[handiham-world] Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 10 March 2010

  • From: "Patrick Tice" <wa0tda@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: <handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2010 15:02:20 -0600

This is a free weekly news & information update from Courage Center Handiham
System. Please do not reply to this message. Use the contact information at
the end, or simply email handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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Welcome to Handiham World!

All about ham radio cartoon.
Recently I had a nice visit with another operator, and what do you think we
talked about?

That's right - we talked about our stations!  The conversation took a turn
to receiver performance, and he mentioned that one of his radios has a much
more sensitive but quieter receiver than the other. I wondered how he knew
that, and he said that he had performed an "A-B" test.  That's what today's
essay is about - not receiver performance. 

When we compare two pieces of equipment, we want to know which one performs
the best. How many times have you heard someone make a claim on the air for
one rig's superiority over another one? Or that one antenna works better
than another? Whenever I hear such claims, I wonder if they are really
backed up by testing.  I know that most of us will never have a test lab
full of instrumentation to run tests the way they are done at the ARRL
product review lab, but that doesn't mean that we have no way to perform
simple, but more meaningful testing.  

Imagine these situations:

Scenario 1: I have two HF antennas in my back yard. One is a vertical and
one is a dipole. The dipole is connected to my Icom IC-706M2G and the
vertical is connected to my Icom IC-7200.  I decide to see which antenna
works best for DX, so I listen on 20 meters and I hear a European on 14.060
MHz.  The station is easy to copy on the vertical antenna, and the S-meter
reading shows S9. I listen on the dipole and the same station on 14.060 is
only S5.  Do I conclude that the vertical works better?

Scenario 2: I have two HF antennas in my back yard. One is a vertical and
one is a dipole. I have both of them connected to an antenna switch, so that
I can switch from the vertical to the dipole by turning the antenna switch.
The antenna switch is connected to my Icom IC-7200 transceiver. I start my
test by listening on the vertical.  I hear a station on 14.060 MHz, and the
S-meter reading is S9.  Then, without changing anything on the radio, I flip
the antenna switch to the dipole.  I now have an S-meter reading of S9 + 10
dB. I quickly change the antenna switch back to the vertical and the signal
drops back down to S9 again. Changing the switch once more to the dipole
brings the signal back up.  Do I conclude that the dipole works better?

In both situations, I was listening on one antenna and then the other, but
the results in scenario 2 were different than those in scenario 1. What
could have caused the difference? 

Here is a basic rule about comparing two things: You must try to eliminate
as many "variables" as possible so that you are really only comparing the
two things you want to compare.  This is how scientists and engineers
perform tests related to theoretical concepts or engineering projects. To
make this as simple as possible, let's make up a very basic example.  Let's
say we have a family argument about which sibling is taller. One brother
says that he is growing faster and is taller than his brother.  Of course as
a parent you can easily make the two kids stand side by side and then you
can easily see which one is taller. But what if one stands on his tiptoes?
Or if one wears shoes and the other is barefooted? Or if one wears a hat and
the other doesn't?  As a parent who needs to be fair about deciding, you
will have to insist that the variables of shoes, hats, and standing
flat-footed are all eliminated so that the one variable you really want to
measure, which kid is tallest, will not be affected by those other things.

Getting back to our scenarios about the antennas, we see that in the first
situation we are using two different antennas, which is the variable we want
to test, but we are also using two different radios. The difference between
one radio and the other is a variable that we are not controlling, and that
could account for the results we are getting instead of the choice of
antenna.  Perhaps the attenuator was turned on for one radio and not for the
other.  Maybe the antenna tuner was not activated for one radio. It could be
that the run of coax between an antenna and one of the radios was defective.
Do you see all these variables?  

In scenario 2, we use only one radio, and we have an "A-B" antenna switch to
make it easy to change from one antenna to the other, and to do so very
quickly to eliminate changing band conditions or radio settings and radio
performance as variables. Furthermore, we can change the switch back and
forth several times to confirm our tests.  Now we have performed a more
scientific test, because we have eliminated as many variables as we could,
at least the easy ones, so that we could really compare just the antennas. 

I am convinced that there are a lot of folks out there who are simply
talking baloney when they brag about how one piece of equipment is so much
better than another one.  As often as not, they have never performed a real
A-B test and are relying on their impressions rather than empirical
evidence. Building up a habit of eliminating variables and focusing on only
the thing you really want to test is at the core of successful
troubleshooting when you are trying to find a problem.  It is essential to
making sense of how things work in ham radio, as well as in so many other
parts of life.  

So think to yourself, "When I test my equipment, am I really testing just
one thing?"

If you can answer yes, you are well on the way to solving all of your ham
radio mysteries!

For Handiham World, I'm...

Patrick Tice, wa0tda@xxxxxxxx



Avery's QTH: The Finns visit the Pavek Museum.

Photo: Left to right - The Finn bothers, Hank, Avery, and Jim pose at a quiz
show setup at the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting in St. Louis Park, MN. 

Welcome once again to my humble QTH:

A couple months ago my brother who lives in Santa Monica, California, just a
few miles from where the first Courage Handiham California Radio Camp was,
came to visit my other brother and myself here in Minnesota. Most of his
life was spent in Kansas, Arizona, and Texas. He attended Texas A&M. Anyway,
he wanted to see some of the sights in and around the Twin City metro area.
One of the places we decided to show him was the Pavek Museum of
Broadcasting in St. Louis Park, not too far from my QTH. The Pavek Museum
was started in the basement of Joe Pavek's paint store in downtown
Minneapolis. Joe was a long time Amateur with the call W0OEP.

I first met Joe through a ham club. We would go to dinner with Joe and then
go to his museum in the basement of his paint store. We would arrive around
6:00 pm and Joe would start showing us around describing everything down to
every detail. He had refurbished everything to like-new condition. He would
use parts off of one or two non-working units to get a third functioning. He
had this "thing" to make everything as close to original as possible and
still get it functioning. Next thing we knew, it was 11:00 pm and we had to
leave. Luckily we were invited back several times so we got to see
everything. Sad, but now Joe is a silent key. Before Joe died, he had found
a group to take over his collection. That group had it moved to its present
location in a large one-floor building with plenty of free parking.

I met my  brothers at the Pavek Museum and we started the tour. I have to
admit that many new items were there since the last time I visited. We
shared the place with another tour consisting of school kids. We would be in
one part of the building and they in another. OH! some of the neat stuff
they have there, like a complete operating Collins ham station just like the
one we had at our 40th anniversary radio camp. Also, they have a complete
working old time AM/FM commercial radio and TV station. There was a whole
shelf full of old Atwater Kent radios, one of each model they manufactured
and many other brands of similar radios. One shelf contains some radios made
in the Twin Cities area.

One area of the building has a wall rack containing many 4 pin tubes from
years ago. It is fun to note that some of them were legal and licensed while
others were pirates and copies, much like what has happened today with some
of the DVDs, fake watches, and so on. Another part of the building has
telegraph keys of some of the more famous CW operators. Still another area
had some old-time crystal sets.

We were there for about 4 hours and still did not see everything. Our tour
guide operated a very rare wax cylinder player/recorder for us. It was in
use long before vinyl LP records and is still working just like new. Also,
she showed us an old-time device used to press records and it is also
functional. It was fun to watch as she repeated the demonstration a couple

Last but not least, we were shown a 10KW rotary spark gap transmitter
similar to but smaller than ones used aboard ships of the day. Lights in the
building were turned off, the two knife switched were flipped on, and the
rotor started to spin at a very high speed throwing sparks all over the
place. Then dit dit dit dah dah dah dit dit dit was sent sounding more like
buzz buzz. snap snap, as the telegraph key was closed and opened. If you
ever wondered why that disk is on some of the keys just below the knob it is
to protect the operator from getting a high voltage shock.

My California brother lost his camera on the trip here, so just before going
to the Pavek Museum he purchased an new one and with permission from the
museum's staff took some pictures and a video clip of the spark gap
transmitter which I have included so you will be able to experience some of
what we did.

So for now,
 73 & DX de K0HLA, Avery

The spark gap transmitter and loop antenna
Photo: The spark gap transmitter at the Pavek Museum. A large loop antenna
sits against the wall in back of the transmitting equipment. A Titanic
poster is on the wall next to the loop antenna. This is a working spark
transmitter that is demonstrated for museum guests.

Editor's note: Avery's video clip will be posted at a later time.


George poses next to the monument marking the starting point of the

George, N0SBU, at the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River.

In this photo, Handiham volunteer George LaValle, N0SBU, poses next to the
monument marking the starting point of the Mississippi River. Lake Itasca.
The visit to Itasca State Park was a highlight of many Minnesota Radio Camps
over the decades. At the point where the Mississippi flows out of the lake
to begin its long journey to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico, the river
is so tiny that you can walk across it on the rocks. Those rocks are
slippery, and more than one tourist has taken an unexpected bath!  

George says, "I think I'll hold off trying to cross, because I'd rather have
a hot shower back in the cabin than a cold bath in the river."

Thanks to Avery Finn, K0HLA, for this photo, which was taken in 2007.


Software hunter

looking through giant magnifying glass, maybe for the perfect software

Your Handiham World software hunter is on the lookout for interesting
amateur radio-related software or any software that is potentially useful in
the ham shack. You can help us hunt down applications that you have located,
tried, or haven't tried but you wish someone would. Send suggestions to Pat,
wa0tda@xxxxxxxx along with your comments and reviews.

Last week we told you about  SKYPE, the internet VoIP application that is
used to port audio in remote base stations like the Handiham Remote Base.
The software is free to download and install, and free to use for SKYPE to
SKYPE calls. 

The remote base station at Courage North
Photo:  The Handiham Remote Base station at Courage North.

This week we introduce you to the rig control software written by Stan
Schretter, W4MQ. First, we have to travel back in time to November, 2002.
That's when an article entitled "A Ham Radio Public Utility HF Station" by
Stan Schretter, W4MQ, Brad Wyatt, K6WR, and Keith Lamonica, W7DXX, appeared
in QST. The article discussed the authors’ experiences in putting several
Internet Remote Base stations on the air, but more importantly, it
introduced the concept of remote operation for the rest of us - we who are
not necessarily highly technically proficient. Stan supported the W4MQ
software on his website for years, but decided to move on to other projects.
You can read the original QST article in text-accessible PDF here: 

Bob Arnold, N2JEU, has taken over the further development of the popular
remote base software written by Stan Schretter, W4MQ. The Handiham Remote
Base, W0EQO, uses the W4MQ software. Stan does not have the time to continue
supporting the W4MQ software and was open to another qualified person taking
on this task. Bob, N2JEU, has extensive experience in remote control of
radios. He has been running the "N2JEU's Web Controlled Shortwave Receivers"
website, with which many of us are already familiar.

When we installed the remote base at first, we used the Kenwood software to
control the TS-480SAT at the Handiham Remote Base station. We found the
interface to be clean and quite accessible. Unfortunately, the software will
only accept up to a total of 10 permanent users, and our remote base station
needs to be open to many more users than that. We found the W4MQ software a
capable alternative, and it had no such user limits. In addition, it had
some real advantages - the transmit access could be limited by license
class, helping to keep newbie users from transmitting out of their band

However, there are some problems with the W4MQ software. It is not a
straightforward setup for a blind operator using a screenreader, though it
can be done. The speech module is set for blind frequency readout, and this
feature cannot be turned off through the W4MQ interface. Users who are not
blind may find it distracting. The remote base audio is ported via SKYPE, as
we mentioned before. As with any software, issues will arise if it is not
updated, which means that the news of N2JEU's willingness to take over the
development project is good news indeed.


Home for the Internet Remote Base Project:  <http://www.n2jeu.net/node> 

N2JEU's Web Controlled Shortwave Receivers:

One last note: If you are a Handiham member and have a General Class or
higher license and would like access to the Handiham HF Remote Base station
W0EQO, you may email me at wa0tda@xxxxxxxx  and include your callsign and
SKYPE name. 

Next week:  Echolink for the iPhone.


Remote Base News

The Remote Base is experiencing high SWR conditions today. We ask that users
hold off from transmitting until we determine the cause.  We apologize for
the inconvenience.


HumanWare Launches Victor Reader Stream CD Edition

HumanWare is releasing a new model of the Victor Reader Stream portable
DAISY, MP3 player and voice recorder. Victor Reader Stream CD Edition
combines the worldwide renowned VR Stream and a special CD player accessory.
This unit is for people who do not have a personal computer. It is the
easiest way to transfer a DAISY book on CD onto one single, portable audio
playback device without the use of a computer. 

For more information visit: <http://www.humanware.com/streamcd> 


Out there:

Ken checks out the AMSAT booth at Hamvention.

Ken Silberman, KB3LLA, has a new toy, or as he puts it, "A new toy for Radio
Camp: Just bought the Sendero GPS in the HTC S743 cell phone."   

I hadn't heard of this particular system, so I inquired: "Tell me a few
things this can do. Can you use it to get walking directions? I'd like to
get this in the e-letter!"

Ken replies: "Yes. It is a software solution for Windows Mobile and Smart
Phone platforms. It has both pedestrian and vehicle modes. You have to have
the screen-reader application and the GPS software. It works on numerous
phones. Oh, yes, you can make a call, too. 



Well, that sure sounds like a useful product to me. Best of all, Ken will be
packing this beauty and bringing it to Minnesota Radio Camp. We will have a
chance to put the accessible HTC-S743 cell phone through its paces, and use
the Sendero software coupled with the GPS to test the unit as a pedestrian
mobility device.  I love the way folks tote their new technology to camp so
that we can all learn about new ways to communicate!


This week @ HQ

*       Pat will be out of the office Thursday morning.
*       We are beginning to plan for antenna installations at Radio Camp.
The snow is melting here in Minnesota, so antenna season will soon be upon
*       New this week: Bob Zeida, N1BLF, has completed the March 2010 CQ
audio digest for our blind members.  
*       Bob has also completed the March 2010 Worldradio audio digest for
our blind members.  
*       We have also finished reading the March, 2010 QST audio digest for
our blind members.  

Handiham members who use adapted audio can log in to members only for the
digest. If you qualify for National Library Service audio books, you can get
the entire issue of QST, once the issue is read and cataloged. I appreciate
the ARRL and all of its services, but one thing I look for with special
interest is the Annual Antenna Issue of QST.  The March issue is that very
one, devoted to antennas and antenna topics. Those of you who are ARRL
members and who get QST will find an article that I recommend on page 30:
"An Experimental Look at Ground Systems for HF Verticals" by Rudy Severns,
N6LF. Among the most comment questions we get at Handihams are ones related
to vertical antennas and ground radial systems.  Rudy's excellent article
will answer those questions for you. 

·         I have completed a new Extra Class lecture this week. It is number
61 and continues our discussion on digital modes.  Members sign in to the
member section and browse to the Extra Class lecture series.

·         Radio Camp applications are out in the mail.  It will be much
easier and cheaper to travel to camp, since our new location at Camp Courage
will allow you to travel by air, Greyhound or Jefferson Lines bus, or
AMTRAK, and there will not be an expensive final leg of the journey to
Bemidji as in past years. 

·         Shipping address for Handihams: Our shipping address is different
than our mailing address, though we can still get packages and mail at
either address. The thing is, it is much, much easier if packages, such as
equipment donations, are sent directly to our headquarters office. This is
the same address where Radio Camp will be held. 


Camp Courage
Handiham System
8046 83rd Street Northwest
Maple Lake, MN 55358-2454 

The phone at the main Camp Courage office for all departments is (320)
963-3121. However, we do not always get phone messages left at that number
in a timely manner, so if you wish to leave a phone message, be sure to

Pat: 763-520-0511

Nancy: 763-520-0512 

We are on Twitter! Look for us on Twitter by searching for "handiham". We
invite you to follow us. Handiham web page posts are now "tweeted"

Minnesota Radio Camp dates for 2010, Camp Courage:

Arrive Friday, May 21. 
Class days: Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.
VE Exam Day: Thursday. Volunteer Examiners arrive in the morning to visit
with campers and eat breakfast together with campers, volunteers, and staff.
Depart Friday, May 28.

Cost of Radio Camp: The cost of Radio Camp depends on your ability to pay,
so anyone can afford to attend. Ask for an application.

·         Camp Courage is west of Minneapolis. The address is 8046 83rd St
NW, Maple Lake, MN‎ 55358.

·         The phone number of the Camp Courage office is (320) 963-3121‎.

·         If you want to receive a Camp Courage summer camp schedule, you
may call for one.

·         The camp schedule includes information about Handiham Radio Camp.

·         If you need specific information about the radio camp or want to
be on the radio camp mailing list, you may call Nancy in the Handiham office
at 1-866-426-3442.


VOLLI is now in service. It stands for VOLunteer Log In, and is a way for
our Handiham volunteers to register and then enter their volunteer hours
without having to fool around with paper records. We encourage volunteers to
create a user name and password, then submit their hours spent recording
audio, doing club presentations for us, and so on. Volunteer hours are
important, because United Way funding depends in part on volunteer hours. If
you are a volunteer and need a link to VOLLI, please email me at
wa0tda@xxxxxxxxx Our special thanks to my son Will, KC0LJL, who wrote the
Java code for VOLLI.

Volunteers, get your hours in through VOLLI. You may also submit volunteer
hours to Nancy at
 <mailto:hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Stay in touch! Be sure to send Nancy your change of address, phone number
changes, or email address changes so that we can continue to stay in touch
with you. You may either email Nancy at hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx  or call
her toll-free at 1-866-426-3442. Mornings are the best time to contact us. 

Echolink net news

Wednesday evenings the Handiham Echolink net is on the air. Please join us
and check in or simply listen in, as you see fit. We are on the air
Wednesday evenings at 19:30 hours Minnesota time (7:30 PM) or GMT: Thursday
morning at 01:30 Z.

Daily except Sunday at 11:00 hours Minnesota time (17:00 GMT)


·         145.450 MHz N0BVE repeater (Minneapolis-St. Paul)

·         *HANDIHAM* Node 494492 (Our preferred high-capacity node.)

·         Node 89680 (Echolink worldwide)

·         IRLP node 9008 (Vancouver BC reflector)

·         WIRES system number 1427

Everyone is welcome. You do not need to be a member, and the net is relaxed,
friendly, and informal.

By the way, our Net Manager Howard, KE7KNN, reminds us that we need net
control stations for the Wednesday evening net and for the Monday through
Saturday morning net. If you are in the Twin Cities, all you need is a radio
that can get on the 145.45 N0BVE repeater, and if you live outside the RF
area, you can still be net control via Echolink, IRLP, or WIRES.

Supporting Handihams

Now you can support the Handiham program by donating on line using Courage
Center's secure website.

It is easy, but one thing to remember is that you need to use the pull-down
menu to designate your gift to the Handiham program.

·         Step one: Follow this link to the secure Courage Center Website: 
<https://couragecenter.us/SSLPage.aspx?pid=294&srcid=344> &srcid=344 

·         Step two: Fill out the form, being careful to use the pull-down
Designation menu to select "Handi-Hams".

·         Step three: Submit the form to complete your donation. If the gift
is a tribute to someone, don't forget to fill out the tribute information.
This would be a gift in memory of a silent key, for example.

We really appreciate your help. As you know, we have cut expenses this year
due to the difficult economic conditions. We are working hard to make sure
that we are delivering the most services to our members for the money - and
we plan to continue doing just that in 2010.

Thank you from the Members, Volunteers, and Staff of the Handiham System

Patrick Tice, WA0TDA, Handiham Manager

Handiham Membership Dues

Reminder: Handiham renewals are on a monthly schedule - Please renew or
join, as we need you to keep our program strong!

You will have several choices when you renew:

·         Join at the usual $10 annual dues level for one year. Your renewal
date is the anniversary of your last renewal, so your membership extends for
one year.

·         Join for three years at $30.

·         Lifetime membership is $100.

·         If you can't afford the dues, request a sponsored membership for
the year.

·         Donate an extra amount of your choice to help support our

·         Discontinue your membership.

Please return your renewal form as soon as possible.

Your support is critical! Please help.

The Courage Handiham System depends on the support of people like you, who
want to share the fun and friendship of ham radio with others. Please help
us provide services to people with disabilities. We would really appreciate
it if you would remember us in your estate plans. If you need a planning
kit, please call. If you are wondering whether a gift of stock can be given
to Handihams, the answer is yes! Please call Nancy at: 1-866-426-3442 or
email: hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Ask for a free DVD about the Handiham System. It's perfect for your club
program, too! The video tells your club about how we got started, the Radio
Camps, and working with hams who have disabilities. 
Call 1-866-426-3442 toll-free.1-866-426-3442 toll-free -- Help us get new
hams on the air.

Get the Handiham E-Letter by email every Wednesday, and stay up-to-date with
ham radio news. 

You may listen in audio to the E-Letter at www.handiham.org
<http://www.handiham.org/> .

Email us to subscribe:

Handiham members with disabilities can take an online audio course at
<http://www.handiham.org/> www.handiham.org: 

·         Beginner

·         General

·         Extra

·         Operating Skills

That's it for this week. 73 from all of us at the Courage Handiham System!


Manager, Courage Handiham System

Reach me by email at: 

Nancy, Handiham Secretary: 

Radio Camp email: 



ARRL Diamond logo

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!

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 wa0tda@xxxxxxxx for
changes of address, unsubscribes, etc. Include your old email address and
your new address.


·         By wa0tda at 03/10/2010 - 20:45 

·         Printer-friendly <http://www.handiham.org/print/720>  version 

·         Send <http://www.handiham.org/printmail/720>  to friend 


Courage Center Handiham System
3915 Golden Valley Road
Golden Valley, MN 55422
E-Mail: hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 

Toll-Free telephone: 1-866-HANDIHAM (1-866-426-3442) 

FAX:(763) 520-0577 Be sure to put "Handihams" in the FAX address! 

We look forward to hearing from you soon.


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  • » [handiham-world] Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 10 March 2010 - Patrick Tice