Courage Kenny Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 11 September 2013 This is a free weekly news & information update from Courage Kenny Handiham System <http://handiham.org> . Our contact information is at the end, or simply email handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx for changes in subscriptions or to comment. You can listen to this news online. MP3 audio: http://www.handiham.org/audio/handiham.mp3 Get this podcast in iTunes: <http://www.itunes.com/podcast?id=372422406> http://0345ed7.netsolhost.com/images/itunes_button_sm.jpg http://www.itunes.com/podcast?id=372422406 RSS feed for the audio podcast if you use other podcasting software: http://feeds.feedBurner.com/handiham _____ Welcome to Handiham World. 9/11 - pause to consider how Amateur Radio has changed to respond in emergencies. K0CJ fixes the antenna In this vintage photo, volunteer Clair Robinson, K0CJ, climbed the tower to maintain the Handiham antenna system just as a jet airliner passed high overhead, visible through the elements of the VHF log periodic antenna. That was quite a few years ago now. Our W0ZSW station has moved from the old Golden Valley location and is now updated to Remote Base status so that Handiham members everywhere can use it. Other things have changed since 2001, too. The September 11 attacks took place that year, and I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news. Most of us will forever associate the memory of some mundane daily activity with that horrific act of terrorism. It was the morning of September 11, 2001. I was walking down the corridor at Courage Center. The sunlight was streaming through the skylights that topped the atrium over the hallway and I was thinking to myself what a fine Tuesday it was. Minnesota Radio Camp at Courage North had been wrapped up the previous week, and we would now move forward into another season of ham radio fun as radio clubs began their meeting cycles again after the summer hiatus. I had taken a few days off work right after Radio Camp, and it really felt like a perfect day! That changed abruptly when I poked my head into the office of a co-worker whose office was just past the atrium. He was leaning forward, his eyes glued to a 5-inch black and white TV set. "Look at this", he said. And there it was - an airliner was striking one of the towers, probably United Flight 175 and WTC Tower 2. Needless to say, nothing much got done at work anywhere for the rest of the day. It felt as if the world had abruptly shifted - and in a sense it had. Many civilians, some of them amateur radio operators doing engineering work at the broadcast facilities on the towers, lost their lives that day. Frightened office workers jumped to their deaths rather than be incinerated by the spreading flames. In under two hours both towers collapsed, spreading destruction over lower Manhattan, and widening the disaster area. News followed about a similar attack on the Pentagon and about the loss of United Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. Almost 3,000 died and another 6,000 were injured. Everyone dropped what they were doing and listened to the news - and if they could, many volunteered to help by donating blood, assisting with communications, or literally however they could be of assistance. Amateur Radio is about communicating, and those of us who have participated in public service communications and even Field Day would see many changes in the years following 9/11. I don't want to make this a trip down memory lane, but we do have to recall how things used to be before 9/11. Most everyone remembers being surprised about how difficult it turned out to be to communicate. Different communications procedures, many different types of equipment, the unexpected overload of some infrastructure while other infrastructure became overloaded, different assigned frequencies, confusing multiple agency responses that overlapped or interfered with each other, lack of an understandable unified command structure, and a relentless stream of rumors - all of this combined to slow the response to a serious disaster and make communications less effective. By their nature, many communications emergencies happen with little or no warning, and they may be localized or widespread - often there is no way to predict what will happen, even among those who work in emergency services. That is why emergency services training needs to be broad-based, emphasizing flexibility but stressing a command structure that is going to work in most, if not all, situations and that can "flex" enough to fit the situation. Different agencies need to work together, and they cannot easily do so without being able to communicate. This was one of the biggest lessons learned in the 9/11 response and follow up. Emergency communications training needed to include the understanding of a more unified command structure and procedures that would work well across agencies during an emergency. Hardware had to be compliant, too - it would do no good to have radios that could not talk to each other. It would no longer be acceptable for amateur radio operators to train outside the rest of the emergency response community. Joint exercises would be needed, and amateurs would need to understand something new: an Incident Command System. From weather disasters to chemical spills, an ICS could be set up to deal with the situation, and hams who responded would only get in the way without learning the new system's structure and communications procedures. ARRL responded with the Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Course. Federal monies were available to pay for the tuition, and amateurs were able to learn the new command system as well as something else that is really important: basic communications skills! What? Basic communications skills? I thought that as long-time licensees (many of us, anyway), we would have developed good communications skills just by getting on the air. Well, that is a quaint fantasy. There is nothing quite like attending an organized communications training event taught by professionals to learn just how much one doesn't know. Our club had such an event at Courage St. Croix in Stillwater, Minnesota. Although we had an HF station available, this event concentrated on handheld portable radios. After all, in most emergency scenarios the portable radio is the one piece of gear most likely to be available on short notice and which will be able to accompany you to your communications post. The exercise included radio basics: transmitting and receiving on a simplex frequency and on the local repeater. We could all do that without a problem, but then the exercise took an ugly turn: We were told that in this simulation, the local repeater had gone down and it would be necessary to reprogram our radios to an unfamiliar pair of repeater frequencies with a new subaudible tone. Just how ugly did it turn out to be? I'd say at least 2/3 of the group had some trouble with this basic task. Of course there were different makes and models of radio there, and you were out of luck if there wasn't someone who had the same radio as you and who knew how to program it. Mind you, we hadn't even gotten to what constitutes an effective exchange of information on the air because many of our group could not program their radios! My biggest takeaway from that particular exercise was that most of us were really not ready to respond effectively in an emergency. Obviously the time to learn how to operate one's equipment is BEFORE it needs to be used in an emergency. Having to fiddle around with a radio before you can actually use it wastes precious minutes - minutes that could cost lives in a real emergency. But I look at Field Day and Radio Camp and see pretty much the same thing today. Many of us - including me - are less than competent in programming our radios. While Field Day and Radio Camp are more laid back than a formal communications training exercise, it still helps to know how to use one's radio. I make sure that I have at least one radio that I do know how to operate charged and ready to go! Is not being able to program your radio the "tip of the iceberg"? I think it just might be. Like an iceberg floating in the ocean with only its tip above the waves and its massive bulk lurking out of sight underwater, not knowing how to program your radio is only an indication of what else might be - and often times is - lacking in your emergency response capabilities. That is why the ARRL Level 1 course (now called "Intro to EmComm Online") covered "basic communications skills" when I decided to take it. The reason I like this course is that it takes very little for granted aside from that fact that you are a licensed amateur with an interest in learning emergency communications. After that, all bets are off, and the differences between "normal" ham radio and "emergency communications techniques" are explained. How to speak clearly into a microphone is even covered! The virtues of being brief and clear in your communications with the use of plain language are emphasized. Standard phonetics and tactical callsigns are reviewed and explained. Let's face it - We all know operators who yammer on and on, timing out repeaters regularly. Others use lots of jargon and make up their own phonetics. Some have terrible signals, either very hard to hear because of their low modulation or overdriven so badly that distortion approaches 50%. No wonder all of these shortcomings are mentioned - along with "best practices" - in the ARRL course. Another part of the iceberg that isn't visible until it's too late is the lack of preparedness. As we learned from 9/11, disasters come unexpectedly on the finest of days, out of a clear blue sky, with no warning. We learned that being prepared ahead of time was just going to be part of the deal from that day forward. It will no longer do to call yourself an emergency communicator if most of your equipment is scattered around the house and garage, microphones or antennas are missing, and the batteries are dead. We learned that a "go-kit" also includes things like flashlights, emergency contact information, instruction manuals for equipment, writing equipment, a cell phone, spare batteries and chargers, identification and authorization paperwork, resources list... Well, you get the idea. There is a lot to get together if you expect to deploy to an emergency communications post. It seems that we need to plan and prepare much more deeply and thoughtfully than we have done in the past. It could even be a bit like planning to camp out during Field Day weekend, but being ready to do so on short notice throughout the year. We also learned that we have to understand the requirements of "served agencies" and the procedures they and other emergency communicators such as police and fire will be using. We need to know the Incident Command System because we will be lost without it, unsure of who is in charge and how things are to be handled. A dozen years after 9/11 we find that expectations of what constitutes a prepared emergency communicator are much different. At one time simply being a licensed amateur radio operator was enough to get you in the door as a valuable communications asset. Today we know that we have to study and prepare. We have to practice with other communicators in formal drills and use our equipment often enough to stay current with our operating skills. We have learned that consistent use of good operating practices every day, even in normal non-emergency communications, builds good and solid habits that will come out naturally in a real emergency. In a sense, studying for EmComm can actually make you a better amateur radio operator across the board, even if you never deploy to a real emergency. Patrick Tice, WA0TDA Courage Kenny Handiham Coordinator _____ Practical radio pliers and wire Making a quarter-wave vertical antenna work The much-maligned 1/4 wave vertical antenna doesn't really deserve all the bad stuff that people say about it. A common refrain is that a vertical "is an antenna that transmits equally poorly in all directions" - I've heard it many times over the years. If you didn't have a huge back yard with room for a half-wave dipole on 160 through 10 meters, you were to be pitied because you would probably be stuck putting up a vertical antenna, the only thing you could fit into your puny city lot. Poor you! A 1/4 wave vertical is really a very simple antenna. It is like 1/2 of a typical 1/2 wave resonant dipole antenna, but it is mounted vertically at ground level and fed with 50 ohm coaxial cable against ground (either the actual ground or a conductive ground plane.) If you wanted to make a simple vertical antenna for 20 meters, it would be about 16 feet tall, insulated from the ground at the base. You could plant a ground rod near the base and attach the coax braid to it, then attach the coax center conductor to the bottom of the 16 foot vertical element and there you go: a fine vertical antenna! Well, not really. A ground rod does provide DC grounding, but it is not going to work as a way to return current passing through the lossy soil when you are using the antenna! Remember that with this design, it is like half of a regular dipole and the other half is provided by the ground. Current must flow in both the vertical element and in the ground, and if there is resistance in either of those things your antenna will not work very well. You will have one of those lousy verticals that lives up to its bad reputation as a poor performer. To make a 1/4 wave vertical work well, it needs ground radials, which are wires connected to a common grounded point very close to the base of the antenna and radiating outward toward all compass points along the ground like spokes of a wheel. You can make them roughly the same length as the radiating element, but if they are on or buried in the ground the precise length is not critical at all. The more of them you have up to around 120, the better. There is a point of diminishing returns and you will find that the improvement over a dozen or so radials may not be worth the time and effort. When you decide to mount a 1/4 wave vertical above ground, you need to treat the ground plane differently. The radials must now be tuned - roughly a quarter wave, and there must be at least one of them tuned for each band on which the antenna is resonant if it is a multiband design like a trapped vertical. The ends of the radials must be insulated because high voltage will appear there, and the ends must also be kept away from metal that may detune them. You can effect a somewhat better impedance match on an elevated vertical by sloping the radials down a bit, thus bringing the feedpoint impedance closer to 50 ohms. The obvious problem with the elevated design is that you need a supporting structure for the antenna itself AND tie-off points for each radial. However, in elevated operation you do not need large numbers of radials and four will do nicely. Like the ground-mounted design, the radials in an elevated installation must be connected to a common grounding point within a couple of inches of the feedpoint. If you have an idea that you will mount a vertical on the top of a tower and install radials on the ground, forget it - this will not work at all because the tower will look like part of the antenna system to your transceiver, and it will be far off resonance. It doesn't matter if the wire you use for radials is insulated or not, but insulated wire may last longer underground when exposed to moisture. Wires lying on top of the ground will work as well as buried wires. The main reason to bury them is to avoid a tripping hazard, so they can be just beneath the sod and work well. There is no point burying them any deeper unless they must pass underneath a flowerbed or garden, for example. Next week: More on verticals. Remember that this column is about "practical radio", which is figuring out what works and making the most of it. Use what works for you! _____ Handiham Nets are on the air daily. If there is no net control station during any scheduled net time, just go right ahead and start a round table discussion. TMV71A transceiver We are scheduled to be on the air daily at 11:00 USA Central Time, plus Wednesday & Thursday evenings at 19:00 USA Central Time. A big THANK YOU to all of our net control stations! What will Doug, N6NFF, come up with for his trivia question tonight? I guess we'll just have to tune in and listen! Tune in and see how you do with the question this week, or just check in to say hello. We maintain our nets at 11:00 hours daily relative to Minnesota time. Since the nets remain true to Minnesota time, the difference between Minnesota time and GMT is -5 hours. The net is on the air at 16:00 hours GMT. The official and most current net news may be found at: <http://www.handiham.org/nets> http://www.handiham.org/nets _____ A dip in the pool Pat shows off his new Plantronics USB headset! It's time to test our knowledge by taking a dip in the pool - the Amateur Radio question pool, that is! Let's go to the General Class pool and examine a question about vertical antennas, which you are sure to get correct: G9B06 asks, "Where should the radial wires of a ground-mounted vertical antenna system be placed?" Possible answers are: A. As high as possible above the ground B. Parallel to the antenna element C. On the surface or buried a few inches below the ground D. At the top of the antenna Since we already discussed this topic in practical radio, you know that the correct answer is C: On the surface or buried a few inches below the ground. This question is actually pretty easy as long as you understand what a vertical antenna is and a little about how it works. Looking at the distracters for this question, I would have to say that answering the question with any of them other than the correct answer would pretty much prove that the examinee has no idea what a vertical antenna looks like or how it works. While it is easy for me to understand verticals, I have to remind myself that a newbie in ham radio may not be clear on the concept. As an instructor or mentor to new hams in my club, I need to explain such things clearly without making lots of assumptions about what my students "should" know. An example would be a person entering amateur radio without a background in short-wave listening or any particular emphasis on radio physics. After 9/11, there was a resurgence of interest in ham radio, driven by people who wanted to communicate and work in public service. These new hams may or may not have had much background in the basic physics of radio and electronics, but in any case the engineering aspects of radio were certainly not the thing that drew them in. A good mentor will not make too many assumptions and will patiently explain the basics. Please e-mail handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx to comment. _____ Bulletin Board Old time cathedral radio A quest to save AM broadcast? On the board today we have a heads-up from Ron, W2WU, about a New York Times article entitled "A Quest To Save AM Before It Is Lost In The Static", which you can find through a web search on many newspaper sites. To boil it down, Ron reminds us of AM radio's legacy and how challenging it is to get a clear AM broadcast signal with so many interference sources out there today. Ajit Pai, J.D., Federal Communications Commissioner <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajit_Pai_%28FCC%29> has taken up the cause of finding some way to save AM broadcast. I found the article Ron suggested by using Google. It was on my local newspaper site, www.startribune.com, where it appeared yesterday. We all know that the proliferation of switching power supplies that are cheaply made and used by many rechargeable gadgets as well as compact fluorescent lamps (CFL's) and Broadband over power lines (BPL) have contributed to raising the noise floor, especially for AM reception. But there are also lots of other ways to listen to media these days, and AM radio stations struggle to remain financially solvent among such relentless competition. The days of the local AM station being the only game in town are gone forever as people divide their listening time among many, many other resources from satellite radio to FM broadcast to podcasts to internet streams. I have to admit that I seldom listen to AM broadcast anymore myself, because it doesn't really have program material I care about, not because of interference or poor technical quality. One stark example of this is that we bought a new car for my wife this summer. Now, months later as I read this article about saving AM radio, I got to thinking... "Does that new car even HAVE an AM radio?" I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I think it probably does but that I have never even tried it. When we got the car home I set the automatic presets for FM broadcast and then set up the Sirius/XM presets. This is the first vehicle about which I can say that I never gave AM broadcast a thought. Admittedly, it is my wife's car and not one I usually drive, but still - It is the reality of AM broadcast these days. When listening to media at home, while walking in the park, on public transportation, or while driving - AM radio is at the very bottom of the list for me. Oh, don't get me wrong; I've got lots of AM listening under my belt over the years, having grown up with it being the primary mode of spoken word broadcast throughout my childhood. The sad truth is that AM is in trouble not because of one thing, like interference. It's as if it's surrounded by attacks on all sides: interference, changes in local business needs that have dried up ad revenue, expensive equipment to maintain, a listening public with a bazillion other choices, better technologies for delivering quality sound, and the uninspiring but cheap to produce programming than has filtered down to the AM broadcast band; things like radio preachers and talk shows. The last time I listened to AM radio was on the 4th of July, when we visited another couple's condo near the St. Croix River at Stillwater, MN. We watched the fireworks over the river while the local AM station played music synchronized to the pyrotechnics. That's the sort of quirky local programming that AM has always done pretty well, and that may just go away forever unless some way (or compelling reason aside from nostalgia) is found to save it. As amateur radio operators we would benefit from anything that cuts down on interference, that's for sure! * You can read Commissioner Pai's remarks at the NAB Show's AM Band Revitalization Panel on the FCC website. <http://www.fcc.gov/document/commissioner-pai-remarks-nabs-am-band-revitaliz ation-panel> * Notes from the NAB Convention are on the Indiana RadioWatch website in completely accessible format. <http://indianaradio.net/nab2013/amradio.html> Also from Ron, W2WU: Speaking of "lost in the static": http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-13-805A1.pdf In a day and age where lamps, ovens, cell phones, medical devices and goodness knows whatever else are all conspiring to wipe out any and all analog transmission of signals, its kinda dopey (and technically reassuring in a low-tech way) to read about a misbehaving well pump in the neighborhood messing up the amateur band. THAT we can find and fix! -R (W2WU) _____ This week @ HQ Cartoon robot with pencil Important: Take our on line survey <http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/QZX6BN6> . Download a plain text copy if you have trouble with the Survey Monkey website <https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/18891122/2013%20Handiham%20Survey.txt> . Help us to make the Handiham program as good as it can be. Take a short survey to let us know what you think. Follow the link below: . http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/QZX6BN6 Remote Base News The remote base software team is gearing up again. Stay tuned! W0EQO station in the server room at Courage North. Both Handiham Remote Base internet stations W0ZSW and W0EQO are on line. Outages: We are not expecting any outages. Outages are reported on http://handiham.org/remotebase/station-status/. Band conditions: As of this writing, conditions on HF are good to fair. Check http://handiham.org/remotebase/station-status/ for a current HF conditions report from G4ILO. Operating tip: Find out how to tell if the remote base station is already in use if you are using JAWS: * Listen to the tutorial: http://www.handiham.org/audio/remotebase/W4MQ_status_JAWS.mp3 * Read the tutorial in accessible HTML: http://handiham.org/remotebase/2013/03/05/check-station-status-with-jaws-13- or-14/ Pat holding up NLS digital cartridge and mailer Don't care to download Handiham materials via computer? This digital cartridge and mailer can bring you Handiham audio digests each month, plus we have room to put the audio lecture series or equipment tutorials on them, too! * If you have trouble logging in, please let us know. * All Daisy materials are in zip file format, so you simply download the zip file you need and unzip it so the Daisy book folder can be accessed or moved to your NLS or other Daisy player. * Tip: When in the Daisy directory, it is easy to find the latest books by sorting the files by date. Be sure the latest date is at the top. The link to sort is called "Last Modified". * You can also find what is on a web page by using CONTROL-F. This brings up a search box and you can type a key word in, such as "July". You may find more than one July, including 2012, but you will eventually come across what we have posted for July 2013. * CQ for July is now available for our blind members in the DAISY section. * Worldradio and QST Daisy for August are ready. * Our thanks to Bob, N1BLF, Jim, KJ3P, and Ken, W9MJY, for reading this month. Look for these DAISY materials in the members section. <http://handiham.org/drupal2/user> Digital mailers are important: If you do mail a digital cartridge to us, please be sure that it is an approved free matter mailer. Otherwise it will quickly cost us several dollars to package and mail out, which is more than the cost of the mailer in the first place. We don't have a stock of cartridges or mailers and not including a mailer will result in a long delay getting your request back out to you. DAISY audio digests are available for our blind members who do not have computers, playable in your Library of Congress digital player. Handiham members who use these players and who would prefer to receive a copy of the monthly audio digests on the special Library of Congress digital cartridge should send a blank cartridge to us in a cartridge mailer (no envelopes, please), so that we can place the files on it and return it to you via free matter postal mail. Your call sign should be on both the cartridge and the mailer so that we can make sure we know who it's from. Blank cartridges and mailers are available from APH, the American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. <http://www.aph.org> Digital Talking Book Cartridge Catalog Number: 1-02610-00, Price: $12.00 Digital Talking Book Cartridge Mailer Catalog Number: 1-02611-00, Price: $2.50 Order Toll-Free: (800) 223-1839. The Library of Congress NLS has a list of vendors for the digital cartridges: <http://www.loc.gov/nls/cartridges/index.html> http://www.loc.gov/nls/cartridges/index.html Get it all on line as an alternative: Visit the DAISY section on the Handiham website after logging in. _____ Stay in touch Cartoon robot with cordless phone Be sure to send Nancy your changes 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 at 763-520-0512. If you need to use the toll-free number, call 1-866-426-3442. Handiham Program Coordinator Patrick Tice, WA0TDA, may be reached at handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx or by phone at 763-520-0511. Mornings Monday through Thursday are the best time to contact us. The Courage Kenny Handiham Program 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. Call 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 Handiham Weekly E-Letter in MP3 format <http://handiham.org/audio/handiham.mp3> Email us to subscribe: hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx That's it for this week. 73 from all of us at the Courage Kenny Handihams! Pat, WA0TDA Coordinator, Courage Kenny Handiham Program Reach me by email at: handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Nancy, Handiham Secretary: hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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 handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx for changes of address, unsubscribes, etc. Include your old email address and your new address.