[handiham-world] Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 12 January 2011

  • From: "Patrick Tice" <wa0tda@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: <handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2011 15:29:33 -0600

This is a free weekly news & information update from Courage Center Handiham
System. Our contact information is at the end, or simply email
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Welcome to Handiham World!  

Today it is time for adventures in "troubleshooting".

Description: Snow-covered Butternut vertical antenna

Learning how to troubleshoot problems in your amateur radio station is one
of the most important skills you will ever develop. The reason is that most
of the time you are going to be the only person available to do anything
about a problem that crops up. After all, you are the owner and operator of
the station and are likely to be the one who discovers the problem in the
first place. Amateur radio is a technical activity, and it has always been
my feeling that a healthy curiosity about what makes things work contributes
to our ability to learn how to troubleshoot problems logically. Of course
fixing a problem is different, since you may not have the necessary parts at
hand, be able to climb a tower yourself, or be able to replace a part that
you cannot see or reach inside a piece of equipment. Still, there is a great
deal of satisfaction to be had in knowing how things work and being able to
figure out why they are not working at the moment.

For example, the day before yesterday I noticed in a routine check of my HF
antennas that the end-fed wire and the Windom were both delivering plenty of
signals, but the ground-mounted Butternut vertical out in the backyard was
dead silent. There was not even a trace of the usual noise or static. I know
from experience that when an antenna returns this kind of result, there is
usually a break somewhere between the transceiver and the antenna, usually a
connector or feed line problem.

So, how does one proceed with this kind of a problem? A consideration is
whether or not any changes have been made recently in the configuration of
the equipment in the ham shack. In other words, if you have recently
installed a new antenna tuner or replaced a switch or some other component
in the antenna and feed line system, you might want to consider the
possibility that things were either not connected correctly or that a
connecting cable in the shack is intermittent. Frankly, the first thing to
consider (for me, anyway) is some kind of operator error. Did I disconnect
something to run a test and then forget about it? Did I forget to flip a
switch? Am I sure I pressed the right button on the automatic antenna tuner?
I tend to like to eliminate "indoor" problems like these before pulling on
my boots and winter gear and trudging out into the backyard, which happens
to be full of snow this time of year.

Since I have made no changes to my equipment configuration here in the ham
shack, and have triple-checked that I am operating the automatic antenna
tuner and rig correctly, I guess there is nothing for it but to make an
expedition out to the backyard. I know from experience that most of my
antenna problems in the past have been weather-related in one form or
another. After all, the antennas and their components are outdoors and can
be damaged by ice, moisture intrusion, wind, and ultraviolet exposure. Since
this particular symptom of the vertical antenna suddenly going completely
silent is not something that happened gradually, I am going to be looking
for a break in the feed line, and my prime suspect is going to be at the
feed point near the base of the vertical.

A check of what can be seen at the feedpoint shows the connection to be
intact. Next, it is time for a continuity check, so out comes my 30+ year
old clunker Radio Shack VOM. This thing has been on more troubleshooting
trips than I can remember, including trips up towers and many Field Days!
The way the vertical's feedpoint is configured is going to result in a dead
short at DC. This is normal, because there is a copper coil across the
feedpoint between the center conductor of the coax and ground. Thus, the
"normal" condition is for the ohm meter to read a DC short when connected
between the center of the coax and the braid. I pulled the coax off the back
of the LDG tuner and checked for the expected DC short. The coax was open!
This indicates a most unfortunate problem, a break somewhere in the feed
line system between the feed point and the ham shack. Further
troubleshooting will have to wait until the ground is clear of snow and
thawed because the feed line is buried underground and in January in
Minnesota the ground is like concrete.

Sometimes troubleshooting is like that. What you have to do is logically
narrow down the possibilities so that you can focus your efforts on the part
of the system where the fault most likely lies. In some cases, circumstances
or conditions will not permit you to troubleshoot to a final conclusion or
make repairs until those conditions or circumstances change. So I guess I am
without my vertical antenna unless I run a second feed line over the snow
and out to the antenna. A better bet is probably just to switch all of my
operations to the remaining two wire antennas and to make use of the two
Handiham remote base stations from time to time.

Although this story will be continued once the snow melts and the ground
thaws out, it does put me in mind of an exceptional job of troubleshooting
done by one of the members of my college ham radio club decades ago. If I
remember correctly, a Johnson Viking Ranger transmitter was not working
properly. Several attempts by various club members to figure out what was
going on were unsuccessful. Finally one of the members decided to really
devote some serious time to the problem and trace it down once and for all.
Believe it or not, the fault was a broken wire underneath the chassis. In
those days point to point wiring between tube sockets was common. Vacuum
tube equipment was failure prone, and the most likely culprit was always the
tubes themselves. In this case, a wire had broken inside the insulation,
making the problem difficult to spot. Perhaps this short length of insulated
wire was defective when it was manufactured and repeated heating and cooling
of the transmitter as it was turned on and turned off ultimately caused the
wire to open up inside the insulating jacket. The point of this story is
that things like this sometimes happen, even to some of the most seemingly
reliable and simple components in a system. I always admire the way
engineers and technicians at NASA troubleshoot their way through complicated
systems and come up with elegant and effective solutions to problems no one
ever expected.

Next week: I replace my Internet router and configure EchoLink port
forwarding.  Will I ever be on EchoLink again?  Tune in and find out!

Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Handiham System Manager <mailto:wa0tda@xxxxxxxx> 


ARRL Outgoing QSL Service Announces New Rate Structure

Description: Mail Delivery - Cartoon rabbit delivering mail

Effective January 17, 2011, a new pricing structure will go into effect for
the ARRL Outgoing QSL Service. With the new rate structure, amateurs will no
longer need to count outgoing cards and then guess as to what to pay based
upon a half-pound rate; a simple weighing of the cards is all that is
necessary to determine what amount to send to the Bureau. This new structure
also accommodates a small rate increase in response to recent postage,
shipping and handling costs.

The last rate revision for the Outgoing QSL Service was in January 2007.

Even though international shipping costs have remained flat over the last 4
years, domestic shipping costs have risen more than 16 percent since 2007,
while material and handling costs continue to climb 1 to 2 percent each

The new rate will be:

* $2 for 10 or fewer cards in one envelope.
* $3 for 11-20 cards in one envelope, or
* 75 cents per ounce, for packages with 21 or more cards. For example, a
package containing 1.5 pounds -- 24 ounces, or about 225 cards -- of cards
will cost $18.

If you have any questions concerning the ARRL Outgoing QSL Service or the
rates to use the service, please send them via e-mail to buro@xxxxxxxxx

(ARRL & TIPSnet)


President Signs Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act

Description: Drawing of blind guy with cane and service dog

Washington, D.C. (January 5, 2011): The National Federation of the Blind
today commended President Barack Obama for signing into law the Pedestrian
Safety Enhancement Act (S. 841), which will protect the blind and other
pedestrians from injury as a result of silent vehicle technology.

"The National Federation of the Blind is pleased that this critical
legislation has been signed into law, preserving the right to safe and
independent travel for the blind," said Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the
National Federation of the Blind. "The blind, like all pedestrians, must be
able to travel to work, to school, to church, and to other places in our
communities, and we must be able to hear vehicles in order to do so. This
law, which is the result of collaboration among blind Americans, automobile
manufacturers, and legislators, will benefit all pedestrians for generations
to come as new vehicle technologies become more prevalent. We look forward
to working with the Department of Transportation throughout the regulatory
process. Because blind pedestrians cannot locate and evaluate traffic using
their vision, they must listen to traffic to discern its speed, direction,
and other attributes in order to travel safely and independently. Other
people, including pedestrians who are not blind, bicyclists, runners, and
small children, also benefit from hearing the sound of vehicle engines. New
vehicles that employ hybrid or electric engine technology can be silent,
rendering them extremely dangerous in situations where vehicles and
pedestrians come into proximity with each other."

(NFB press release)

What do you think?  Will adding sound to quiet vehicles be effective?

I will kick off the conversation by mentioning that I own a hybrid car.  It
is a Honda Civic, which uses a different hybrid system than the Toyota
Prius.  When the Prius drives at slow speeds, it can run entirely on the
electric motor. The Civic uses its electric motor for a power assist while
accelerating and cannot be driven around on the electric motor alone. It
can, however, still be moving slowly and coming to a stop with the gasoline
engine stopped, which happens when the driver presses the brake while
approaching a stop sign. As has been pointed out by proponents of this new
regulation to add an alert sound to hybrid and electric cars, they are very
quiet and can pose a problem for anyone depending on listening for the
sounds around them to assess their environment. I had learned about the
problem from a discussion I heard on the Handiham net.  

Now, I am somewhat of an empiricist so I tend to look at new ideas with
interest, but with a bit of healthy skepticism.  I walk a lot around our
neighborhood, a two mile route that varies depending on where my interest
and sometimes the snout of my dog Jasper take me.  The route is a nice mix
of suburban city streets, a couple of busy crossings, and paved park paths.
After I heard Handiham members talk about the push to add more sound to
quiet cars, I decided to start listening more - actively and consciously
listening - to really learn what the streets, crossings, and park paths
sound like.  My unscientific and very subjective findings are as follows:

*       I was almost never surprised by an approaching automobile of any
kind, whether in front of me, off to the side, or coming up from behind.
Since I can look and see the vehicle making the sound, I could connect the
kinds of sounds I was hearing with the type of vehicle that was making it.
In really active, concentrated listening situations, the noise made by the
tires of the vehicles was audible and often as not the engine noise was not.
Most, of course, were standard gasoline-power vehicles. The technology of
the typical gasoline engine and exhaust system renders the car so quiet that
engine noise is virtually inaudible in the urban environment. Diesel engines
clatter distinctively and some motorcycles are designed with throaty pipes,
so they could be heard over a block away by an astute listener. 
*       One exception where engine noise could always be heard was at a stop
sign where an idling car produced no tire noise because the wheels were not
turning. However, this was not tested in a busy urban environment where many
vehicles are passing through the intersections. In that case, I suspect that
it would be quite difficult to pick out idling engine sounds from the
cacophony of the city soundscape. 
*       Where was I most likely to be surprised by a moving vehicle? Where
have I had the closest calls and have almost been struck? Why, the city park
paths - and the offending vehicles are always bicycles. I have never had as
many close calls as I have had on city paths, where cyclists breeze by
unsuspecting pedestrians, often within inches when coming up from behind.
This is especially unnerving when walking the dog, because he could easily
move from side to side on the path and be struck and killed by a bicyclist.
Being seriously injured is not out of the realm for pedestrians struck by
bicycles, either. And you want to talk silent - no vehicle is as quiet as an
approaching bicycle. Thoughtful bicyclists will alert pedestrians to their
presence, but an amazing number will not.
*       Pedestrians have some responsibility in staying safe. If you are out
and about and using your handheld radio to have a conversation on the local
repeater, you are going to be concentrating on the sound coming from the
radio and not from the sounds in your environment. You have to use
electronic devices like handheld radios, cellular phones, and MP3 players
with a certain amount of caution if you are walking. I find that I am
generally pretty safe sticking to the far left or right side of the walking
path and the left side of the street facing traffic. If I am using any sort
of electronic device, I keep the volume low enough to hear the sounds around
me. In a really dangerous and busy environment, I turn off electronic
devices and concentrate on moving through the area safely. You can always
tell the person you are talking to on the radio that you will get back to
them in a short while; the same is true with a phone conversation.

Okay, so I am trying to keep an open mind about this electric car
noisemaker, but I predict that it will not be very effective. Remember,
standard gasoline-powered cars are already so quiet that tire noise easily
exceeds engine noise, and these cars will not have any required noisemaking
alert system. Furthermore, the urban environment is already full of noise,
which will make anything but a rather sharp, loud alert system difficult to
hear. Our cities are already noisy enough without adding loud and annoying
noises to the din. Obviously manufacturers will have to figure out a way to
make the sound so distinctive that it stands out from many other noises even
in a high decibel environment. While this alert system sounds like a good
idea, the devil is always in the details and I remain skeptical that it will
be effective. In the meantime, watch out for bicycles.

Have you had a bicycle or automobile encounter?  If so, what do you think
about an effective sound alert system? Have you ever had a near miss while
using your radio, because you were distracted?



Description: FT-718 rig

Don, W0JBX, writes:

I  want to congratulate you and thank you for the great weekly Handiham
newsletter that you publish. I read it every week with great interest and
enjoy it . With my slow hunt and peck typing, it would take me a long time
to type out the many interesting articles you publish every week.  Also, I
want to thank you again for allowing me to use the two Handiham radio
stations via the Internet Remote Base (IRB).  I  also wish to thank Lyle
once again for allowing me to use his K0LR station via IRB, and for all his
great help and support that he has always given me.  Living in my Senior
Citizen apartment, where I am not permitted to erect radio antennas, I would
not be able to continue with my Ham radio operation if these IRB stations
were not available.  This is a wonderful service that you provide for us
hams who have limited operating privileges.  

73, and keep up the good work,  
Don Johnston, W0JBX                                              


Connecting with EchoLink

Description: EchoLink screenshot

In today's edition of this Connecting with EchoLink segment, we alert you to
an excellent tool provided by the EchoLink team, the EchoLink
Troubleshooter.  This is a little utility that you download to your hard
drive and keep in your bag of tricks for troubleshooting EchoLink problems
related to firewall and router settings as well as audio issues. It
generates a report that can be used by you or a person helping you in
diagnosing problems. The Troubleshooter is not necessarily the easiest thing
to locate on the EchoLink website.  Here is a direct link:


Follow one of the two download links, and a download dialog box appears.

Description: EchoLinkTS_1_2_5.exe download dialog

Once the file is saved, simply run it.  You will likely get a security
warning, but go ahead and run the file. It runs the actual troubleshooting
application, and does not install the Troubleshooter the way a setup file
does. This small application will fit on a USB stick and can easily be taken
with you in your computer bag or toolkit as a testing accessory if you help
others with EchoLink setup. 

Description: EchoLink Troubleshooter open file dialog

Now, simply follow the prompts, filling in the type of Internet connection
you have, whether you are on a home network, and so on.  It's pretty easy.
Then the software will run the tests and produce a result file. I have set
up a router condition (unforwarding ports) that will produce a "fail" to
illustrate a typical firewall problem:

The UDP port 5198 test FAILED: Receive failed (10060). This means that
EchoLink cannot communicate with other stations over the Internet. Be sure
your router, firewall, or security software is allowing EchoLink to receive
messages over UDP ports 5198 and 5199, and that your Internet service
provider (ISP) has not blocked this port.

Things to check:

* Some cable modems have a built-in firewall that must be configured to
accept UDP ports 5198 and 5199. Check the modem's documentation, or your DSL
provider's customer support, for more information.

* Your router probably needs to be configured to "forward" UDP ports 5198
and 5199 to this PC. Check your D-Link documentation for details, or contact
D-Link customer support.

The rest of the report told me things about the TCP test (passed) and the
audio setup (working).  As you can see from these results, I need to check
port forwarding. Next week we will do this for real and see if a new router
works right out of the box or if I am going to have to set up port

Stay tuned!


A dip in the pool

Description: circuit board

Today's dip into the question pool takes us to the Extra Class question

E9D14 asks us: Which of the following types of conductor would be best for
minimizing losses in a station's RF ground system?

Possible answers are:

A. A resistive wire, such as a spark-plug wire

B. A thin, flat copper strap several inches wide

C. A cable with 6 or 7 18-gauge conductors in parallel

D. A single 12 or 10 gauge stainless steel wire

Did you pick B, a thin, flat copper strap several inches wide?  The reason
that you want a strap like that is because it has a great deal of surface
area.  RF energy tends to concentrate on the surface of a conductor, so a
strap designed with lots of surface area will be more efficient at
conducting RF. 


Remote base progress report: 12 January 2011

Description: Kenwood TS-570

Both stations are functional. Report problems to wa0tda@xxxxxxxxx 

Would you like to try the station right now? 

If you would like to connect to the station via EchoLink to listen to the
radio, you can search for W0ZSW-L, node 524906, and connect. Entering a
frequency and pressing the enter key will allow you to change the radio's
receive frequency from the EchoLink text box. Enter U, L, or A for Upper
sideband, Lower sideband, or AM, respectively. One thing to remember is that
EchoLink control only works on receive, not transmit, and it is only
available if there is no control operator logged in to the W4MQ remote base

Don't forget about our station at Courage North, in far northern Minnesota's
lake country. If you would like to connect to the station via EchoLink to
listen to the radio, you can search for W0EQO-L, node 261171, and connect.
Just as with the other station, entering a frequency and pressing the enter
key will allow you to change the radio's receive frequency from the EchoLink
text box. Enter U, L, or A for Upper sideband, Lower sideband, or AM,
respectively. One thing to remember is that EchoLink control only works on
receive, not transmit, and it is only available if there is no control
operator logged in to the W4MQ remote base software. 


This week @ HQ

*       CQ Digest audio for January 2011 has been completed by Bob Zeida,
N1BLF, for our blind members. 
*       Worldradio digest audio for January 2011 has been completed by Bob
Zeida, N1BLF, and is available to our blind members. 
*       QST digest audio for January 2011 has been completed by Pat Tice and
Ken Padgitt, and is available to our blind members. 
*       Don't put it off!  General Class students had better study faster.
The NCVEC Question Pool Committee has completed the new General Class pool,
which will be effective on 1 July 2011.  We have heard that the pool
questions are more difficult, and there are more total questions in the new
pool.  Our advice to those of you who have been dragging your feet about
getting your General Class upgrade is to get busy right now and pass that
General!  If you wait too long, you will have to go through the new pool and
take a harder exam. 
*       A big thank you to our net control stations  for "saying yes" and
volunteering for this leadership role. We really appreciate your help and
everyone has noticed that the nets are running more smoothly than ever.
*       George, N0SBU, advises that the January digest will be mailed along
with the February digest.  The delay was caused when one of the publications
was lost in the mail so Bob, N1BLF, could not get it read in time. 

.         Tonight is net night.  The Wednesday evening EchoLink net is at
19:30 United States Central time, which translates to +6 hours, or 01:30 GMT
Thursday morning. 

o    EchoLink nodes:

*       KA0PQW-R, node 267582
*       N0BVE-R, node 89680
*       HANDIHAM conference server Node 494492 (Our preferred high-capacity

o    Other ways to connect:

*       IRLP node 9008 (Vancouver BC reflector)
WIRES system number 1427

*       We need an Echolink, IRLP, or WIRES node in Rochester, MN so that
Sister Alverna, WA0SGJ, can continue to check into the Handiham net.  
*       Stay in touch! 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 toll-free at 1-866-426-3442. Mornings are the best time to contact


Supporting Handihams - 2011. 

Description: graphic showing figure using wheelchair holding hand of
standing figure

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 2011.


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 Walt Seibert at 763-520-0532 or
email him at walt.seibert@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 

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
www.handiham.org <http://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:


Description: 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.



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  • » [handiham-world] Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 12 January 2011 - Patrick Tice