[handiham-world] Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 18 November 2009

  • From: "Patrick Tice" <wa0tda@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: <handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2009 16:15:27 -0600

This is a free weekly news & information update from Courage Center Handiham
System <http://handiham.org> . 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!

Matt in the bucket truck lift
Image: Matt, KA0PQW, and the bucket truck lift operator, Jeff, KC0UOW, ride
the bucket up to do some antenna work. Photo courtesy Don Rice, N0BVE, taken
during Matt's antenna work in October. Don had just completed some work on
Matt's 220 MHz antennas, and Matt was headed up to do the final inspection.

It's always a good idea to get your antenna work done before winter,
especially if you live in Minnesota, as Matt, KA0PQW does.

One may be blind, but that doesn't mean you can't do antenna work. Matt
directs and does hands-on work on his antenna projects, and has some great

I have always recommended having at least one helper available for any
antenna project that involves working on an elevated antenna system, whether
it is on a roof or high on a tower. The reason, of course, is safety - if
something goes wrong, the second person can provide assistance or call for
help. Besides, most of these projects really do require at least one more
set of hands - and eyes.  You can use a spotter to check for hazards like
power lines and buried pipes or cables. This goes for any ham radio
operator, whether they are blind or sighted. I shudder to think of all the
times I have not followed my own advice, but in my defense I was young and
stupid. As a teenager, I navigated our family home's rooftop like a monkey -
stringing antennas, hurrying down to test for SWR, then running back up the
ladder to the roof to make adjustments - all without anyone else around.
When I bought a used tower, I was up and down that thing dozens and dozens
of times.  I did buy a Klein lineman's belt but even so, I worked alone all
too often. The closest call I ever had was on an old telescoping mast.  I
had just finished my antenna work and stepped onto the ground when the steel
cable holding the top section snapped and the tower telescoped back down. A
few seconds delay in getting off would have meant amputated fingers and
toes!  Worse yet, I did not have a helper around. 

Well, I have learned a lot since then. I ask for help, so that I have
someone there to do antenna work as well as to help us both stay safe. I
plan to stay safe - and you know what?  Staying safe means more happy years
of ham radio fun!

For Handiham World, I'm...

Patrick Tice, wa0tda@xxxxxxxx 
Handiham Manager


Computer access & an accessible logging program

By Damian, SP9QLO

xlog screenshot courtesy xlog website
Image: Xlog screenshot courtesy Xlog website.

In response to your question last week about accessible logging programs,
the most accessible for blind users is an application called Xlog. 

1. It is free.

2. It requires Linux to be installed on the user's computer.

3. It allows full control over many modern transceivers.

4. You can configure it to work with Logbook of the World and an internet
system of QSL certificates.

If a blind user wants to use it, the steps to get started are as follows:

1. Download and install Vinux (an accessible Linux which is available at
http://www.vinux.org.uk.  This can be installed with Braille and speech
support out of the box.

2. After installing and learning a bit about moving around the new Vinux
environment, one needs to install the Xlog software. There are several apps
to be installed to create a blind-friendly environment.

First is Xlog, then we need to install an additional module named Grig -
this for controlling our rig. And to complete the job, something called Xdx,
which is an accessible client for the DX cluster. All can be configured so
that in daily practice you simply open your logbook and all functions are
simply available. I tried Ham Radio Deluxe and other Windows alternatives.
None of them is as accessible and easy to use.

I am totally blind, so you can believe that I know how it is to work without
seeing a computer monitor.

However, if one doesn't want to play with a new operating system like Vinux,
I would recommend the N3EQF logging software or the VQLog. Both of them are
tested under Window-Eyes and JAWS. They are not free applications, but I
have to say that they are accessible enough. 

Other resources related to this story:

*       There is an Xlog review page on eHam:
*       Xlog, a logging program for Amateur Radio Operators:
*       The Vinux operating system provides a screen-reader, full screen
magnification and support for Braille displays out of the box. It can be run
from the Live CD without making any changes to your hard drive. If you like
it you can install it to a USB thumb drive or to your hard drive either
alongside Windows or as a complete replacement for it. There is also a
virtual version available which can run Vinux as a guest operating system
using VMWare Player on Windows. The main screen-reader/magnifier is called
Orca and the Braille display is supported by Brltty:
*       GRIG, a free Ham Radio Control Application:
*       Xdx, a GTK+ 2.0 tcp/ip DX-cluster and ON4KST chat client:

*       The commercial Log-EQF logging program for Windows by N3EQF: 

*       VQLog commercial logging software:
*       KD5NSO reports that Ham Radio Deluxe is accessible via JAWS.


More Echolink tutorials on the way

We expect to add some additional Echolink training to our website. I have
heard from some of our members who are willing to help investigate how to
get on Echolink and how to get things set up for the first time. Echolink
remains a challenge for beginners, especially those who are not
computer-savvy. The additional requirements of registration and license
verification can be a little bit tricky. Then there is the problem of
configuring firewalls and routers. We hope to be able to add at least some
dimension to the already-existing material on the Echolink website. Finally,
there is the personalization of Echolink. This may involve changing some
settings to ensure that the application will work for you.

There is also a need to teach proper Echolink techniques. Common mistakes
like tying up a net with a locked push to talk switch can be avoided if you
know how. New users often make the mistake of joining an Echolink-enabled
conversation, whether it is on a repeater or through a computer, and
forgetting to allow enough delay time when switching between transmit and
receive and vice versa. Experienced users know that the Echolink system has
some latency, which means that it takes longer than one might expect for
data to travel across the Internet through the network of nodes and
repeaters. When an inexperienced user keys up too quickly, it can result in
confusion, repeater timeouts, and frustration for other users. 

Some of the other Echolink problems are not really confined to Echolink,
because they are mistakes made by users, regardless of whether they are on
Echolink or just a local repeater system. Among them are failure to identify
properly with one's callsign, a basic mistake that very new users often make
when they assume that their friends on the net already know them. Our
training will continue to emphasize proper operating procedures, especially
proper identification and how to listen effectively before transmitting.

Of course newcomers to amateur radio will make some mistakes. We have all
made mistakes, but we want to make the best of our experience by learning
from the mistakes so that we don't make them over and over again, right? It
is almost painful to hear an old-timer on the air making some of these same
mistakes after many years of operation. Perhaps they simply never learned
the correct procedures early on in their amateur radio careers. Our aim is
to help all of our Handiham members become better operators, whether they
have been on the air for one week or 50 years. Some of us have been licensed
for decades, and we are continuing to learn new things about amateur radio
and its ever-changing technology. The important thing to remember about any
activity, but especially a communications technology activity like amateur
radio, is that we have to keep our minds open to learning. A person who gets
a license and learns how to get on the air during the first year but then
never learns anything else and develops bad habits over the years really
does not have that much experience, even if they have been licensed for 20

 A wise old ham radio operator once told me, "Those guys don't have 20 years
of experience -- they have one year of experience 20 times."


That old antenna bucket

vertical antenna, ground mounted in back yard, with inverted plastic tub at

Well, okay, it isn't really a bucket.  This picture from Dr. Dave Justis,
KN0S, shows a vertical antenna with an inverted plastic tub at the base. The
plastic tub serves as weather protection for tuning circuitry and the
coaxial connection at the base of the antenna, which is ground mounted on a
large lawn. There are plenty of trees in the picture, but no large ones
really close to the antenna. Dr. Dave sent me the picture following the
recent heavy rains on the United States Eastern Seaboard. He lives in
Wicomico, Virginia, not far from the Atlantic Ocean. 

He writes, "Made it through the storm but had a few trees and limbs down --
and way too much rain for awhile!"

Curiously enough, Dr. Dave was at an already-scheduled emergency training
seminar when the storm struck. 

Tropical storm Ida brought heavy rains and flooding to parts of the United
States East Coast. We are certainly happy to hear that Dr. Dave says that
all of his antennas survived the wind and rain. Curiously enough, my first
contact with Dave was when he was checking out the Butternut vertical
antenna that Don Newcomb, W0DN, and I had just started to build way back in
the mid-1970s. Dr. Dave is quite an antenna expert, so I know there is a
sound reason for that protective plastic tub at the base of the antenna.
While many commercial products for the antenna market are nominally
designed to be weatherproof, there is no substitute for an extra level of
protection. Amateur radio operators sometimes underestimate the power of
water and thus trust these products, such as outdoor antenna tuners, to
simply take care of themselves because they are rated for outdoor use. The
problem is that water can be present for many days at a time, as it was in
the case of this recent storm that passed through Dave's area. Furthermore,
changes in temperature can result in different rates of expansion and
contraction of the different parts of the device like an antenna tuner,
which probably has both metal and plastic in its enclosure. Gaskets that
were once perfect seals against the weather can loosen and allow moisture
into the circuitry. When that happens, it is only a matter of time before
there is a failure.

A plastic bucket or storage container can be just the ticket to protect
connections and remote antenna tuners that must be mounted outside in the
weather. While they won't protect against humidity, they will keep rain and
snow off of the components. A drain should always be provided unless the
enclosure can be sealed completely, something that is pretty unlikely.

Interestingly enough, I have found that there is less likelihood of antenna
failure here in Minnesota during the winter, at least related to moisture.
The reason is that it gets so cold that the water is all frozen, and it
cannot penetrate or do damage until the Spring thaw. One notable exception
is aluminum tubing in an antenna system, especially a vertical, that is
telescoped in such a way that water can enter the antenna and run down on
the inside of the aluminum tubing. If there is no way for water to drain out
at the base, it can collect in the bottom-most tube of the antenna. When the
temperature falls below freezing, that water will freeze and expand,
splitting the aluminum tubing and ruining that section of the antenna. While
commercial antenna manufacturers have figured this out and designed around
it, those of us who build our own antennas should be aware of the problem
and think about ways to keep water out of the antenna tubing.

There is a new interest in multiband vertical antennas these days, and you
can buy aluminum tubing to make your own. Just be aware that water is the
enemy of your installation, and you have to make sure that it can drain away
if it does get into any critical areas, and (better yet) antenna tuners and
connections should be kept completely dry using Dr. Dave's "old antenna
bucket" method. It's cheap, easy, and great insurance against water damage. 


Camp Courage Map

Camp Courage Map

The Courage Center Handiham System is now located at Camp Courage.

Our address is:

Handiham System
Camp Courage
8046 83rd St. NW
Maple Lake, MN 55358

Mail sent to the Golden Valley address will still reach us.

Please call for an appointment if you wish to visit. Our phone numbers are:

763-520-0512 - Main Office Extension, answered by Nancy Meydell. This number
may also be reached via our toll-free number, which is 1-866-426-3442, if
you are outside the Twin Cities calling area. If you are in the calling area
or have free long distance with your own calling plan, we ask you to please
call the 763-520-0512 number, as we have to pay extra for all of the calls
that come in on the toll-free member line. If you like, you can contact us
by email at hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

763-520-0511 - Handiham Manager Patrick Tice, WA0TDA. Pat can answer your
questions about technical topics and antennas. Pat also teaches the on line
courses in Technician, General, and Extra, and can answer questions from our
members who are enrolled in this courses. You may contact Pat by email at

How to get to Camp Courage:

From St. Cloud via Interstate 94:

Leave freeway at exit 178/Clearwater. Travel south toward Annandale on
Highway 24 for nine miles. Turn left onto County Road 39 and follow for
1.5-2 miles. Turn right onto County Road 7 to gates to Camp on right.

From the Twin Cities via Highway 55:

Camp Courage is located one half mile west of the town of Maple Lake. A
green Camp Courage sign will direct you north on County Road 7. Follow
County Road 7 for 3.2 miles to gates to Camp on the left.

Driving distances and times:

50 miles from downtown Minneapolis, or about 65 minutes.
65 miles from downtown St. Paul, or about 80 minutes.
25 miles from St. Cloud or about 30 minutes.



*       American Printing House for the Blind Product: Turbo 6 Talking
Battery Charger, found by Ken Silberman, KB3LLA: 


This week at Headquarters:

Speaking of social networking,  <http://www.handiham.org/node/476> we are on

 <http://www.handiham.org/sites/default/files/images/ham_mobile.jpg> 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" automatically!

·         In Operating Skills:  


o    Pat, WA0TDA, reads the December 2009 QST audio digest for our blind

o    Volunteer reader Ken Padgitt, W9MJY, reads the November "Doctor is in"
column from QST for our blind members.  

o    Volunteer reader Bob Zeida, N1BLF, has completed the November
Worldradio & CQ digests. 

o    Login to the member section of the Handiham <http://handiham.org/user>
website and find the magazine digests in the Library. 

o    Volunteer George, N0SBU, has completed and mailed the 4-track cassette
audio digest to our blind members. 

·         Our Contact information is the same, but keep watching this space
for changes:  Email addresses will not change.

Courage Center Handiham System
3915 Golden Valley Road 
Golden Valley, MN  55422
763-520-0512 (Nancy)
763-520-0511 (Pat)

·         Pat's phone number goes directly to voice mail, due to a problem
with our forwarding system. Leave a message with the best time to return
your call. 

·         Our email address (for Nancy's office) is
<mailto:hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 

·         Pat can be reached by email any time at  <mailto:wa0tda@xxxxxxxx>
wa0tda@xxxxxxxx or  <mailto:patt@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> patt@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 

·         The equipment loan program is on hold right now due to limited
staff hours. 

o    The Handiham equipment program still welcomes donations of good ham
radio equipment. 

o    We plan to distribute donated equipment to our radio campers at the
next Radio Camp session.

o    Handiham members who already have equipment out on loan may continue to
borrow that equipment. 


·         Minnesota Radio Camp dates for 2010, Camp Courage: 

Arrive Friday, May 21

Class days: Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday

VE Exam Day: Thursday  (VE team still needed.)

Depart Friday, May 28

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

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

o    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

o    Here is an interactive Google map showing Camp Courage:

&z=12> View Google Map 


·         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 username 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. He is studying in Tokyo this semester and sends a big
"hello" to our readers and listeners.

·         Volunteers, get your October hours in through VOLLI - I'll be
checking them soon!  You may also submit volunteer hours to Nancy at
<mailto:hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 

·         The Friday audio lectures return  this week.  There will be new
lectures posted by early afternoon on Friday, and a notification will be
sent by email. 

·         The Remote Base at Courage North is in service. Please feel free
to use this wonderful member resource.  

·         Remote Base users who try the built-in IRB sound feature instead
of SKYPE are encouraged to send us reports on how the audio worked.

·         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. 


Wednesday Evening Echolink Net

Wednesday Evening EchoLink Net happy guy with headset

Wednesday evenings the Handiham Echolink net will be on the air. Please join
us and check in or simply listen in, as you see fit:


Wednesday evenings at 19:30 hours Minnesota time (7:30 PM)
GMT: Thursday morning at 01:30 Z.


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


Reminder:  Handiham renewals are now 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.

·         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: <mailto: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

1-866-426-3442 toll-free -- Help us get new hams on the air.

Free! 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:  <mailto: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!

Manager, Courage Handiham System
Reach me by email at:  <mailto:patt@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> 

·         Nancy, Handiham Secretary: hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

·         Pat, WA0TDA, Manager, patt@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

·         Radio Camp email: radiocamp@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


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 11/18/2009 - 21:59

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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, 18 November 2009 - Patrick Tice