[handiham-world] Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 03 September 2014

  • From: <Patrick.Tice@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 3 Sep 2014 13:21:02 -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, 03 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.

Why DOTA - Daily On The Air - Is Important 

By Patrick Tice, WA0TDA 

Pat holding microphone in the WA0TDA ham shack.

Image:  Here I am, getting on 75 meters in the early morning hours as
night-time propagation still makes the band go long.

Labor Day marks the more or less unofficial end of summer, even though the
true end of the summer season as defined by the equinox won't be until
September 22nd at 10:29 PM EDT.  The one that happens around Labor Day here
in North America is sometimes called "meteorological summer", because it
does seem to mark the end of typical summer weather.  The equinox is the
astronomical event marking the date and time when the daylight and nighttime
darkness are the same length.  

But either way you look at it, the longer nights and return to work and
school following the summer vacation season will mean a whole new dynamic is
in place for most of us.  There will be far more opportunities to make use
of HF bands that have been cluttered with thunderstorm noise all summer.
There will be more hours when the lack of solar radiation will keep the D
layer of the ionosphere more clear of signal-absorbing ionization on 160 and
75 meters.  For me, it's one more way to get on the air.

Is it "better" to get on HF in the morning than to use a smartphone to get
on Echolink and have a chat with a friend?

No!  Getting on the air takes on a whole new meaning as technology advances
and we have more ways to stay connected with each other. The best way to get
on the air is the one you have available, not the one you don't have, wish
you might have someday, or had 10 years ago.  You say you don't have room
for an HF antenna?  Fine, just get on the air using an internet remote or
your local FM repeater.  Or head for the computer and fire up Echolink.  

What is important is getting on the air, not so much how you do it.  This is
the defining principle of what I call DOTA, or "Daily On The Air".   As you
might guess, I appropriated this concept from "GOTA", the "Get On The Air"
stations so common on Field Day.  GOTA stations are designed to get newbies
on the air, a great idea to promote Amateur Radio to the public and to get
tentative operators some air time experience.  

DOTA is for the rest of us.  We are already licensed and usually experienced
in multiple modes of operation.  We have worked contests, many Field Days,
and even snagged some DX along the way.  But lately we have let a bit of
dust collect on the code key and microphone - don't deny it!  It's been a
busy summer for most of us and the bands haven't been the best, and it's
been the path of least resistance to just say, "Oh, well" and move on to
some other activity.

But wait!  NOT doing ham radio every single day could be a mistake.  A daily
dose of radio will inoculate you against several common ham radio maladies,
including but not limited to:

.         Forgetting how to use your handheld radio

.         Failing to notice malfunctions in antennas or station equipment in
a timely manner, possibly making the station useless in an emergency

.         Falling out of practice in proper radio procedures

.         Not knowing what's happening on your favorite nets, leading to
confusion when you do finally check in again, as well as missing ham radio

.         Failing to charge radio batteries

.         Missing safety issues, such as fallen antenna wires

Of course I contend that when we stay away from the radio we also miss out
on a lot of on the air fun.  The thing with doing something every day is
that it becomes a habit.  A good example is getting exercise.  If you have a
regular exercise routine that you do every day, you are much more likely to
stick to it than someone who exercises three times a week.  The same thing
is true with getting on the air.  Do it every day, and you will do it.  If
you don't do it every day, you won't do it at all because you will either
forget about it or put it off until later, and later usually means "never".

The easiest way to get on the air daily is to participate in a scheduled
net.  You know when the net will be on the air, you can set reminders on
your calendar or smartphone, and you know you are going to be available at
that particular time, at least on most days.  Listening to the net control
station will keep you in practice on procedures, and you will be more
prepared should you need to get on the air in an emergency.  If you cannot
make the net because of a schedule conflict on a given day, don't worry -
you can always make an exception and just make a random contact for fun.
Yesterday, for example, I meant to check into a scheduled net but I found
that I was too busy following the holiday weekend.  Instead, when time
allowed, I listened on HF and easily worked W1AW/7 when he called CQ.  While
it wasn't the QSO that I'd intended to have on the net, it still went into
the logbook as a contact, and it meant that I was on the air at least once
that day.  

Look, I don't want to guilt you into getting on the air so much that you
feel bad if you miss a day here and there.  Sometimes it will be unavoidable
because things just happen and you can't fit a ham radio contact in no
matter how much you would like to.  But please do consider the power of
daily operation to build confidence in your operating skills, help you to
understand and maintain your station equipment, and to just plain have fun! 

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

And speaking of nets...

.         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.

.         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.  The 3 to 4 PM hour will begin
after Labor Day, but details and schedules are at www.piconet3925.com, so
check there for sure. 

.         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.  


Three Icom IC-7200 radios stacked up in a display at Dayton. Top radio in
camo color, middle in military green, bottom in standard black.

Yesterday I fielded a phone call from a blind guy who was interested in
replacing an old Kenwood TS-120 transceiver that was getting increasingly
unreliable.  His question was what I thought of the Icom IC-7200, a radio
that he had heard some good things about and was in his price range.  

I explained that I have two IC-7200s and I thought it was an easy radio to
use.  The features I like include:

.         Built-in speech frequency announcements - no need to add an
optional speech module.  Mode and frequency are announced in a clear voice.

.         Front-firing speaker is easier to hear than speakers mounted on
the side, top, or bottom of the radio.

.         Easy to learn numeric keypad with telephone-style layout and
raised bump on the number 5 key for orientation.

.         The simple front panel is ergonomic.  The twin passband tuning is
particularly easy to use, no sight required.  The large main tuning knob is
easy to use when resting your arm on the table, and your thumb can reach the
speech button as you use the tuning knob.

.         A USB port in the back can accept a standard generic USB printer
cable to connect the radio to your computer for rig control after you
download the free USB driver.

.         Under the hood, the IC-7200 has great specs - a good receiver and
a very capable 100 watt transmitter.  

I like Icom all right, but there are other very good radios out there, too.
In particular, I felt that I had to at least mention the Kenwood TS-480SAT,
a radio that covers the same bands as the IC-7200 and is somewhat near to
the same price - just a bit more.  I explained that the 480 has a built-in
antenna tuner and much more complete blind access via speech announcements
than the 7200, since the Kenwood VGS1 Voice Guide module allows for the
speaking of menu settings.  These features add to the cost, but it may be
worth it for a blind user who wants more complete menu access to the radio
with speech.  The 480 can also be interfaced to a computer, but you need an
aftermarket interface, such as a RIGblaster.  The 480 series does have
excellent free rig control software available from Kenwood, though, and the
Icom does not.  In the "for what it's worth" department, I really like Ham
Radio Deluxe for rig control, no matter what the radio, and it will work
with most popular brands and models. 

In the end, the fellow decided he liked the Icom and was going to look at
that radio.  I hope he considers other models too, like the Yaesu FT-450D,
which also has built-in digital voice announcement of frequency, mode, and
S-meter readings.  For a ham with low vision, it's hard to beat the large,
high-contrast display on the FT-450D.   

As usual when people call to ask about equipment they are considering, I
wish them a hearty "Happy shopping" as we finish our discussion.  I hope you
are also willing to share your experiences with others who are looking to
replace older gear or even buy a first radio.  

Why rush into things?

Ha, ha - That's what I asked one of my fellow local club members yesterday
when he called me for help getting his license renewed.  It turned out that
it would have expired TODAY!  Talk about cutting it close.  

Anyway, he was ready with his FRN (the number assigned to your license by
the FCC), his password to the FCC ULS website, and a credit card, which he
would need because although there is no renewal fee for an Amateur Radio
License in the USA, there is a fee for vanity callsigns every 10 years.  To
cut to the chase, it is easy to use the FCC's website as long as you are
prepared with everything that you need.  Go to http://wireless.fcc.gov/uls
and choose the "LOG IN" for ONLINE FILING.  Enter your FRN (FCC Registration
Number) and password, then press  the SUBMIT button.  If you have forgotten
your password, there is a link to tech support and you can also follow a
second link to find your FRN.  Once you are logged in, the process is pretty
easy and you can accept most of the defaults unless you have changed your
address since last time.  No payment is needed unless you are renewing a
vanity callsign.  As soon as you log in the site will tell you if your
license is "eligible for renewal", which must be done no earlier than 90
days before the expiration date.  If you log in and find that it is over 90
days until your license expires, simply make a note on your calendar or set
a reminder on your smartphone to do the renewal later, when you are within
the 90 day window.  By the way, the most current information on any license
is always available on the FCC License Search website
<http://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsApp/UlsSearch/searchLicense.jsp> , which is
also a good place to find your FRN if you have forgotten it.  This is where
you will learn first if a new license or upgrade is in the FCC database.
Simply enter your callsign and press the "SUBMIT" button or the ENTER key on
your keyboard and it will return the callsign, name, FRN, and expiration
date. In the case of first licensees, choose search by name from the

For the most part, you can just proceed through the process by carefully
following the directions.  The site should be blind-accessible, but remember
that you need to check all of the form fields so as not to miss anything,
including the signature box.  When you complete the process, you may opt to
print the result for your records in case there is some need for it later

This is a good time to remind ourselves that it is a good idea to keep a
file with all of your FCC information in it.  This is the place to keep your
password written down along with your FRN and any extra copies of FCC
paperwork, including your original license if you don't display it on the
wall.  That way you will be able to easily access it when renewal time rolls
around or if you need to make an address change.  

And finally...

.         This week we will be mailing out the September NLS cartridges,
delayed slightly by the holiday and the backup caused by Radio Camp in late
August.  You'll find the QST/CQ digest, the QCWA Journal, and other readings
for the month of September to launch you into the Autumn ham radio season.
These are also available right now in the members section of the website
after you log in.

.         Zinio has just alerted me to the availability of the digital
version of CQ Magazine for September, available today.  I noticed that in
the Android mobile Zinio app, there is a "text" display option which
displays only the text of articles in a much easier to see font.  Good work,

.         "Hey, Pat - I want to use the W0ZSW Remote Base station and it's
off line.  What gives?"  The answer is that we are having a severe
thunderstorm right now, so the stations are shut down and the antennas are
disconnected. Try again later.  Remember that the stations can go down at
any time in severe weather conditions.  However, if the station is off the
air for longer than a few hours, please do send us an email message
<mailto:wa0tda@xxxxxxxx?subject=Remote%20Base%20Outage>  anytime, day or
night, weekends and holidays, to let us know about it. If we cannot get it
back on the air, we will make an announcement on the Remote Base website
<https://handiham.org/remotebase> .

.         You can find out more about the Handiham program, an educational
resource for people with disabilities, at our website, https://handiham.org.

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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