[handiham-world] Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 27 April 2011

  • From: "Patrick Tice" <wa0tda@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: <handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 27 Apr 2011 14:54:47 -0500

This is a free weekly news & information update from Courage Center Handiham
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Welcome to Handiham World!  

And welcome to our special occasional computers-drive-me-crazy edition!
Since the personal computer has become such a mainstay in the ham shack,
every so often we devote an edition to the blessings and curses these
machines visit upon us, and this is that edition.

If you are anything like the typical computer user, you use your computer to
do a variety of plain vanilla tasks like web browsing and email. These
functions are so mainstream that even grandma and grandpa have become
comfortable with them.  I know from my experience with amateur radio and
amateur radio operators that most of us will go way beyond asking our
computers to do those basic things. The typical ham shack is full of
equipment that is just begging to play "tag, you're it" with your computer.
There is a specialty software for everything from antenna modeling to rig
control, and of course VoIP software like EchoLink. Ham radio operators are
often interested in other activities like astronomy, photography, aviation.
The list seems to be just about endless. Personal computers can host
software applications to make all of those other hobby activities even more
fun. With all of these different applications installed on the ham shack
computer there is potential for conflicts and - dare we say it - computer

Who among us hasn't had their personal computer drive them crazy on a
semi-regular basis? Whether it is just one application that simply refuses
to work even though it worked perfectly the day before or the whole computer
being overtaken by malware or perhaps some kind of hardware failure, we have
all experienced the frustration of dealing with this machine that has become
pretty much essential in our daily activities. Why do we keep it around?
Well, because it's so doggone handy! I know I would hate to go back to the
bad old days of typing on a typewriter. I've always been a terrible typist
and make oodles of mistakes that used to require gallons of white correction
fluid. When I type something on a typewriter, it is more efficient to use a
paint roller to apply the correction fluid to the page than that little
brush that comes in each bottle of "Type White". In fact, I am typing this
using voice input computing, Dragon NaturallySpeaking to be specific. I know
my blind friends would hate to go back to the days before personal computers
and modern screen readers opened up so many pathways to accessibility. And
in the ham shack my radios are controlled by software, Ham Radio Deluxe, and
I'm afraid I've gotten pretty spoiled with how easy this software makes
keeping my amateur radio logbook up-to-date. Although the computer may be a
pain in the posterior more often than I think it should be, I would never go
back to the bad old days of pre-computer ham radio.

So today let's take a look at some ongoing issues with computers in the ham
shack and computers in general as well as some new stuff that has been
suggested to us by Handiham members.

For Handiham World, I'm...

Pat Tice


Update on ham radio study and practice exam websites

NC4FB: Check out www.nc4fb.org, which is a site we recently learned about.
It offers an extensive array of ham radio learning and study materials.  You
can find study plans, flash cards, PowerPoint presentations, specialized
explanations of concepts, such as "Ohm's Law for Technician License Exams",
and even commercial exam prep materials.  Everything is free and available
to anyone. A great feature is the practice exam section.  This site also
offers Canadian amateur radio license preparation and commercial study for
the GROL + ship radar endorsement.

AA9PW: We have recommended www.aa9pw.com for years, and it is a special
favorite of Jerry, N0VOE, who has worked with beginners in ham radio for us.
Jerry likes AA9PW.com because of its proven accessibility to blind users.
There is an option for "no figures" in the exam and our blind users do
indeed report that this site works well for them. Additional features
include on line Morse code training and a Morse code app available from the
iTunes store.  AA9PW also includes practice exams for commercial licenses. 

QRZ.com:  www.qrz.com offers practice exams for the amateur radio licenses,
but also includes a "Practice Tests 2.0 Large Print Edition" that features
scalable fonts for those users who can see the screen but who require large
print.  The font size can be scaled to the user's needs.  Since QRZ.com is a
large site, you may want to go directly to http://www.qrz.com/exams in order
to quickly access the practice exam page.

eHam.net: Do a search for some kind of ham radio transceiver, in or out of
production, and you will usually end up with a link to eHam reviews, which
can be exceptionally helpful in doing research on a particular radio or
accessory.  But eHam also has a straightforward exam generator available at
http://www.eham.net/exams/.  You can test for all three licenses, but as far
as we can tell the site does not offer a "no figures" option.  Still it does
look to us like it is easy to use and probably screenreader accessible,
aside from the figures included in the exams. 

HamExam.org:  http://hamexam.org/ has up to date exams on line and includes
a "flash card" learning option.  What is unique here is that you create an
account (it's free) and as you use the site, it learns which questions are
giving you trouble and will emphasize those in subsequent practice exams. 

RadioExam.org: http://www.radioexam.org/ offers exams for all three levels,
but interestingly enough it allows for testing on each section of the pool
separately as well as selecting questions from the complete pool. 

HamTestOnlineR:  Ham Test Online is a commercial site that is not free but
that has received good reviews.  It incorporates some learning features
designed to minimize memorization and better prepare you for the actual
exam.  The cost varies between about $20 and $35 by license class for a two
year subscription. Canadian Basic and Advanced are also offered. The General
course automatically includes both the current question pool and the new one
which will be used for exams after June 30, 2011. Learn more at

KD0FNR:  This website offers lots of links, but features exams for all three
USA licenses as well as Canadian Basic and Advanced.  The website is
http://copaseticflow.blogspot.com/. Fair warning! This website is chock-full
of interesting and eclectic stuff, so it's easy to get distracted with the
many interesting links and topics.  As long as you put your studies first
each day, you will enjoy the "copaseticflow". 

W8MHB:  http://www.w8mhb.com/exam/ offers the three exam levels with a
customizable list that allows you to mix and match from sections of the pool
or simply "select all" sections of the pool from which to generate your
exams. There is no option for "no figures" and the JavaScript calls pop-up
windows for the exam that are blocked by pop up blocking browser add ins.
Probably not the best choice for blind users, but useful for others.

HamTesting.com:  http://www.hamtesting.com/ offers free exams with a review
system to help you build your skill from an initial baseline test. We
especially like the pages that allow you to simply browse the question pools
without taking an exam, and you can do so by choosing the questions with all
possible answers or with only the correct answers.  How cool is that?!!

ARRL:  While ARRL.org <http://www.arrl.org>  does not provide a web-based
exam practice option, it does offer the ARRL VE Exam Maker software as a
download.  This software installs on your computer and may be used in places
where internet access is not available.  It is available for Windows and
Mac, and can update via the web when internet is available.  It uses Adobe
Flash, and its accessibility to blind users has not been tested by us.  If
any blind users can give us a report, we would sure appreciate it and will
share your comments with our readers and listeners. The ARRL VE Exam Maker
software is available at http://www.arrl.org/ve-exam-maker-software. We find
that it is highly customizable, allowing the user to lock out particular
sections of the pool and choose a no figures option. There are "print" and
"show answers" options. Accessible keyboard commands like CTRL-G to bring up
the generate exam dialog are useful, but we are still looking for input on
overall blind accessibility. Please report your findings to wa0tda@xxxxxxxxx


Strap on your tool belt! It's time for... 

Troubleshooting 101: Technology and obsolete media

Description: Small tools and wire

Picture this: 

Help!  My old computer died - and it really wasn't that much of a surprise,
since it was nearly 10 years old and didn't really owe me anything. I love
my new, faster replacement machine, but recently I decided that I needed to
set up the memories in my trusty HT, and two things were pretty much

1.      My rig software was installed on the old machine, which is now dead,
and the original installation disk is a 3.5" floppy.  My new machine doesn't
have a floppy drive!
2.      The interface cable that came with the rig uses a DB-9 serial
interface, but my new machine doesn't have one of those, either.  

What can I do?

Does this dilemma sound familiar?  It does to me, because I've gone through
it with my old but still trusty Yaesu VX-5R HT.  You can pre-empt this
difficulty by transferring the rig software onto updated media while you
still have working hardware that reads the old 3.5" floppy disk.  You can
update to new computers, but keep the old ones (within reason) just for the
purpose of making sure the old software will still be available when you
need it. You can install external hardware to read the old media, but at a
cost - which is probably not worth it.  You can try checking with other
members of your ham club to see if anyone has an old computer that will read
the media.  And heaven knows there are always old computers at every

The lack of a DB-9 serial jack isn't that hard to solve because you can buy
USB to DB-9 adapters.  Sometimes they don't work exactly as expected, but
mostly they do.  If you do expect to plug in DB-9 connectors to your new
computer, you should look at the new machine's specs carefully to make sure
that it does include one or more standard DB-9 jacks. Yes, they are
available and considered a desirable feature by many users (like me!)

Although DVD/CD burners are common on most new computers, if you switch to
one of the newest netbooks or thin, lightweight laptops, you may find that
familiar DVD tray missing altogether. USB and internet "cloud" storage are
superseding these older disc media, so be aware that saving your files
requires more of a strategy now than ever before!  Just when you get
everything stored safely on compact discs, they will disappear like the 3.5"
floppy.  Your strategy should be to keep up to date on the tech news and be
prepared to be flexible as you design - and redesign - your backup strategy.

Oh, and I mustn't forget:  Some of the amateur radio manufacturers and
independent third parties have archived software on the web, and you may be
able to replace a piece of otherwise unreadable media that way.  Scan
everything for malware before using it. 

Send your ideas about troubleshooting to wa0tda@xxxxxxxx for possible
inclusion in next week's edition of your weekly e-letter.



Description: Dog barking at mailman. Jasper loves our mail carrier - she
gives him a treat when she stops by!

Ron, W2WU, writes to send us a link to a software installation and
maintenance site that can keep software up to date and install it in the
first place without adding any unnecessary toolbars or other junk:

 <http://www.ninite.com> www.ninite.com 

ARRL writes:

The ARRL Programs and Services Committee is studying current benefits of
ARRL Club Affiliation.  We are interested in learning which benefits are
important to affiliated clubs and what potential benefits affiliated clubs
would like to see in the future.   To that end, we've put together a survey
to learn what benefits are being used; their importance and to get an idea
of potential future benefits.   The survey is open to all current club
officers, past officers and club members. The survey is located at: 


and is open to May 20th. 

Thank you, 

ARRL Programs and Services Committee

Diane, WI8K, writes:

My club, the L'Anse Creuse ARC, put out a survey about club programs and
activities back in the early 90's, and, as expected, got very little
feedback. Of course, we published it in our newsletter since we didn't have
a web site then. With the modern technology we now enjoy, this might be
worth revisiting. Thanks for the reminder. We do have a list on Yahoo
groups, and sometimes we will put quick polls there. 

Chuck, K1IGD, writes:

I was checking out a CD of the spring QCWA Journal and Bob has an error in
his lead-in. He states the Life Membership is $375, not the new figure of
$500. I think it would be a good idea to put a note on the pages with the
audio file noting that. Vic will contact him to make the correction next
time around. I'm going to put a label on the CDs I mail as well.

73 Chuck -- Chuck Walbridge, K1IGD QCWA General Manager


A dip in the pool

Description: circuit board

This week we take our question from the brand-new General Class pool that
comes into effect on July 1:

G4E07 asks:  "Which of the following is the most likely to cause interfering
signals to be heard in the receiver of an HF mobile installation in a recent
model vehicle?"

Your possible choices are:

A. The battery charging system 

B. The anti-lock braking system 

C. The anti-theft circuitry 

D. The vehicle control computer 

If you picked D, The vehicle control computer, you are right.  One of the
problems with computers of all types is that they may radiate RF energy that
can interfere with reception on the amateur bands.  Of course computers are
not just found in the ham shack - they are vital parts of our cars and
appliances as well.  Interference from noisy switching power supplies in ham
shack computers is a known and fairly common issue. 


Remote Base Report for 27 April 2011

Description: Remote Base Update

The W0EQO & W0ZSW Handiham Remote Base HF stations are functioning normally.

The remote base software conundrum

As we have previously reported, the following post is on the N2JEU website:
I now consider the W4MQ software to be "dead".

This is of course bad news for us since the W4MQ software is the only game
in town when it comes to public remote base software.  However, we are
looking into ways of keeping the W4MQ software in service at both Handiham
Remote Base stations.  Users need not do anything at this point because we
do not expect to change to any other software any time soon.  You can read
the post at the N2JEU website: http://www.n2jeu.net/node/90 

This brings us to the question of exactly why the W4MQ software remains in
use at the Handiham stations when other rig control software could be used.
We have heard from users of Ham Radio Deluxe and the native Kenwood
software, and we have tried these software packages ourselves but keep
returning to the W4MQ as the most practical choice.  First, let me list the
advantages of the W4MQ software:

*       Price: Free, both for the user side and host side software.
*       User base is unlimited. We can set up as many users with log in
credentials as we want.
*       Simple interface.  The user interface is simple and mostly
blind-accessible, especially once the initial setup has been completed.
*       Keyboard commands.  There are some simple keyboard commands that
assist in navigation. 
*       Ability to define user transmit permissions by license class.  We
have a lot of "newbies" who might transmit outside their license's allowable
limits, so this prevents them making that mistake.

The disadvantages are:

*       W4MQ software is no longer being maintained.
*       Annoying runtime error pops up at random when using software with
*       No support for 200 Watt setting in W0ZSW TS-480HX operation.
*       No way for users to turn off voice announcements when they are not
*       Does not support access to some rig settings that are available in
the Kenwood native software.
*       Somewhat difficult installation process for blind users who do not
have more advanced screenreader skills.

So we are in a holding pattern right now.  We would like to consider using
other software as well as finding some way to make the current W4MQ software
better, but there are some problems.  

*       Ham Radio Deluxe, as much as Lyle and I like it for rig control of
our respective personal stations, has a complicated feature set that some
users find overwhelming.  It isn't completely accessible, and to date we
haven't found enough keyboard commands for us to recommend it to blind
users.  That said, I did hear from Mike, KD5NSO, who does use HRD with a
screenreader and likes it quite a lot.  He is going to test it with a soon
to be installed Icom radio and give us a report, so we remain hopeful that
HRD will be an option.  HRD 4.X and 5.X both include a feature that allows
the software to speak the radio's frequency, and the radio does not have to
have a voice chip installed. 
*       Kenwood ARCP-480 rig control software is free and works absolutely
great with the TS-480 radios that we use, and is very easy to install and
use even if you use a screenreader. There is no doubt we would use the
matching ARHP-10 hosting software on our remote base host machines, but the
user base is limited to only 10.  Since we have many more users who will
want to log in on either station, that puts this software out of the
*       There are other options, such as the N4PY software, but its
accessibility is unknown and it is $65 for a subscription. 

Needless to say, we are open to suggestions.  Let us know your thoughts at


This week @ HQ

*       We have added May Worldradio audio and the Fists Keynote newsletter
audio to the members audio digest pages for our blind members. 
*       I will be out at camp on Thursday and unable to get most phone calls
or email messages. I hope to get some work done on the stations, and we need
to plan for the temporary take-down of our main wire antenna so that some
dead trees can be removed from nearby the feedpoint.  We will let you know
more about when the station (W0ZSW) will be off the air for this necessary
*       Nancy reports that the camp applications have been mailed.  If you
are waiting for a camp application, it should arrive soon.  
*       Radio Camp will be from Monday 8 August to Saturday 13 August, 2011.

*       Radios for new Technicians at Radio Camp!  I spoke with a donor last
week and we are pleased to announce that we will be able to provide new
Wouxun dual-band handheld radios for our campers who earn their Tech
licenses at this summer's Radio Camp.  Call Nancy today for a Radio Camp

.         Tonight is EchoLink net night.  The Wednesday evening EchoLink net
is at 19:30 United States Central time, which translates to +5 hours, or
00:30 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

*       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.

Courage Center Handiham System
3915 Golden Valley Road
Golden Valley, MN  55422

 <mailto:hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx  



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  • » [handiham-world] Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 27 April 2011 - Patrick Tice