This is a free weekly news & information update from Courage Center Handiham System. 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 stream: <http://www.handiham.org/audio/handiham.m3u> http://www.handiham.org/audio/handiham.m3u Download the 40 kbs MP3 audio to your portable player: <http://www.handiham.org/audio/handiham.mp3> http://www.handiham.org/audio/handiham.mp3 Get this podcast in iTunes: <http://www.itunes.com/podcast?id=372422406> Description: Subscribe in iTunes RSS feed for the audio podcast if you use other podcasting software: <http://feeds.feedburner.com/handiham> http://feeds.feedburner.com/handiham _____ 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> 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 year. 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? _____ Letters 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: <http://www.echolink.org/troubleshooter.htm> http://www.echolink.org/troubleshooter.htm 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 forwarding. Stay tuned! _____ A dip in the pool Description: circuit board Today's dip into the question pool takes us to the Extra Class question pool: 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 software. 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 node.) 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 us. _____ 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 <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 patt@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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 activities. . 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: hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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! Pat, WA0TDA Manager, Courage Handiham System Reach me by email at: patt@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Nancy, Handiham Secretary: hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Radio Camp email: radiocamp@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx _____ 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.