         Speaking of thunderstorms, they can actually occur in every month
here in southern Minnesota.  We've had our share this past summer, and they
do tend to get less bothersome as the sun heads south for the winter.
Nonetheless, Handiham Remote Base station users may find that the stations
go offline with little notice. The antenna cabling at W0ZSW has been
rearranged to facilitate quick disconnection when thunderstorms are
approaching.  The station will go offline on short notice when lightning is
reported within 20 miles.  Remember that lightning can strike 10 to 15 miles
from the rain portion of a storm!
<http://www.erh.noaa.gov/box/lightning.html> 

.         W0EQO is still unreachable due to a firewall issue, but W0ZSW is
working well and is available for your use.  

.         A new power supply has replaced the old temporary Astron RS35A
supply at W0ZSW.  Both of the dual Astron RS-20A supplies succumbed to
lightning damage over the summer. The new supply is an Astron RS-70A.  That
is one HEAVY piece of equipment, so you really have to take care when
handling it so as not to damage it - or you. This past week has seen quite a
bit of tidying up at W0ZSW.  The CAT-5 network cable connecting the host
computer to the internet was disconnected and rerouted.  It has also been
fitted with ferrite chokes to hopefully cut down on RF getting into the
router.  A switching system has been added to allow two other radios to be
switched in to the double extended zepp antenna.  When the other radios are
using the antenna, W0ZSW is unavailable.  This is a fairly rare event, but
once in a while I do need to use the zepp.  I am experimenting with
different power levels at W0ZSW to determine if the entire 200 watt
capability of the TS-480HX can be allowed. The 200 watt capability requires
the larger power supply, in case you are wondering about that.  In fact,
since most people have smaller power supplies capable of only 20 to 25 amps,
the radio is designed with two power inputs and two separate power cables so
that you can also choose to use two smaller supplies instead of one larger
high capacity supply. 

.         This week we were trying to identify a problem that had been
reported concerning the IRB Sound client on W0ZSW.  Skype audio is close to
perfect and continues to be the best choice for users who don't want to
fiddle with audio level settings.  Lyle, K0LR, and I ran some tests on
Tuesday, 23 September and found that the mixer setting was incorrect on the
host computer. We are watching this level setting and would appreciate user
reports.

.         The Windows XP computer serving as host at W0ZSW is due for
replacement.  Not only is the operating system no longer supported, the
computer itself is quite noisy when spinning up from a cold start.  This
indicates mechanical wear that could precede the failure of a fan or hard
drive.  No schedule has yet been set to switch it out, but we will post news
about it on the remote base website <https://handiham.org/remotebase/> . 

.         Were you intrigued about MFJ not being around for that early 1970s
Field Day I recalled?  Why not find out more about MFJ and its history?
Check out MFJ Enterprises on Wikipedia for a short history and summary.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MFJ_Enterprises> 

.         I saw a piece in the ARRL website about a Wisconsin ham radio
operator who fell to his death from near the top of a 100 foot tower.  This
sad accident reminds us that antenna work can be dangerous and that there is
no room for error.
<http://www.arrl.org/news/wisconsin-ham-dies-in-fall-from-tower>   Besides
falls, electrocutions are a serious risk
<http://www.arrl.org/news/kansas-ham-son-electrocuted-while-erecting-antenna
s>  as are accidental amputations
<http://forums.qrz.com/showthread.php?424948-Ham-radio-operator-looses-hand-
and-fingers-in-tower-accident> .  Always use your safety equipment and watch
for overhead and buried utilities. As we get into autumn, that last-minute
antenna work will need to be done before winter.  Take time to plan, always
have help and never climb without a spotter, even just onto a roof.  Always
assess the area around the project site for overhead wires - and double
check to be sure!  Don't climb in bad weather or when you are tired.  Avoid
alcohol when working with antennas or electricity.   And if you are
operating mobile and think you have no worries, think again:  Taking your
eyes off the road to set a subaudible tone can cause a crash with as much
force as a fall from a tower.  Instead, pull over and stop the car in a safe
place, then make adjustments. 

.         Do you use a cloud storage service for your computer files?  I use
several of them, and find that they are essential for collaborative work on
ham radio projects like club newsletters.  This morning I got a notice from
Microsoft that their excellent OneDrive cloud service has been upgraded to
10 GB of storage.  The email was time stamped at around 1:30 AM, so this
news is just getting out.  OneDrive was formerly known as SkyDrive and is
available on multiple devices like computers and smartphones. If your radio
club shares via cloud services like this, you will find that it makes sense
for program presentations, newsletter articles, club inventory lists for
special events, and much more.  

.         W5KUB Live Webcast from Hollywood - It's time for the K6H Special
Events Webcast from the TV set of "Last Man Standing" in Hollywood.  It's a
webcast of the Special Events Station K6H Sept 27th and 28th. Hosts for the
event will be Amateur Radio crew members of the ABC television series "Last
Man Standing". On the show, actor Tim Allen plays Mike Baxter, KA0XTT. To
join the webcast go to http://W5KUB.com where the fun begins! During the
special event W5KUB.COM will interview many special guests, give tours of
the famous Stage 9 Hollywood set, and also show the California Papa Systems
group operating the station. This is will be one or our best webcasts as it
is packed with activity and possibly some surprises! During the live
webcast, viewers can meet and chat with us at the event or chat with other
ham radio operators from around the world.

.         One of my friends from the Mankato Area Radio Club
<http://www.marcmvra.net/> , Ron, K0FTB, found a funny schematic diagram
that anyone with even a little electrical engineering background will enjoy.
It is not blind-accessible I'm sorry to say, but if you can lay your
eyeballs on it, it's worth a look:  http://xkcd.com/730/  XKCD is a web
comic that carries the warning, "This comic occasionally contains strong
language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be
unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable
for liberal-arts majors)."  It is the work of Randall Munroe
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randall_Munroe> , whose new book "What If?:
Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
<http://www.amazon.com/What-If-Scientific-Hypothetical-Questions-ebook/dp/B0
0IYUYF4A/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1411415316&sr=1-1> " is available in
multiple languages and in audio format, which our blind readers can happily
enjoy.  A couple of the components in the schematic cartoon:

o    "Most expensive chip available"

o    "Tear collector"

o    5 ohm decoy resistor not connected at one end

o    "Moral rectifier"

o    "Solder blob"

o    ... and so on.  You get the idea.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to
order the book. I like science-y things, especially when they are presented
with a bit of fun. 

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
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